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What Are Belleville Washers?

What is a Belleville Washer?

installed belleville washer with bolt

These cupped spring washers flatten out as pressure is applied to them. They are commonly used to produce exceptionally high loads in small areas. Coned disk washers can absorb and dampen shocks and vibration as well, making them useful in many industries and applications.

The Many Industry Terms of Belleville Washers

BellevilleConed – Disc
ConicalCupped Spring
Spring LockSpring
Conical SpringDisc Spring
Belleville Spring

How Conical Washers Work

The conical spring washer has a cone shape that presses against the underside of the bolt head and into the installation material. This increased tension has a number of benefits including:

  • Vibration Control (Lock Washer)
  • Pre-Load
  • Increased Load
  • Increased Deflection
  • Spacing
  • Dampen/Absorb Shocks

Relevant Definitions

Pre-Load
Refers to the axial load placed on a fastener. Pre-load is considered to be 75% of the proof-load.
Proof-load
A test load a fastener MUST be able to hold without causing any compromise in its integrity. Considered the maximum safe load of a fastener.
Deflection
The degree to which a structural element is displaced under a load.

Due to their resistance to vibrations, conical washers are also considered to be lock washers as they perform a similar function. These disc spring washers are not only useful on their own but can be stacked in several different structures for increased resistance / absorption as well.

Belleville Spring Washer Stacks

Spring washers can be stacked in several structures to increase certain characteristics they produce for optimal performance.

series stack belleville washers

Series Stack

A series stack involves placing the washers top to bottom so that they create a gap in the middle. This can greatly increase the deflection of the stack by adding a spring like effect to the washers. *Note: This stack does not increase the load capacity of the fastener assembly.

parallel stack belleville washers

Parallel Stack

A parallel stack involves placing all of the washers in the same direction. Each added washer increases the load capacity of the stack. *Note: The deflection does not increase based on this stack.


parallel/series stack belleville washers

Parallel/Series Stack

The mixed parallel/series stack involves performing both types of stacks in a single fastener assembly. This increases both the load and deflection and can be arranged to suit almost any situation as needed to comply with the project needs.

Please note that while Belleville spring lock washers are exceptionally versatile and can be stacked in multiple configurations, the washer that rests against the installation material must always have it’s widest portion against the material.

Belleville Washer Uses

Due to Belleville washers being so versatile, they have many different uses and can be found in many different industries.

Spring Washer Uses
Locking (Prevent Fasteners Vibrating Loose) Limit effects of Relaxation
Spring Resolve Thermal Expansion
Spacer Dampen/Absorb Shock
Deter Bolt Yield Extra Tension
Shim
Industries That Use Conical Washers
Energy Utility Transmission
Distribution Pump and Valve Manufacturing
Chemical Automotive
Transportation Industrial Automation
And Many More

Can Belleville Washers Be Reused?

Yes, Belleville conical washers can be reused, repeatedly, as long as they are not damaged. Overloading and over-torquing these washers can wear them out over time. As long as they are used properly and checked before reuse, these fasteners can be used again and again to complete projects.

Belleville Washer Installation

Installing Belleville washers is very easy. There are only a few steps to consider:

  1. Determine the project load capacity and deflection.
  2. Decide which Spring Washer Stack will give you the optimal results.
  3. Slide the washers onto a bolt in the optimal stack.
  4. Slide the bolt through the installation material with the stack pressing against the installation material (remember the base washer must be facing down).
  5. Tighten the bolt against the other side of the installation material.
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How to Measure Material Thickness for Rivet Installation

Determining Rivet Length

Blind or POP rivets are one of the best tools for quickly and efficiently fastening two materials together. Blind rivets get their name because they are used when there is only access to one side of the material. Though efficient, this type of installation can cause problems when selecting a rivet to use.

Why is having access to one side of a material a problem?

Determining the rivet diameter is easy, but what about the length? The length of a rivet determines its effective grip range, or how much material it can effectively hold together. If you don’t have access to the second side of the rivet installation material, it can be a real pain to pick the right rivet. Having access to both sides of a material is something often taken for granted. It allows a user to easily install and gauge the size of the fastener they need, but often, both sides of the material are not available, and it causes two large issues.

Issues Caused by Only Seeing One Side of an Installation Material

  1. Impossible to use a traditional nut and bolt
  2. Cannot determine material thickness because the blind side material thickness is not known
  3. Often leads to users trying multiple grip lengths until they find one that works
measuring material thickness when only one side is available

Determining Material Thickness

In the event of needing to fasten one material to another with a rivet, it is actually quite easy to determine thickness. The problem is determining thickness when you cannot access the back of both materials.

Many users will resort to using a multi-grip rivet at this point, as it serves as a best-case option for going in blind. While there is nothing wrong with multi-grip rivets, they are not always the best answer and can still not cover the thickness needed, or be suitable for every application

Measuring Material Thickness with Access to Both Sides

Material thickness can be easily measured when you have access to both sides. All you have to do is place the two materials against each other and measure them with a tape measure or caliper, or measure both materials on their own and add them together: Material 1 + Material 2 = Material Thickness. Once you have the material thickness you can figure out the grip of rivet you need.

Measuring Material Thickness without Access to Both Sides

What You’ll Need
  • A Drill
  • A Pencil/Marker
  • A Rivet Diameter
  • A Drill Bit
  • 1 Nail with the head smaller than the diameter of the drill bit.
determining rivet length
Determining the Thickness
  1. The first step is to line your materials up and determine where you will be putting a rivet.
  2. Mark that spot and use the drill bit to drill through both materials.
  3. Once the hole is drilled take the nail and insert it (Head Side First)
  4. Pull up on the nail and begin pulling it back out. It will catch on the inside material.
  5. Then, take the pencil / marker and mark the exposed portion of the nail where it enters the drilled hole.
  6. Now stop pulling the nail up and remove it from the hole.
  7. Using a tape measure or caliper, measure from under the head of the nail to the mark. That number is your material thickness.

Conclusion

Now that we know the thickness, we can measure the diameter of the hole (or use the measurements from the drill bit if we know it) to determine the diameter of rivet to use. Using the thickness, we can determine the grip that we will need. For example, the hole is 3/16 inch in diameter and the measurement from the nail is 0.30 inches. This means that we would need a 6-6 rivet, which has a 3/16 inch diameter and a 0.251 – 0.375 inch grip range.

For an added bonus, check out our Rivet Measuring Guide view rivet diameters and grips to determine the number rivet you need.


How to Measure Material Thickness For Rivet Installation
How to Measure Material Thickness For Rivet Installation Transcript

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Bob: Welcome back to Albany County Fasteners – Fasteners 101. I’m Bob, today we’re going to show you how to measure two pieces of material to receive a rivet. So let’s get started.

So everybody’s asking “how do I measure material, in place, on a jobsite? How do I measure the two pieces of material for a rivet?” We’re gonna demonstrate to you here how to do it.

Let’s just look at this as if it’s in place, and you can’t see the backside, but we’ll show you the backside. All you need is a nail or a screw, a flathead screw. Something that has some type of lip on it that you can grab the backside with. That’s what we’re looking for.

You would put the nail in the hole and you just pull it. Then you take a sharpie or a marker and just pull on it, and then put a mark on you nail. You see, there’s the mark. Take a caliper or tape measure and then you would measure it. This comes out to about 0.478”.

You can then find a rivet within that grip range. This is an 8-8. This grip range is between a quarter inch and a half inch. We needed 0.479″ which falls in that range. This rivet goes between 0.25″ and 0.50”. So I’m gonna slide it in. Take my tool, and I’m going to show you that this will work perfectly.

There you go. It’s installed. The proper size. And that’s how you measure product when you can’t get to the other side.

Thanks for watching.

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What Are Spanner (Snake-Eye) Security Bits

The spanner security drive style is a security drive style. It is called a security drive style because it has an unconventional driving method. The spanner security style uses two points on the bit that sit into the recess of the fastener head. This makes if very difficult to remove or tamper with without using the proper bit.

Spanner Security Drive Style

What Are Spanner Security Bits Used For?

Spanner (Snake-Eye) security bits are used for making installations more secure. By adding an unconventional drive stile in public areas, they are much less likely to be vandalized or tampered with on a whim. Spanner screws can be seen commonly on public applications such as: Bathroom dividers and Public Art Displays.

Why are Spanner Security Bits More Likely To Break?

While spanner security bits are one of the best security drive styles around for adding extra security to applications, they do have a big downside. A Spanner bit has two teeth that are inserted into the drive recess for fastening. Due to this style, all of the torque is generated by the force on those two points. This puts them under a great deal of stress when installing. This extreme stress on two points makes them much more susceptible to snapping than other types of bits.

Situations That Cause Spanner Bits To Break and How to Prevent Them

There are several reasons that spanner bits commonly break. Luckily, most of them can be avoided or solved with just some simple changes to the installation process.

Situation Solution
Spanner Bit Snaps During Proper Installation Assuming everything is done right and the bit still snaps, it is likely that the bits are of unacceptable quality. Find a reputable dealer with good reviews and use their bits.
Bits Snapping in Hardwood Applications When using harder materials, a spanner screw must have a pilot hole drilled into the material. The bits are not going to be able to provide that much force before failing. The same is true for knots in wood.
Hitting the second material (if harder) If the second material is much harder than the first (attaching wood to metal for example) when the screw hits the second material, it will require more force to drive through and snap. To prevent this, drill a pilot hole.
Wrong Screw Type The screw type is often wrongly chosen for an application. This can cause poor performance while driving and increase force on the bit. Make sure to use the correct screw type for your application.
Driving the screw below the surface of the material When driving a screw, once the head presses against the material, it will greatly increase the friction on the screw. To drive the screw further, the amount of force on the bit will dramatically increase. To solve this problem, countersink the hole before installing the screw if you want the head to be below the surface.
Proper Drilling Technique Make sure you keep your drill straight when installing the screw, especially with spanner bits. Since there are only two points of contact, both need to share the weight evenly. Make sure to apply steady pressure and keep the drill straight, not angled to the fastener.

Spanner Bits: Worth It?

Over-all, spanner security bits are a great drive style and can make it very difficult, if not impossible, to remove without the proper bit. This makes them a common choice for applications that are open to the public without monitoring such as bathrooms or outside art exhibits. *While security drive styles are less likely to be tampered with, it is still easy to get the drives online. Even though they are readily available, the likelihood of tampering is still greatly reduced by using them.

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How to Prevent Your Spanner Bits From Breaking | Fasteners 101

How to Prevent Your Spanner Bits From Breaking | Fasteners 101
Transcript

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Bob: Welcome back to Albany County Fasteners – Fasteners 101. I’m Bob and today I’m going to demonstrate installing sheet metal screws with a spanner bit and a spanner screw snake eye screw.

Several different names for these out there. We do get some complaints from buyers saying they snapped the bits. In several situations, you could snap a bit. However, if you use it properly you will not snap the bit.

Some applications where you would possibly snap a bit: 1 – Going into hardwood without pre-drilling. If you go into hard wood and you don’t pre-drill and you just try to drive the sheet metal screw into the wood, chances are you will snap the bit or you’ll snap the screw. Either one could happen. I can drive this screw into this soft wood, which is a 2×4, with no issues of snapping a bit and remove it. I’m gonna demonstrate that.

Another way to snap a bit would be running it into a material and then on the back end there’s some metal that the screw cannot go through and you’re trying and you get an immediate stop in the screw. That will snap a bit.

There’s only two teeth on one of these spanner drivers and, of course, they can snap. It’s not the perfect world with these type of bits. Not like a Torx driver or something along those lines. Where they’re very hard to strip out or snap.

So I’m going to demonstrate, right now, installing this and it’s always important to make sure that your bit is square to the screw and the wood so you have positive contact. Put your hand on the back of the drill and you’ll see, I’m just driving it in with no problem. It’ll suck it in and now I just snapped it and why did I snap it?

I snapped it because the head is countersunk, and the screw came to a stopping point. So those who are snapping bits that would give you a reason so you can see here the bit is snapped. I can’t use that bit anymore.

If you’re driving a screw and a natural piece of wood and not over-torqueing it, you should have absolutely no problems with the bits. It doesn’t matter the quality of the bit. You will still snap the bit if you enter that type of situation.

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What is Bolt Preload?

A bolt and nut are used together as a compressive force to keep materials connected. The threads of the nut work with the threads of the screw to apply force to either side of the fastened material. This tension is called Bolt Preload, which is the compression created as the nut is tightened against the bolt (or vice-versa).

how forces act on a bolt with proper preload

When a load (weight) is placed on a bolt, it is limited to the amount of load the bolt can handle before failing. However, when a bolt is tightened against a material, it allows the bolt to distribute the force through the material, so the bolt itself only holds a portion of the load. This means that a bolt can hold a significantly higher load when the correct amount of tension is applied. That tension is known as preload.

Load – The amount of force acting on a fastener assembly

Preload – The amount of tension (compression) needed to distribute a load’s force throughout a fastener assembly

Working Load – The load placed on the assembly once ready to perform

Bolt Preload – The tension created when the nut is screwed onto a bolt to hold two materials together. When the tension reaches the optimal preload, the working load (load added after creating the assembly) placed on a bolt will be distributed into the installation materials, so the bolt does not take the entire load.

The Outcomes of Bolt Preload:

  • If the assembly is loose (the preload is not correctly applied), the external load increases the load on the bolt only. This will result in bolt failure.
  • If the assembly is tight (the correct preload has been applied), the load will only cause bolt deformation by distributing the load through the bolt and the nut.

How Bolt Preload Works

Bolts are incredible tools, but they are actually not as strong as we’d think. When first glancing at a bolt assembly with a working load attached to it, it appears as though the bolt is holding that entire load on its own. This is not the case.

When a bolt has preload, it is able to distribute the working load out across the plate near the head of the bolt. We will refer to this as the support plate. This means a properly installed bolt assembly can withstand a much heavier load as it distributes the force out away from itself. When a working load is applied to a fastener assembly that has not been preloaded, the entire force is placed on the bolt alone, which makes it much more likely to fail.

Why Is Bolt Preload So Important?

how forces act on a bolt with no preload

As discussed above, without bolt preload, the entire structure would be totally reliant on the bolt to hold the weight. When preload is applied, significantly less bolts are needed, as the material (Support Plate) will play a significantly larger role in holding the working load. This is not a cure-all however; a working load may still exceed the preload of the bolts which can result in the bolts failing, the support plate failing, or both.

Easy Ways to Determine Bolt Preload

  • Use a Torque Wrench to Reach Optimal Torque
    • While this is not a true measure of bolt preload, if a bolt is fastened to its optimal torque it can be assumed it is close to the correct preload. The reason this method is not readily accepted is because the torque will be directly affected by the material it is being spun against. A rougher material will produce more friction, which will make the torque value higher while reducing the preload tension. The opposite is also true. You can hit optimal torque without hitting the optimal preload (and vice versa). In the end it depends on the material, which is why this method isn’t exact, but it is a decent guess.
  • Use Preload Indicating Washers
    • Preload indicating washers are washers that are designed to spin until a certain amount of load is applied to them. This way, once the washer is no longer free-spinning, the preload has been met. This is a much simpler way of determining if the correct compression has been met.
  • Use Direct Tension Indicating Washers
    • These washers have little bumps that flatten when preload is achieved. Once flattened, a feeler gauge is used to make sure the bolt shaft is no more than 50% accessible under the washer (ideally less).
  • Use Silicon Direct Tension Indicating Washers
    • These washers operate in a similar way to the direct tension indicating washers above. These washers have small recesses where a silicon paste is filled in. As the nut tightens against them, the silicon begins to come out of the sides of the washer. To identify when optimal preload is achieved on this type of washer, the amount of recesses on the washer minus one need to be exposed out the sides. For example: If there are 6 recesses, then a minimum of 5 need to be exposed. 6 recesses – 1 recess = 5 (Preload has been reached)
  • Tighten Until Snug, and Then Tighten “X” Degrees
    • A less reliable approach is to tighten the nut until snug, and then to torque the nut “X” degrees. For example, a recommendation of 90 degrees would look like the following: Spin the nut onto the assembly until snug against the material. Attach the wrench to the nut and spin it a quarter of a turn (90 degrees). This method will give you a close to accurate preload.

So what does bolt preload do?

Bolt preload ultimately allows a fully tightened bolt to survive in an application where an untightened or loose assembly would fail very quickly. When tight, the joint provides a conduit for the force to flow through into the assembly materials themselves. This means the bolt assembly itself is only under a portion of the force of the working load. While you cannot look at a bolt and see this transfer occurring, the preload allows bolts to survive in much more rigorous applications.


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What Kind of Fasteners for Installing Deck Boards

What Kind of Decking Fasteners Should You Use?

wooden deck boards

Building a deck is one of the most rewarding home additions you can make to your house. Not only do they add value, but they are also an excellent place to lounge and relax or throw that summer barbecue for all the people who just won’t fit inside. One of the issues that many DIY deck builders come across when building their deck is determining what kind of fasteners to use.

There are several versions of fasteners that can be used depending on the effect you want to achieve. To demystify the deck building process, let’s go over the types of fasteners that can be used for installing deck boards.

nails vs screws

Nails or Screws?

Screws or Nails is one of the biggest questions when it comes what type of fastener to use. We’ve already gone over that in-depth in another blog post: Screws vs. Nails. The basic premise is that using each depends on the kind of force acting on them. For example, deck framing often uses nails. While nails often seem inferior to screws, they have three benefits that make them worth using in your framing:

  • Shear Strength
  • Cost
  • Speed of Install

Nails have one huge advantage over screws when building a deck – they bend. Decks are often subject to the force of heavy winds. Due to the way wind can get beneath a deck and pull on it, nails will bend and prevent the deck from moving while screws, which have a significantly lower shear strength, will break. So normally a combination of screws and nails are best for the framing process.

For deck boards, screws are the fasteners you want to use for holding strength. They provide excellent retention of the boards and prevent the dreaded board squeak that occurs when nails are used. Board squeak is what happens when there is distance between the deck board and the frame. As the board travels while weight is applied to it, the squeaking occurs. Using screws will limit this, as they have much better holding strength than nails.

Deck screws have a shank, or shoulder, and sometimes a notched point. This notch point is used to remove the need for drilling a pilot hole, however, we still recommend drilling pilot holes where-ever possible to prevent accidental splitting of the wood.

316 and 305 stainless steel deck screws

The Best Fasteners for Deck Boards

305 or 316 Stainless Steel Deck Screws

Stainless steel deck screws usually come in 305 stainless steel. This is a must for deck screws. Deck boards need to have corrosion resistant screws because they are constantly exposed to the elements. If you are in a highly corrosive environment, such as within 20 miles of a body of salt-water, make sure to use 316 stainless steel deck screws. Having the right grade of deck screw is essential for a long-lasting application.

Painted Head Deck Screws

painted head wood screws

Painted head deck screws are the next level of deck screws you will want to consider. They often come in multiple shades of brown but can also be found in other colors. These screws are still stainless steel but have a painted head designed to camouflage them in wood. In many cases, they are not a perfect match but tend to be much less noticeable than the silver of a standard stainless steel screw head.

Wood Plugs

decking wood plugs kit

Wood Plugs are an excellent in-between for a hidden fastener system. Each hole drilled in the deck boards is counter-sunk into the wood. The screw is then installed below the surface of the wood. Once the screw is fully installed a small wood plug, that’s the same diameter as the hole drilled, is glued into the hole. This hides the fastener completely. If you want a specific color, there are also tools to make your own wood plugs, so they match the wood perfectly every time.

Hidden Decking Fasteners

Ipe clips hidden decking fastener system

Hidden decking fasteners are the newest and most visually appealing fastener type. Used with grooved boards usually made of Ipe wood, these fasteners grip into the grooves on the side of the boards to create a strong and hidden fastening system. Hidden decking fasteners can also be used in standard lumber by utilizing a slot cutting router bit to cut notches into the side of deck boards. These fasteners are lined up in the grooves, then screw directly into the frame of the deck. This provides an excellent finish as they help to evenly space the boards and hide fasteners completely from the top of the boards.

Installing Deck Boards

Now that you have your frame built and know what kinds of fasteners you can use for the deck boards, it’s time to start installing them.

Installing Deck Boards Using Standard and Painted Stainless Steel Deck Screws

When installing standard and painted head deck screws follow these steps.:

  1. Position the deck boards on the frame
  2. Using a tape measure and pencil, mark the screw locations on the boards
    • Make sure to keep the screw holes at least 1″ inside the edge of the board. This will help to prevent splitting and cracking in the boards.
  3. Drill the pilot holes through the boards and into the frame
    • Even though many deck screws have a notched tip for drilling, it is not the best solution and pilot holes should be drilled anyway.
  4. Drive the deck screws through the boards into the frame
    • Position the screw perpendicular to the board
    • Slowly drive the screws into the frame
    • Do not over-torque your fasteners. Once the flat portion of the head becomes flush, move to the next screw

Installing Deck Boards Using Wood Plugs

When installing deck boards using Wood Plugs follow these steps:

  1. Position the deck boards on the frame
  2. Using a tape measure and pencil, mark the screw locations on the boards
  3. Measure the length of the wood plug
  4. Using painter’s tape, mark of that depth on a drill bit that is the same diameter as the wood plug
  5. Drill the countersink portion to the depth of the tape on the drill bit
  6. Take the smaller bit and drill a pilot hole for the screw itself through the countersunk hole in the board all the way into the frame
  7. Drive the deck screws through the boards into the frame
    • Position the screw perpendicular to the board
    • Slowly drive the screws into the frame
    • Do not over-torque your fasteners. Once the flat portion of the head becomes flush, move to the next screw
  8. For each exposed hole, take a wood plug and coat it wood glue, then place them into the holes
    • If you are having a hard time inserting them, place a small piece of wood over the plug and tap it into place with a rubber mallet. This will prevent the plugs from getting marred by the impact.
  9. Quickly wipe away any excess glue before moving to the next hole
  10. Some wood glues expand while drying, revisit the holes periodically after installation and continue to wipe away any glue until it has dried, and the plug is set

Installing Deck Boards Using Hidden Deck Fasteners

Not all hidden decking fasteners are installed the same way, so we will be using Ipe Clips in this example:

*Before we begin: Ipe wood is valued over standard wooden deck boards, because Ipe wood will splinter and often comes with pre-cut grooves on the side of the board. Both of these features make them an excellent choice when using hidden deck fasteners.

  1. Cut notches in each board using a router cutting bit (if applicable)
  2. Install the first board at one end of the deck frame using standard deck screws every 24 inches. For a premium finish you can countersink and plug the hole with a wood plug.
  3. Align each clip in the groove of the board to a joist. With the clip in the groove, screw each clip into the crossing joist. Only one clip is needed where two boards meet on a single joist.
  4. Align the next deck board to the installed clips making sure the grooves match up with the first board.
  5. Use a Deck Board Straightening Tool (Hardwood Wrench) to hold the board in place tightly against the clips
  6. Install the next set of clips against the second board
  7. Remove the hardwood wrench and repeat until the last board
  8. The last board is installed the same as the first, only in reverse. Align the last board’s grooves with the last set of clips, then install with face screws every 24 inches.

Extra Tips

hidden deck finished results
Even Screw Placement

When using exposed screws to hold your deck in place, always mark screw locations prior to installation. You will want to make sure that the screws are all even to create an appealing and aesthetic finish.

Benefit of Ipe Wood

By far the biggest benefit of using Ipe wood is that it does not splinter. This protects the lifetime of the deck and your guests’ feet!

Get the Right Corrosion Resistance for Your Environment

Always double check to ensure your fasteners are ideal for your environment. After all the hard work of making a beautiful deck, you don’t want to start seeing rust stains on the wood from rusting fasteners.

Get a Pair of Knee Pads

Building a deck can be particularly hard on your knees. Find a nice set of knee pads to keep your knees of the wood for an extended amount of time.

Safety Gear

Always use safety gear no matter what you are building to protect your eyes and hands. Whether you’re cutting, drilling or driving a fastener, always have the appropriate gear on to protect yourself.

The End Game

Now that your beautiful new deck is built, it’s time to sit back, relax and party on the newest addition to your home.

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