Standard Active Last Updated: Jan 31, 2017 Track Document
ASTM D5607-16

Standard Test Method for Performing Laboratory Direct Shear Strength Tests of Rock Specimens Under Constant Normal Force

Standard Test Method for Performing Laboratory Direct Shear Strength Tests of Rock Specimens Under Constant Normal Force D5607-16 ASTM|D5607-16|en-US Standard Test Method for Performing Laboratory Direct Shear Strength Tests of Rock Specimens Under Constant Normal Force Standard new BOS Vol. 04.08 Committee D18
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Significance and Use

5.1 Determination of shear strength of a rock specimen is an important aspect in the design of structures such as rock slopes, dam foundations, tunnels, shafts, waste repositories, caverns for storage, and other purposes. Pervasive discontinuities (joints, bedding planes, shear zones, fault zones, schistosity) in a rock mass, and genesis, crystallography, texture, fabric, and other factors can cause the rock mass to behave as an anisotropic and heterogeneous discontinuum. Therefore, the precise prediction of rock mass behavior is difficult.

5.2 For nonplanar joints or discontinuities, shear strength is derived from a combination base material friction and overriding of asperities (dilatancy), shearing or breaking of the asperities, and rotations at or wedging of the asperities. Sliding on and shearing of the asperities can occur simultaneously. When the normal force is not sufficient to restrain dilation, the shear mechanism consists of the overriding of the asperities. When the normal load is large enough to completely restrain dilation, the shear mechanism consists of the shearing off of the asperities.

5.3 Using this test method to determine the shear strength of an intact specimen may generate overturning moments which could result in an inclined shear break.

5.4 Shear strength is influenced by the overburden or normal pressure; therefore, the larger the overburden pressure, the larger the shear strength.

5.5 In some cases, it may be desirable to conduct tests in situ rather than in the laboratory to determine the representative shear strength of the rock mass, particularly when design is controlled by discontinuities filled with very weak material. In situ direct shear testing limits the inherent scale effects found in rock mechanics problems where the laboratory scale may not be representative of the field scale.

5.6 The results can be highly influenced by how the specimen is treated from the time it is obtained until the time it is tested. Therefore, it may be necessary to handle specimens in accordance with Practice D5079 and to document moisture conditions in some manner in the data collection.

Note 3: The quality of the result produced by this standard is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it, and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies that meet the criteria of Practice D3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing/sampling/inspection and the like. Users of this standard are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself assure reliable results. Reliable results depend on many factors, Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.


1.1 This test method establishes requirements and laboratory procedures for performing direct shear strength tests on rock specimens under a constant normal load. It includes procedures for both intact rock strength and sliding friction tests, which can be performed on specimens that are homogeneous, or have planes of weakness, including natural or artificial discontinuities. Examples of an artificial discontinuity include a rock-concrete interface or a lift line from a concrete pour. Discontinuities may be open, partially or completely healed or filled (that is, clay fillings and gouge). Only one discontinuity per specimen can be tested. The test is usually conducted in the undrained state with an applied constant normal load. However, a clean, open discontinuity may be free draining, and, therefore, a test on a clean, open discontinuity could be considered a drained test. During the test, shear strength is determined at various applied stresses normal to the sheared plane and at various shear displacements. Relationships derived from the test data include shear strength versus normal stress and shear stress versus shear displacement (shear stiffness).

Note 1: The term “normal force” is used in the title instead of normal stress because of the indefinable area of contact and the minimal relative displacement between upper and lower halves of the specimen during testing. The actual contact areas during testing change, but the actual total contact surface is unmeasurable. Therefore nominal area is used for loading purposes and calculations.

Note 2: Since this test method makes no provision for the measurement of pore pressures, the strength values determined are expressed in terms of total stress, uncorrected for pore pressure.

1.2 This standard applies to hard rock, medium rock, soft rock, and concrete.

1.3 This test method is only applicable to quasi-static testing of rock or concrete specimens under monotonic shearing with a constant normal load boundary condition. The constant normal load boundary condition is appropriate for problems where the normal stress is constant along the discontinuity. The constant normal load boundary condition may not be appropriate for problems where shearing is dilatancy controlled and the normal stress is not constant along the discontinuity.

1.4 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026.

1.4.1 The procedures used to specify how data are collected/recorded and calculated in this standard are regarded as the industry standard. In addition, they are representative of the significant digits that generally should be retained. The procedures used do not consider material variation, purpose for obtaining data, special purpose studies, or any considerations for the user’s objectives; and it is common practice to increase or reduce significant digits of reported data to commensurate with these considerations. It is beyond the scope of these test methods to consider significant digits used in analysis methods for engineering design

1.5 Units—The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as standard. The values given in parentheses are mathematical conversions to inch-pound units, which are provided for information only and are not considered standard. Reporting of test results in units other than SI shall not be regarded as nonconformance with this test method.

1.6 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

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Book of Standards Volume: 04.08
Developed by Subcommittee: D18.12
Pages: 9
DOI: 10.1520/D5607-16
ICS Code: 13.080.20