The breathing mechanism of a transverse crack in an elastic shaft has been extensively researched. Although many different crack models have been presented, little published research has explored experimentally how the shaft crack breathing mechanism interacts with the change of stiffness during each revolution. This study addressed static analysis of the stiffness of elastic shafts with experimentally-induced fatigue, welding or wire cut transverse cracks. Bending stiffness was measured from different angles under a three point bending fixture, to efficiently define the correct periodical stiffness variation for different crack types. The opening and closing of each crack (breathing effect) were investigated for their association with shaft stiffness. It was found that width of the crack opening gap is a crucial factor which influences the crack breathing behaviour. Experimental results are expected to assist with crack diagnosis.