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COTTER AND KNUCKLE JOINTS
Cotter joint is used when the members are subjected to axial tensile or compressive loads, easy
assembly and disassembly is required, no relative motion between the two fastened members (rods) is
desired and the axes of two rods are collinear. The cotter joint differs from the key joint as the later is
used to connect the two members transmitting the torque.

7.1 CONSTRUCTIONAL DETAILS AND APPLICATIONS
A generally used cotter joint is composed of essentially three components, namely, cotter, spigot and
socket as shown in Figure 7.1. The cotter is a flat wedge shaped piece of rectangular cross-section
which is uniform in thickness but tapering in width on one side in general. The one of the rod is forged
to form the socket and the other end of the rod is forged to form the spigot. The spigot end fits into
socket and held together by the cotter. Typical applications of the cotter joint are fastening of piston
rods and cross heads in steam engines, yokes to rods, tool fixture and for services of similar kinds.

t2 t

t1
d2 d1 b d d3 d4

l1 l2

Figure 7.1: Cotter joint

The taper in the cotter is provided to take the advantage of wedging action (friction locking). The
taper also keeps the joint alive even after some wear in the joint has taken place as the gap generated
due to the wear automatically filled up by the self travel of the cotter. This travel is assisted due the
taper given in the cotter. The taper should not be too large causing self removal of the cotter under the
external load but if the large taper is essential as in case when frequent disassembly is required,
locking devices such as set screw, lock pin etc become necessary to secure the cotter in position

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When the cotter fits into the slot. 7. to design the cotter joint. we can use the following relationship τ d = 0. The minimum data required for design problem of a cotter joint are  Type of load (tensile of compressive)  Magnitude of the load  Section of rods to be fastened (Circular. In some instances when rods are to subjected to high stresses.5σ d according to maximum shear stress theory τ d = 0. Tensile mode of failure of the solid rod. The materials used for the components of the cotter joint are the steel used for low stresses components.against the slackening or removal of the cotter from its position. S ys . material is to be selected accordingly. the cotter joint is subjected to static loading and employed to normal working environment hence alloy steel is not used. Su S ys .1. tearing resistance 2 . S us Calculate design stresses for each component σ d = . Following are the possible failure modes of a cotter joint. C25 and C30 can be used for such components. The thickness of the cotter is generally kept equal to one fourth to one fifth of its width at the centre. easy to replace and manufacture.1. The width of the slot is made 3 to 5 mm bigger than the cotter. the central portion of the cotter comes in contact with spigot and pushes it into the socket till the opposite outer ends of the cotter comes in contact with socket. A mm2) In the design of cotter joints. Also.2 Modes of failure and design equations The design of the cotter joint is based on the basic direct stress equations as the joint is subjected to axial tensile or compressive loading producing direct stresses. The taper angle should not be greater than the angle of friction. Choose proper factor of safety n S y . 7. we have to use the data whatever is given in the problem statement. To facilitate the forging operation for forming the spigot and socket. Generally. the factor of safety for cotter may be taken less than the factor of safeties for other components to make cotter weaker than spigot and socket. This is because the cotter is free from stress concentrations. the edges of the cotter and the ends of the slot are rounded. square or rectangular. S u . Otherwise. τd = n n If the shear strengths are not available in the table or not given in the problem. S us for each selected material It is also important to note here that above steps are necessary only if the material or the material properties are not given in the problem. the resistance offered in possible modes of failure is equated with the external load (required capacity) of the joint and then the desired dimension is obtained. A factor of safety of 3 to 4 should be used for steel based on yield strength. This would be made clearer with examples to follow. following steps are followed Selection of material for each component Note the required material properties such as S y . C15Mn25 C20. However.577σ d according to maximum distortion energy theory Now. These forces on the contacting surfaces prestress the joint and provide the required force for friction locking of the bearing surfaces.1 Materials and factor of safety As the spigot and socket are the ends of shafts hence the material is same as shaft. low carbon and medium carbon steels are preferred. the taper of 1:24 is given and is decided on the basis of the angle of friction between cotter and rods material. Finally.

3 4 Find d1 and modify to suitable design value. Mathematically π Resistance of spigot in tearing = failure area × design stress in tension = ( d12 − d1t ) σ d 4 π F =( d12 − d1t ) σ d 7.25d1 or 0. tearing resistance ≥ F (external load or design load) π F= d 2σ d 7.3).2: Tensile failure of socket π Failure area = d 12 − d 1t 4 The resistance of the spigot area in tearing must be greater than or equal to the load causing the possible failure i.25d1 7.e. Shearing mode of failure of spigot end through cotter The shear takes place through two parallel planes (Figure 7.2 Tearing mode of failure of the spigot across the cotter slot. tearing resistance The spigot may fail under the action of tensile load of F . it is the case of the double shear.4 Find l1 3 .4d and b = 4t to 5t or 1.1 4 This will give d and modify it to standard size.This failure mode is used to calculate the diameter of the rod by calculating the tearing resistance of the rod considering the tearing failure. The failure occurs through a section which offers least resistance to the applied load. Tearing resistance = Failure area × Design stress π d 2σ d 4 For design to be safe in this mode. hence. The thickness and width of the cotter t = 0. Failure area = 2d1l1 Resistance of spigot in double shear = failure area × design stress in shear = 2d1l1τ d F = 2d1l1τ d 7. t d1 d3 d d1 3 4 3 2 1 4 2 1 4 4 3 3 2 1 Figure 7. the external load.

3: Double shear failure of socket Tearing mode of failure of socket through cotter The failure occurs through the weakest section of the socket. Hence the design equation is π F= (d 22 − d12 ) − (d 2 − d1 )tσ d 7. It is the case of double shear as shown. Shear planes F Shear area (both sides) Figure 7.6 Find l 2 using d 4 = 2d 1 and round off to next higher integer.4: Tensile failure of socket Shearing mode of failure of socket through cotter Figure 7. The area through section 2 is least and hence possibility of tensile failure will be maximum through this section.  d 4 − d1  The resisting= 4 l 2 .  2  F = 2(d 4 − d1 )l2τ d 7.4 shows the areas of cross section of three different sections through which socket can fracture/tear.5 4 We can determine d 2 from the above equation. 4 .5 shows the loading and failure area for this mode. d1 d2 d1 d2 t F F Figure 7. hence. Figure 7.

As the components may also fail in other modes hence the resistance of those modes must be calculated to ensure the safe design.6a and illustrate the crushing area between cotter and spigot. F d1 = tσ dc Crushing failure mode of the cotter and socket The cotter and socket may crush under the action of the load as shown in Figure 7.3). we have three options. increase t . Crushing mode of failure of the cotter and spigot The cotter and spigot may crush under the action of the load as shown in Figure 7.5: Shear failure of socket 7.3 Checking for other failure modes The above failure modes are sufficient to give all the dimensions of the cotter joint. The last one is used only when other options are not feasible. The contact area between socket and cotter will be the crushing area The crushing resistance is given by Fc socket = (d 4 − d1 )tσ dc 7.6b.6: Crushing failure of spigot and socket with cotter If this inequality is not satisfied.7 For safe design Fc spigot ≥ F d1 d4 d1 (a ) (b) Figure 7. select material with higher compressive strength. The crushing resistance Fc spigot = d1tσ dc 7.8 5 . Increase d1 . The increase in t is associated with the reduction in the resistance of spigot in tearing (Equation 7. l2 Shear area (four faces) F  d 4 − d1     2  F Figure 7.1. Hence we will use first option of increasing d1 .

12 6 F F 2 2 (d 4 − d1 )/ 2 d1 4 t b b F F F 2 d 4 − d1 d1 2 + 6 2 Figure 7. then to reduce the stress due to bending in the cotter we can increase either b or t other than the change of material. we can either increase b or t Bending of cotter The force due to spigot and socket on cotter may tend to bend the cotter (Figure 7. hence. The effect of b in reducing stress is more as compared to t 6 .13 If this is not satisfied.9 2bt For safe design τ ≤ τ d If fails.For safe design Fc socket ≥ F If this inequality is not satisfied.7a. The maximum bending moment acts at the centre of the cotter and the expression of this is given by F  d 4 − d 1 d 1  d 1  F M =  +  −  = (2d 4 + d1 ) 7.7c.7b).10 2  6 2  4  24 The maximum stress due to this maximum bending moment is given by M σ= 7. The orientation of the cotter is changed for better understating of the students. Although the exact distribution of the load shown in the figure through out the contact length is not known.7: Shear failure of cotter and loading on the cotter The maximum stress induced due to bending in the cotter must be less than the design stress. F d 4 = d1 + tσ dc Shearing mode of failure of the cotter The cotter may fail in double shear under the loading as shown in Figure 7. Hence the following must be satisfied for the design to be safe σ ≤σd 7. hence the distribution of the load may be assumed as shown in the Figure 7. we have three options and the same reasoning can be used in favor of going for the option of increasing d 4 . the shear stress induced is F τ = 7.11 Z 1 2 where Z = section modulus = b t 7.

there is no change in the geometry of the cotter.9: Crushing failure of collar due to compressive loading Shearing mode of failure of the socket In this mode of failure the shearing failure of the socket is assumed which is the case when solid rod pushes into the socket through circumferential shear plane.because it appears as quadratic power in the expression of section modulus (Equation 7.3 illustrates this concept. The cotter is kept slightly weaker than the socket and spigot as replacing a cotter is easier and economical as compared to spigot and socket. it does not affect any other failure mode.14 Find d 3 and round off to next higher integer. The design equation becomes P = πdt 2τ d 7. F shear area Figure 7.12). Crushing mode of failure of the collar and socket The collar and socket may crush under the action of compressive load and the crushing area is shown in the Figure 7. When a cotter joint is to withstand a compressive load. Example Problem 7. The design equation for this mode of failure is developed as F= π 4 (d 2 3 ) − d12 σ dc 7. Also.8: Crushing failure of collar due to compressive loading Shearing mode of failure of collar The collar may shear through the spigot end and the shearing area is shown in the fig.4 Cotter joint under compressive load The compressive load from the spigot rod is transferred to the socket through the collar. Also. The socket rod transfers the force from rod to socket.15 Find t1 and round off to next integer. F Crushing area Figure 7. following additional failure modes have to be considered which are otherwise not among the possible modes of failure when cotter joint is subjected to axial tensile loading. The design equation for this mode of failure is F = πd1t1τ d 7.8. The socket then pushes the cotter and the balancing reaction is produced at the contacting surface of cotter and spigot. hence.1. That is why it is recommended to use slightly lower factor of safety for cotter than spigot and socket.10. 7.16 Find t 2 and round off to next higher integer 7 . stress concentration is not present. The mode of failure and shearing area is shown in the Figure 7. hence it is suggested to increase b .

1. 7. d1 1. For safe design the calculated capacity of each possible failure mode should be more than the capacity (external load) of the joint. shear area Figure 7.6 Design using empirical relations We can also design a cotter joint by deciding all the dimensions of the cotter joints based on the empirical relations given in Table 7.7 gives F d 1t = σ dc substituting in Equation 7.5 d Largest diameter of socket d 4 2.2 d1 Thickness of collar t1 0.4 d1 Socket length from cotter slot l2 d Diameter of collar d 3 1.10: Shearing failure of socket through rod due to compressive loading 7.7). Table 7. socket and cotter are chamfered to avoid sharp corner and fillets are provided to reduce the stress concentration. Equation 7.1.3 π F  F =  d 12 − σ d 4 σ dc  We can determine d 1 from the above equation. The width of cotter can now be calculated by considering shear failure of cotter.5 d Thickness of cotter t 0.3) and crushing mode of failure (Equation 7.1 Proportions of cotter joints Symbols Proportions Symbols Proportions Rod diameter d Width of cotter b 4t to 5t Diameter of spigot end.0 d1 Thickness of socket at rod end t2 0.5 Other dimensions and details Length of cotter l = 4d Taper 1:30 (for steel and steel) l Top width of the cotter b1 = b + 60 l Bottom width of the cotter b2 = b − 60 The edges of the spigot.25 d Spigot length from cotter slot l1 d Outer diameter of socket d 2 1.25 d1 8 .1 and then the capacity of joint is checked in all possible failure modes. It is important to mention that the thickness of the cotter and diameter should be calculated for equal strength of spigot in tearing mode of failure (Equation 7.

7. It is used to fast connecting rod of a steam engine or marine engine.11b: Components of Gib and cotter joint 7. The function of the gib is to prevent opening of the jaws of the strap. The details of a gib and cotter joint are shown in Figure 7.11a: Gib and cotter joint Fork end cotter gib eye end Figure 7. When gib is used. The end of the one rod is forged in the form of the strap whereas no change in the end of the other rod is made.3 COTTER FOUNDATION BOLT The cotter foundation bolt is used to install a machine to foundation.11. The eye end of the foundation bolt is restricted below a plate in the foundation and the machine frame is bolted with a nut as shown in Figure 7.12. Following modes of failure are considered for the design of foundation bolt. The gib increases the bearing area of cotter and prevent and slackening of the joint. Figure 7. in this case one end is called strap end and other is called either rod end or sometimes it is called as eye end.2 GIB AND COTTER JOINT Gib and cotter joint is used for the rods of square or rectangular sections. The tightening of nut induces tensile force in the foundation bolt. The design procedure is illustrated in Example Problem. So. the sides of the slot are made parallel and the taper is provided in the gib as shown in the figure. 9 . The height of the rod end is increased for compensating the slot for cotter.

4 illustrates the design procedure of sleeve and cotter joint.18 4  Crushing failure between cotter and bolt F = d1tσ dc 7. 10 . The ends of both the members to be connected are similar in shape and dimensional proportions.13.4 SLEEVE AND COTTER JOINT Sleeve and cotter joint is used to connect two tie rods or sometimes to connect two pipes/tubes.17 4 Tensile failure of bolt through cotter slot π  F =  d12 − d1t (σ d ) 7.21 7.20 Shear failure of cotter (double shear) F = 2btτ d 7.19 Shearing failure of eye end of foundation bolt F = 2l1d1τ d 7. Example problem 7.12: Cotter foundation bolt Tensile failure of bolt π F= d 2σ d 7. Figure 7. A sleeve is passed over both the members and the joint is completed with the help of two cotters passing through the members (eye ends) as shown in Figure 7.

These two ends are held together with the help of a cylindrical pin driven through the holes of eye and fork ends. The other rubbing surfaces of the fork and eye end must be machined. Figure 7.13: Sleeve and cotter joint 7.1 Constructional details and applications Figure 7. 11 . tie bars of truss. The knuckle joint is also used for fastening more than two rods intersecting at a single point. Sometimes. The end of the rods are made octagonal to some distance for firm grip and then it is square for some portion before it is forged into eye and fork shapes. elevator chains and many other links.5. we must provide guide to constrain the motion of rod. It is recommended that the hole is drilled and pin is machined to get the better fitting and improved performance of the joint.5 KNUCKLE JOINT A knuckle joint is generally used to connect rods subjected to axial tensile load. links of suspension chains. These three part are secured by means of a small lock pin through a collar to complete the knuckle joint. This type of joint is widely used in practice to connect valve rod and eccentric rod. The end of one rod is forged to form an eye while the other is made in the form of fork and thus called as eye and fork ends respectively. levers. Figure 7.14 shows a knuckle joint which consists of mainly three parts and five in all.14: Knuckle joint 7. It facilitates easy assembly and disassembly and also permits limited relative motion between the two fastened components (rods). if it is required to be used to support compressive loading.

tearing resistance This failure mode is used to calculate the diameter of the rod by calculating the tearing resistance of the rod considering the tearing failure. A factor of safety of 3 to 4 should be used for steel based on yield strength where as factor of safety of 7 to 8 is recommended for CI based on ultimate strength.2 Materials and factor of safety The materials used for the components of the knuckle joint are similar to the components of cotter joint as forging is done to form the rod in eye and fork ends.4.15: Components of Knuckle joint 7. the resistance offered in possible modes of failure is equated with the external load (required capacity) of the joint and then the desired dimension is obtained. material is to be selected accordingly. Figure 7.5σ d n Now. the minimum data required for design problem of a knuckle joint is the magnitude of the load. to design the joints.3 Design Procedure The design of the knuckle joint is also based on the basic direct stress equations as it was for the cotter joint. C20. S ys . S us for each selected material Choose proper factor of safety n S y . S u . Following are the possible failure modes: Tensile mode of failure of the solid rod. When rods are subjected to high stresses or any specific conditions. Steps followed are: Selection of material for each component Note the required material properties such as S y . 7. τ d = 0. As the knuckle joint is used for tensile loading only. Su Calculate design stresses for each component σ d = . C25. Hence. Tearing resistance = Failure area × Design stress π d 2σ d 4 12 .4. C15Mn25. C30 and CI are the commonly employed materials for parts of knuckle joint.

Tearing failure mode of fork end before pin hole.16 under the action of tensile force F . The shearing failure mode of the pin.22 4 Find d and modify it as per R20 series or with standard size table. tearing resistance The failure area is shown in the Figure 7. Shearing resistance F Figure 7.23 4 Find d1 and standardize it as per R20 series The tearing failure mode of the square section.For design to be safe in this mode.24 Find h1 and round off to next higher integer. tearing resistance 13 . h1 h1 Figure 7. tearing resistance ≥ F (external load or design load) π F= d 2σ d 7.15: Cross section of the rod The pin may fail in double shear and hence the design equation is π F = 2 × d 12τ d 7.16: Failure area of the rod Failure area = h12 F = h12 σ d 7.

The force distribution on the fork and the pin is shown in the Figure . tearing resistance 14 .17: Failure area of the fork end before pin hole Failure area = 2t 3 h1 The design equation F = 2t 3 h1σ d 7.25 Find t 3 The crushing failure mode of fork and pin. t3 h1 Figure 7.18: Crushing failure of pin/fork Projected area = 2t1 d1 Design equation F = 2t1 d1τ d 7. F Figure 7.26 The tearing failure mode of fork through pin hole. hence the projected area is to be considered for computing the crushing resistance. crushing resistance The fork and the pin may crush under the action of external load.

t1 d1 d3 Figure 7.29 For failure safe design Fc ≥ F 15 .28 Find h3 and round off to next integer Checks The above failure modes are sufficient to give all the dimensions of the knuckle joint.20 for loading and failure area. tearing resistance Refer Figure 7. h3 d1 d3 Figure 7. The crushing resistance is given by Fc = h3 d1σ cd 7. But all three components may fail in some other modes and the resistance of those modes must be calculated to ensure the safe design.27 Find d 3 and round off to next inte Tearing failure mode of eye end through pin.20: Failure area of the fork end before pin hole The design equation is F = h3 (d 3 − d 1 )σ d 7.19) = 2(d 3 − d1 )t1 The design equation F = 2( d 3 − d 1 )t 1 σ d 7.19: Failure area of the fork end before pin hole Failure area (Figure 7. Crushing failure (crushing failure mode) of eye through pin The projected area is considered.

The increase in d1 is associated with the reduction in the resistance of fork and eye in tearing as per Equations 7.If this inequality is not satisfied. The shearing resistance is given by Fs = 2(d 3 − d 1 )h3τ d 7.21.31 2  3 2  4  The maximum stress due to this maximum bending moment is given by 16 . The reduction in d1 reduces the strength of the pin.21 and 7. Shearing resistance (shearing failure mode) of eye end through pin The shearing failure of eye end shown in Figure 7.21: Shear failure area of the eye end For failure safe design Fs ≥ F If not satisfied. F F 2 2 h3 t1 4 F F 2 t1 h3 2 + 3 2 Figure 7.30 shear area (2 faces) h3 F (d 3 − d1 ) / 2 Figure 7. Hence we will use first option of increasing h3 . Bending of pin The pin may bend under the assumed force distribution as shown in the Figure The bending moment diagram is shown in Figure . we can increase h3 . increase h3 or increase d1 .22.22: Bending of pin The maximum bending moment acts at the centre of the pin and the expression of this is given by P  t1 h3  h3  M =  +  −  7. we have two options other than change of material. Hence any of first two options can be used. increase d 3 or reduce d1 .

5 d h3 1. Other dimensions Diameter of pin head.0 d l 2d d4 0.2 d t1 0.25d1 Length of eye and fork end. M σ= 7. For safe design the calculated capacity of each possible failure mode should be more than the capacity (external load) of the joint.2 and then the capacity of joint is checked in all possible failure modes (mode 2 to 10). then to reduce the stress due to bending in the cotter we can increase either d1 other than the change of material.25 d1 L 4d h1 1.5 d1 Diameter of lock pin hole.5 d1 Diameter of collar.1 d d2 1.5 d 17 .32 Z 1 3 where Z = section modulus = d 7. L = 4.34 If this is not satisfied. Hence the following must be satisfied σ ≤σd 7.2 d d3 2.0 d Length of octagon shape. d 2 = 1. l = 2 d Second method of design We can decide all the dimensions of the knuckle joints based on the proportion given in Table 7.75 d t2 0. Table 7. d 2 = 1.2 Proportions of knuckle joints Symbols Proportions Symbols Proportions d1 d h2 1. d 4 = 0.33 32 1 The maximum stress induced due to bending in the pin must be less than the design stress for safe design.