and spades are hand tools widely used in the paving, drainage and
groundworks trades . There's a lot of digging work in the groundworks
trade, and so a good spade or a shovel is possibly the most important
tool of all. We rely of different types of spades and shovels to perform
What is shovel?
A Shovel is a tool with a handle and a broad scoop or blade for digging
and moving material, such as dirt or snow. Handle lengths and blade
lifts are important to balance and efficient shoveling. Low-lift blades
and irrigating shovels are best for digging and turning soil while
regular-lift shovels and scoops are for moving and throwing earth and
What is a spade?
A spade is a sturdy digging tool having a thick handle and a heavy,
flat blade that can be pressed into the ground with the foot.
Spade or shovel?
Is it a spade or is it a shovel? What's the difference? Well, quite
frankly, many people call a shovel a spade and vice versa. According to
dictionary, a spade, deriving from the Latin word spatha, is a
long-handled tool with a flat blade that is pressed with the foot and
used for digging, while a shovel is a long-handled tool with a broad
scoop used in lifting and moving loose material. Ultimately you dig with
a spade and you shift stuff with a shovel. And both can be used for both
Parts of a spade/ shovel
Materials of blade construction
Well, there are three main choices of materials for shovels blades.
They are as follows:
Classification of shovels/ spades
- Steel: Steel shovels very heavy but they are the most
- Aluminum: They are lighter and softer, though some
aluminum shovels have steel-reinforced edges which add weight.
- Plastic: They are lightweight, but abrade rapidly.
Plastic shovel can bend repeatedly with no damage. They are
available in a wide range of colors.
Shovels are classified by three factors:
- Point description
- Handle length
The five types of construction are as follows:
- Plain back shovels or strap socket shovels: They are hot
formed having two straps holding handle to back by welding.
- Solid-shank blade and socket shovels: From one piece of
metal, the shovels are hot rolled with solid steel section at base
- Closed back shovels: The shovels are hot formed from
sheet steel with an extra steel piece welded to back at the socket
- Open back shovels or Hollow back shovels: They are hot
formed from sheet steel with an opening at the socket base. These
shovels have rolled steps for extra rigidity.
- Special construction shovels: These shovels are hot
formed from hot-rolled blanks of different gauges depending on end
use. They are light weight with maximum strength.
The blades of the shovels are round or square point . The handles are
of two types. The first in the figure given is the the D-handle, also
known as a Y-handle, because of the way it forks. The second figure
shows the T-handle. Though there is not much of difference between the
two, most users prefer the D-handle which is found to be more
comfortable, stronger and less likely to break than the T-handle. The
D-handle is considered to be better to bear with more stress or load.
There are two ways of fixing the handle to the blade. This is done by
either attaching the socket or the strapped method.
Quality features for all shovels and spades comprises heat-treated
blade and strong ash handle. Length of the handle and blade lifts are
important factors to consider for balancing and efficient shoveling.
While low-lift blades and irrigating shovels are perfect for digging and
turning soil, the regular-lift shovels and spades are ideal for moving
and throwing earth and other materials. The blade lift is measured by
placing the shovel flat on the floor. Lift is measured from the floor to
the blade's top. Other factors to consider is the grip of the handle.
The handle should be fixed securely to the blade so that there is no
chance of removal of the blade while in use. The handle grip should be
comfortable and firm.
Types of spades/ shovels
- Tapermouth spade: The tapermouth spade gets its name
because the blade tapers slightly. That means it is narrower at the
cutting edge than it is at the shoulder. It is supposes to be a
handy all-round tool.
- Squaremouth shovel: Also known as a "Widemouth",
it is used for shoveling and leveling, with its wide end. However,
it is not suitable as a tapermouth for digging. This shovel is
popular to shift large quantities of sand, very loose gravel or
earth, silt etc.
- Grafter spade: It is handy for digging-out fence posts,
or working in tough, boulder clay. The shape is very narrow only
100mm or wide at the cutting edge, with a tapering blade.
- Trenching Spade: Its a combination of a tapermouth shovel
and a grafter shovel. It is useful for working in trenches. Its
narrow profile makes it perfect for cutting through tough soils, and
since it is wider than a grafter, it can also carry a good quantity
of excavated material out of the way.
- Roundmouth shovel: As the name suggests, they have a
round shaped blade and ideal for shoveling sands and gravels into a
mixer when making concrete.
- Garden Spades: Used usually for the purpose of digging in
the garden, Garden Spades have square-point blades about 7"
wide and 12" long with a 28" "D" handle. Some
garden spades have a rolled shoulder on the top of the blade, so
user can apply foot pressure in unusually hard or heavy soil.
- Spading Forks: Spading forks are roll forged from a solid
steel bar to produce four sharp tines that enter and turn the soil
more easily than a solid blade.
- Drain Spades: Also known as Tiling Spades, drain spades
are used primarily for digging ditches for tile installations.
Round-point blades are 5 1/2" wide, 14" to 16" long
and handle is 27" long
- Ditching Spades: Ditching Spades have square point blade
6 1/4" to 6 1/2" wide and 14" to 18" long, 27"
handle and foot pedal. Good for use in heavy soil or rocky surfaces.
- Scoop: Scoops have deep blades for moving loose or bulky
materials and should not be recommended for digging. Most have "D"
handles although some are available with long handles.