Use of fall cones to determine Atterberg limits: a review

B. C. O’Kelly, P. J. Vardanega, S. K. Haigh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)
679 Downloads (Pure)


This paper reviews the percussion-cup liquid limit, thread-rolling plastic limit (PL) and various fall-cone and other approaches employed for consistency limit determinations on fine-grained soil, highlighting their use and misuse for soil classification purposes and in existing correlations. As the PL does not correspond to a unique value of remoulded undrained shear strength, there is no scientific reason why PL measurements obtained using the thread-rolling and shear-strength-based fall-cone or extrusion methods should coincide. Various correlations are established relating liquid limit values deduced using the percussion-cup and fall-cone approaches. The significance of differences in the strain-rate dependency on the mobilised fall-cone shear strength is reviewed. The paper concludes with recommendations on the standardisation of international codes and the wider use of the fall-cone approach for soft to medium-stiff clays in establishing the strength variability with changing water content and further index parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-856
Number of pages14
Issue number10
Early online date8 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2018


  • Clays
  • Laboratory equipment
  • Laboratory tests
  • Shear strength
  • Silts
  • Soil classification


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