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International Journal of Minin9 Engineering, 1984, 2, 63-71


A theory of the cutting force for point-attack



About 25 years ago (Evans, 1958) I put forward a theory of the action of wedge-shaped coal
cutting picks. This enabled the cutting force required by the pick to be calculated from the pick
characteristics (angle of wedge, length of chisel edge), characteristics of cut (depth of cut), and
the strength characteristics of the coal (tensile strength). The theory was an attempt to put coal
cutting on a scientific basis and as such appears to have had some success; perhaps as much in
demonstrating to the mining community that a rational basis to mining phenomena does indeed
exist as in providing a basis for practical pick design. I have been assured that it forms part of the
course to mining students at a number of widely-flung universities, which is flattering to me, and
I hope helpful to the mining industry.
Wedge- or chisel-picks, as they are frequently called, form one distinct genre of cutting picks.
There is another one, i.e. the genre of conical or 'point-attack' picks. These were in vogue for coal
cutting at one time, but are now less popular than they were. They are still much used in rock
cutting. They may have some draw-backs, but they are said to have the merits of toughness and
long life. A balanced view of the virtues and shortcomings of point-attack picks was attempted
recently by myself and a former colleague (Hurt and Evans, 1981). Among other things we
challenged the view, promulgated by some enthusiasts for point-attack picks, that they broke
the mineral in some exemplary manner - 'bursting' is the word usually used - as distinct from a
less dramatic 'milling' by chisel picks. While unable to produce a full theoretical description of
the action of the point-attack pick, we showed that one aspect of its behaviour, the geometry of
the cut channel, could be predicted accurately on the basis of the same theoretical assumptions
as were applied to the chisel pick. We concluded that the alleged differences in behaviour were a
matter of semantics and not of physics. To quote our original phrase: if one is 'bursting', so is the
The chisel pick lends itself to a two-dimensional idealization, which simplifies the
mathematics. The behaviour of the point-attack pick is essentially three-dimensional. I have, at
intervals, over a long period of time, worried at the problem of calculating the cutting force for a
point-attack pick, but without success. However, after retirement from the National Coal Board
I was able to think again about such matters without the distraction of administration and other
chores, and this more concentrated attention has produced a result which will now be described.
It is relatively simple, but if this be held against it I would repeat the pronouncement of Dr

Keywords: Rock cutting; coal face machinery.

0263-4546/84 $03.00+.12 © 1984 Chapman and Hall Ltd.
64 Evans

Samuel Johnson about the ability of a dog to walk on its hind legs: the fact that it is ungainly is of
less importance than that it can be done at all. The significance of actually having a theory of
cutting force for point-attack picks will be discussed later in this paper.

T h e o r y - first stage

The theory is tackled by means of simple idealizations of a complex physical picture. The first
idealization follows the lines of the paper already cited. The problem posed is to investigate the
rupture of mineral in the form of a semi-infinite medium by means of a circular hole bored in the
medium with axis parallel to the surface, and subjected to internal pressure (Fig. 1). Radial
compressive stresses are produced in the rock, accompanied by tensile hoop stresses. Tensile
cracks will open up at the interface between hole and rock when the stress equals the tensile
strength of the rock. The cracks will propagate to the unstressed surface of the rock if conditions
are propitious. In cutting experiments with point-attack picks the resulting grooves are found to
be 'V' shaped, and in the present idealization the failure surfaces are planes extending at right
angles to the plane of Fig. 1, making angles ~b with the central vertical plane.
We proceed to calculate ~b.The V-shaped chip removed by the tool is symmetrical about the
central vertical plane, and we consider the limiting equilibrium of the half-segment of the
potential chip (Fig. 2).
The forces acting on the half segment are:
1. The tensile force at right angles to OC. The radius a of the hole represents, in the case of the
tool, elastic compression before rupture of the rock takes place, and hence is almost certainly
much less than d, the depth of cut. In this case the force is taken to be td/cos c~ per unit length at
right angles to the plane of the diagram, where t is the tensile strength of the rock.
2. The radial bursting force R, acting at angle q~/2with the vertical radius. R is itself produced
by a compressive stress q exerted at the boundary of the hole, and may be calculated by
integrating the resolved contributions of elementary forces over the arc ~b:
R =
d - ¢/2
qa cos ~ d~

= 2qa sin ~b/2 (1)

3. A tensile force acting across the vertical radius AB. The argument here may be shortened by
quoting a result obtained by Hurt and Evans (1980): the contribution of this force is found to be
much less than that of the others involved and for the sake of simplicity may be neglected.
4. A force Q at or near O caused by the half-segment levering itself on the unbroken shoulder
of rock.
Q may be eliminated by taking moments about O:
d d 1 d
R~ sin 4)/2 = t
cos cos ~b 2 cos ~b
td 1
giving q = 4 a cos q~ sin 2 ~b/2 (2)
A theory of the cutting force for point-attack picks 65

' ,/"
+ ) 7,'",,-

Fig. 1. Hole under internal pressure.

/ R
/ qado( 4
Q /

I ...TENSiLE__L~/2/

R-I a ooso(dK
t d/COS /

= 2qQSIN~/2
Fig. 2. Limiting equilibrium of half-segment.

d/a is a dimensionless quantity which is a function of the strain in the rock as it breaks. It may
therefore be assumed to be invariant.
We take the value of ~bat which breakage takes place to be that which minimizes the energy of
the radial displacement produced by q. Energy is the product of pressure and displacement, and
the theory of elasticity shows us that displacement in this problem is itself proportional to
pressure. The energy at breakage is therefore proportional to q2, which is a minimum when
2q d-~= 0

i.e. dq=o
66 Evans

From Equation 2, therefore

2 sin q~/2 cos q5/2 ½ cos q5- sin ~b sin 2 q5/2= 0
A little trigonometrical manipulation brings this quickly to

cos 3 ~ = 0
4~= 60°
Substituting this value in Equation 2, the value of q at breakage is
td 1
q 4 a Xtl~2
= 2t-. (3)

Theory - second stage

We now invoke the second idealization, which involves a change of perspective: looking at the
pick from the side instead of along its line of action (Fig. 3). The tool configuration is now
recognized as a cone instead of being a less realistic uniform hole in the ground. We retain the
essential part of the previous idealization in postulating that at every element of the conical
surface a normal stress equivalent to 2t(d/a) is needed to precipitate the lateral breakage of the
Consider the thin slice of the cone CD. An elementary area 6A on its surface has the value
rbtpfl, where r = C D , 6~ is the angle subtended from C, and 6l is an increment of the length
l = OD. The depth of D, along the line of the stress, is d/cos 0, where 0 = semi-angle of cone. The
elementary force fir is given by
fiR = q tA
d 1
=2t c ~ s 0 r r '~O tl

This has a horizontal component t P given by

tiP= fiR sin 0
= 2t t ~ fir
COS 0-

since r = 1 sin 0.
A theory of the cuttin9 force for point-attack picks 67



(al . . . . ~" SP

i----I---~o I

Fig. 3. Forces acting on a conical hole.

The total horizontal thrust for the upper part of the conical surface is therefore

P=fdP=2tco--ff ff d'l'dr
=2t Ha
cos 0

An equal horizontal thrust will be generated by the under-surface of the cone, and the total
horizontal force acting on the cone, designated by Pc, is
4IIt d
Pc - cos 0 a" (4)

We need now to obtain a value for a. The force Pc has had to overcome the compressive
strength of the mineral in the vicinity of the cone, and we can write, as a good approximation
Pc = Fla2 u (5)
where u is the unconfined compressive strength of the mineral. Substituting the value of a from
Equation 5 in Equation 4 we finally arrive at
68 Evans
16II (t)td2
PC= COS2 0 \ u / (6)

We identify Pc as the cutting force exerted by the cone.


The purpose of the present paper is to state a theory, but with an expression like Equation 6 to
hand, the research worker would be in haste to test its validity. The only results I have access to
at the moment are those given in Hurt and Evans (1981) for Grindleford Sandstone, for which
the following data are given: t=2.9 MPa, u=49 MPa, semi-angle of cone= 38°.
For this rock therefore
16H 2.9
Pc = cos2 38o (~-)2"9 d2"
= 15.1 d 2 (7)

From Equation 7 the calculated results may be compared with the measured values of mean
cutting force for unworn picks (see Table 1).
The agreement is obviously not a close one overall. However, calculated and measured forces
are 'in the same street', and for the deepest cut (25 ram) agreement is good enough, if confirmed
by other examples, to be of service in machine design. We must bear in mind that at small depths
of cut the penetration at breakage would be correspondingly small, and that the force would be
much influenced by the shape of the tool near the point. No practical tool is an exact cone;
considerations of manufacture and practical use would demand a certain amount of rounding
near the point which would significantly affect (almost certainly increase) the force. The effect
would be less marked, relatively speaking, for the deeper cuts.
Further information has been kindly provided privately by Hurt for cutting in Middleton
Limestone. The data are compressive strength, 85 MPa; tensile strength, 6.1 MPa; cone semi-
angle, 37.5°; depth of cut, 20 ram. The calculated cutting force is 14 kN. The observed mean
value was 15 kN.
The tensile strength appropriate to Equation 6 is of course the strength in a straight pull. In
practice tensile strength is often measured indirectly, as in the 'Brazilian' test. It is assumed here
that the indirect measurement has been converted into the direct value by the appropriate
theoretical or empirical factor.

Table 1. Comparison of calculated and measured values of mean cutting force.

Calculated Measured
Depth of cut (mm) cutting force (kN) cutting force (kN)
25 9.4 11
17.5 4.6 6.5
10 1.5 4
A theory of the cutting force for point-attack picks 69

Cone versus wedge

The theory enables us to get some insight into the perennial question: which are the best, point
attack or chisel picks? To do this we must postulate appropriate parameters. Because of the
different geometrical natures of the two genres we cannot say: this particular point-attack pick
is the exact equivalent of that chisel pick. We can accept that it must be appropriate to have
equivalent angles (wedge a n g l e - c o n e angle), but the edge of the wedge has no counterpart in
the point-attack pick.
In order to compare picks we have to postulate conditions where there is a reasonable
assurance that the same amount of rock is being cut in both cases. We cannot do this confidently
for single picks, but we can do so for an array of picks cutting in concert, as they do on an actual
The argument relates to the 'side splay' of the picks, at right angles to the direction of the cut.
We have just shown that a single point-attack pick breaks out a wedge of semi-angle 60 °. If
another parallel cut is taken, how near does the second channel have to get to the first in order to
break out the intervening land?
The problem has been studied (Evans, 1984) and the answer is simple and clear: the
intervening land will theoretically break out when the adjoining wedge patterns just touch at the
surface (Fig. 4). The pick spacing to centres when this happens is therefore 2(3) ~ d, where, as
before, d is the depth of cut.
An array of picks at this spacing will break off a whole layer of rock to a depth d, so that the
picks, returning for the second pass, will find a new and approximately level surface to cut.
How would chisel picks have to be disposed to do the same job? Calculations similar to those
just cited for the point-attack pick (Evans, 1982) revealed that the side breakage pattern for a
chisel pick rises at an angle of approximately 45 ° from the edge of the pick. The distance between
centres for an array of picks to strip a layer of thickness d, as before, is therefore w + 2d, where w
is the length of the chisel edge.


4'--- - - - - 2,~'d

1 "

I w

Fig. 4. Equal breakage by point attack and chisel picks.
70 Evans

Hence for the chisel picks to perform the same duty as the point-attack picks we must have
(Fig. 4)
2(3)½d=w+ 2d
or w=2d(3~- 1)
We may now enter this value of w in the expression for the cutting force due to a chisel pick
given in the author's first contribution (Evans, 1958) to the study of pick mechanics mentioned
in the Introduction:
P = 2 t d w sin 0/(1-sin 0)
Setting in t=2.9 MPa, d = 2 5 ram, 0=38 °, we obtain P=8.7 MPa.
This is very close to the value of 9.4 MPa obtained for point-attack picks. (It is interesting,
though perhaps coincidental, that for the value of 0 employed, the commonplace and very
practical value of 38 °, the respective trigonometrical terms have about the same value. 1/cos 2 0
is 1.61, while sin 0 / 1 - s i n 0 is 1.60).
Thus we obtain the important practical result that in regimes of effective cutting, i.e. with
constructive interaction between adjoining cuts such as occurs with relatively deep cuts, chisel
and point-attack picks have about the same effectiveness. This seems to be in accord with the
general impression that has gained ground among research workers. The choice of picks in a
particular installation must be guided by other factors. As pointed out in Hurt and Evans
(1981), point-attack picks have a reputation for ruggedness and hard wear, but also a propensity
for making excessive dust at small penetration and for frictional sparking.
A word on the relative action of the two genres of pick. It seems, in the light of this analysis,
that a chisel pick break~ primarily in the direction of motion, and adventitiously sideways;
point-attack picks bre0k primarily sideways and adventitiously forwards. But both exploit the
same kind of weakness in the mineral, and their behaviour can be comprehended within the
same framework of theory.
The formula for cutting force given in Equation 6 has obvious shortcomings. It should reduce
to zero for 0 = 0 °, for example, and it does not do so. From the practical point of view, this is not
of the greatest consequence so long as it gives useful service in the domain of physical reality.
Physical idealization must obviously entail some simplification of complexities. It is hoped the
theory given, imperfect though it may be, will encourage other efforts to bring about a closer
correspondence between theory and practice.


Evans, I. (1958) Theoretical Aspects of Coal Ploughing, Conference in Non-Metallic Brittle Materials,
Butterworths, London, pp. 451-8.
Evans, I. (1982) Optimum Line Spacing for Cutting Picks, Mining Engineer 141, pp. 433-4.
Evans, I. (1984) Lateral Spacing of Point-Attack Picks, Australian Journal of Coal M inin9 Technology and
Research (in press).
A theory of the cuttin 9 force for point-attack picks 71

Hurt, K.G. and Evans, I. (1980) A Laboratory Study of Rock Cutting, 21st US Symposium on Rock
Mechanics, University of Missouri-Rolla, pp 112-122.
Hurt, K.G. and Evans, I. (1981) Point Attack Tools, Minin9 Engineer 141, 673-5.

6 Cathedral Rise IVOR EVANS*

Staffordshire, UK
Received 14 O c t o b e r 1983

* Formerly Deputy Director (Mining Sciences), National Coal Board Mining Research and Development
Establishment, Burton upon Trent.