MAKING TEST CUBES FROM FRESH CONCRETE

1. Introduction
Concrete cubes are made on site to check that the strength of the concrete is above the minimum strength which has been specified. Making, curing and testing cubes should be carried out in the correct manner. Even small deviations from the standard procedures will usually lead to compressive strength results which are lower than the true strength of the concrete. For example, for each 1% air entrapped there will be a 4 to 5% loss of strength. The procedures for concrete cube making are given in British Standard (BS) 1881:1983 Testing Concrete Equipment a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k. Sample tray; Mould for making test cube; Spanners; Scoop; Steel float or trowel; Compacting bar; Vibrating hammer or vibrating table; Cleaning rags; A bucket or barrow for transporting the samples; Polythene sheeting; Curing tank.

Some of the tools and equipment required for cube making.

2.

Cube Moulds

The standard size of cube is 150 mm. Cubes of 100 mm size are not suitable for concrete having a nominal maximum aggregate size exceeding 20 mm. Cubes of 150 mm size are not suitable for concrete having a nominal maximum aggregate size exceeding 40 mm. The moulds for the specimens must be made of cast iron or cast steel. The inside faces must be machined plane. The cube mould is normally made in two halves to facilitate removal of the concrete cube without damage. Each mould has a base, which is a separate metal plate, preferably fastened to the mould by clamps or springs. When assembled, all the internal angles of the mould must be right angles. To comply with CS 1:1990, moulds are required to be within specified tolerances for dimensions, squareness and parallelism. These are covered in Section 7 of CS 1. Preparing the Moulds Before assembling the moulds, make sure that there is no hardened mortar or dirt on the faces of the flange that prevent the sections from fitting together closely.

Cleaning the mould These faces must be thinly coated with mould oil to prevent leakage during filling, and a similar oil film should be provided between the contact surfaces of the bottom of the mould and the base. The inside of the mould must also be oiled to prevent the concrete from sticking to it. The two sections must be bolted firmly together, and the moulds held down firmly on the base plates.

Preparing the mould

3.

Sampling Fresh Concrete

It is very important that the concrete put into the moulds should be a representative sample of the concrete that is going into the works. A sample of the concrete should be taken either as the concrete is being discharged from a mixer, or from a stationary lorry or heap; the latter method is less satisfactory. The quantity of concrete required should be 10 kg for making each 150 mm cube, but in no case should the quantity of concrete sampled be less than 20 kg. Each sample should consist of at least six increments when it is taken from a heap or lorry, and at least four increments when taken from a chute or conveyor. Sampling from Heaps or Lorries The increments should wherever possible be distributed through the depth of the concrete as well as over the exposed surface. Care should be taken not to take any from the edge of a pile where large particles of aggregate may have gathered through segregation. Sampling from Falling Streams, Chutes or Conveyors When sampling from a falling stream, increments should be taken by passing a scoop through the whole width and thickness of the stream in a single operation. Alternatively, the entire stream may be diverted so that it discharges into the container. Whichever way the samples are taken, the parts must be thoroughly mixed together so that the whole sample is uniform. If the sample is in a barrow, the remixing can be done in the barrow with a shovel or a sampling scoop; alternatively, and specially if the sample is in a bucket, it can be tipped over a non-absorbent base and then thoroughly mixed together.

Remixing the sample.

4.

Compaction: Filling the Cube Moulds and Compacting the Concrete

After the sample has been remixed, immediately fill the cube moulds and compact the concrete, either by hand or by vibration. Any air trapped in the concrete will reduce the strength of the cube. Hence, the cubes must be fully

compacted. However, care must also be taken not to over compact the concrete as this may cause segregation of the aggregates and cement paste in the mix. This may also reduce the final compressive strength.

Filling the mould (for 150 mm cube 3 equal layers) Compacting with Compacting Bar 150 mm moulds should be filled in three approximately equal layers (50 mm deep). A compacting bar is provided for compacting the concrete. It is a 380 mm long steel bar, weighs 1.8 kg and has a 25 mm square end for ramming. During the compaction of each layer with the compacting bar, the strokes should be distributed in a uniform manner over the surface of the concrete and each layer should be compacted to its full depth. During the compaction of the first layer, the compacting bar should not forcibly strike the bottom of the mould. For subsequent layers, the compacting bar should pass into the layer immediately below. The minimum number of strokes per layer required to produce full compaction will depend upon the workability of the concrete, but at least 35 strokes will be necessary except in the case of very high workability concrete. After the top layer has been compacted, a trowel should be used to finish off the surface level with the top of the mould, and the outside of the mould should be wiped clean.

Compacting the concrete in the cube mould (For 150 mm cube at least 35 tamps per layer)

Finishing Compacting with Vibrating Hammer or Table During the compaction of each layer by means of a vibrating hammer, the mould should preferably be placed on a level piece of timber. The concrete should be vibrated by holding the foot of the hammer against a piece of timber placed over but not completely covering the top of the mould. The applied vibration by either the vibrating hammer or table should be of the minimum duration necessary to achieve full compaction of the concrete. Vibration should cease as soon as the surface of the concrete becomes relatively smooth and air bubbles cease to appear. Precautions to Take When Making Cubes While finishing off the surface of the concrete, if the mould is too full, the excess concrete should not be removed by scraping off the top surface as this takes off the cement paste that has come to the top and leaves the concrete short of cement. The correct way is to use a corner of the trowel and dig out a fair sample of the concrete as a whole, then finish the surface by trowelling. Once a specimen has been compacted, it should not be left standing on the same bench as another specimen that is being compacted. If this is done, some vibration will be passed on to the first specimen and it will be more

compacted than the other. In extreme cases some re-arranging of the particles may result and segregation will occur. Identification of Cubes Immediately after making the cubes they should be marked clearly. This can be done by writing the details of the cube in ink on a small piece of paper and placing on top of the concrete until it is demoulded.

5.

Curing and Demoulding: Initial Curing of Concrete Cubes

Immediately after curing, the cubes should be covered with damp matting or other suitable damp material and then with polythene or similar impervious sheeting and stored in a place where the temperature can be kept at 27 ± 5°C for approximately 16 to 24 hrs. Demoulding the Test Cubes Test cubes should be demoulded between 16 and 24 hours after they have been made. If after this period of time the concrete has not achieved sufficient strength to enable demoulding without damaging the cube then the demoulding should be delayed for a further 24 hours. When removing the concrete cube from the mould, take the mould apart completely. Take care not to damage the cube because, if any cracking is caused, the compressive strength may be reduced.

Demoulding the cube After demoulding, each cube should be marked with a legible identification on the top or bottom using a waterproof crayon or ink. The mould must be thoroughly cleaned after demoulding the cube. Ensure that grease or dirt does not collect between the faces of the flanges, otherwise the two halves will not fit together properly and there will be leakage through the joint and an irregularly shaped cube may result. Curing Test Cubes Cubes must be cured before they are tested. Unless required for test at 24 hours, the cube should be placed immediately after demoulding in the curing tank or mist room. The curing temperature of the water in the curing tank should be maintained at 27-30°C. If curing is in a mist room, the relative humidity should be maintained at no less than 95%. Curing should be continued as long as possible up to the time of testing.

Marking and curing concrete cubes In order to provide adequate circulation of water, adequate space should be provided between the cubes, and between the cubes and the side of the curing tank. If curing is in a mist room, there should be sufficient space between cubes to ensure that all surfaces of the cubes are moist at all times.

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