Mating Pipe Piles to Pipe Pile Caps

Pipe pile caps have been around as long as pipe piles, but mating them to a pile hammer via a pipe cap may be new to some users.  The diagram above (which, as you can see, dates from 1931) shows how this is done.

The cross-section shows three diameters of pipe piles mating with a pipe cap.  Pipe caps typically have steps to mate with more than one size of pipe pile.  It’s also possible to drive pipe caps “flat face” (with no steps) but you lose the alignment assistance of the cap when you do.

The outer two pipes mate with “male steps,” those which face the inside diameter of the pipe.  It’s necessary thus to know the ID of the pile, which usually means the OD and the wall thickness.  A little clearance is allowed to make mating simpler and to take into account the fact that pipe pile isn’t always perfectly round (especially at the ends, where it gets bent.)

On the small onshore caps, the steps are typically straight.  On the offshore caps, Vulcan typically put in a draft angle to make stabbing the pile easier.

With caps with multiple steps, it’s possible for the steps to interfere with each other because the diameter of one step is too small to accommodate the OD of the pile below it.  To avoid this problem requires some layout before the cap is machined.

Male pipe caps can be used with wall thicknesses thinner than originally intended with the use of welded shims.

The inner pile mates with the “female” portion of the cap, i.e., the OD of the pile.  This eliminates the ID mating problem but requires a completely different cap design.

Some other information is shown below.

Vulcan’s choice of pipe cap design deserves some explanation. Below is a diagram of the three basic types of pipe caps in use, both during the heyday of Vulcan offshore hammers and now. Male Caps (left) were the standard Vulcan configuration. The cap is stepped for different pipe sizes and is fitted to the I.D. of the pipe. To align the leads and the pile (especially important with the batter piles common offshore) the pipes were passed through a stabbing bell (at the bottom) which itself was stepped to the O.D. of the piles. The arrangement was preferred with Vulcan’s customers (especially those in the Gulf of Mexico) because the cap is easy to modify and shim for different size piles and the stabbing bell is easy for the crane operator to thread the hammer assembly over the pile for driving. Female Caps (centre) was most common with the Menck hammers. All of the steps were mated to the O.D. of the cap. Although mating it to piles was more straightforward, since the maximum plate moment of the cap was in the centre, the thicker centreline of the male cap was an advantage. Flat Face Caps (right) were preferred by the diesel manufacturers such as Delmag (and later IHC and Pileco.) Since there are no alignment steps on the cap, all of the alignment takes place with the adjustable keys under the cap facing the O.D. of the pile. (It’s better to have two sets of keys than the one shown.) Although the cap is much simpler, the carrier required for the cap and keys can be complicated to produce.

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