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Shovels 101

A lot of outdoor projects require the right shovel to make the job go easier. Learn which shovel will help with a specific outdoor project.

We all remember seeing different types of shovels in the garage when we were kids. And for many of us, a shovel was a shovel even though they had obvious differences in their appearance. Who knew these distinctly different shapes were for a particular reason?

So now it is about time we learn the names of the shovels most commonly used around the yard, and their uses.

Round Point Shovel

• Used for digging holes
• Cuts through moist soil and sod easily
• Cuts through compacted soil and plant roots

Square Point Shovel

• Scooping loose materials (mulch, sand, some gravels, dirt)
• Not for cutting into soil
• Wide blade has turned up edges for increased holding capacity


A. Round Point Shovel, B. Square Point Shovel



• Great for transferring light weight materials; also good for cleaning out stables
• Blade larger than square point shovel
• Available in poly or aluminum scoop



C. Scoop, D. D-Grip Handle typically found on short handled shovels


Garden Spade

• Straight edged blade cuts neatly into soil
• Great for lawn edging
• Turning soil, cutting sod

Drain or Duckbill Spade

• Very narrow-curved blade
• For digging ditches for drainage pipes
• Good for digging holes for bulb planting


E. Garden Spade, F. Drain or Duckbill Spade


Anatomy of a Shovel

The blade of the shovel has important parts to consider. You want one that has a rolled, or turned, step (this is the part of the blade that you place your foot on to push it into the soil) because it will be more comfortable to use (less wear and tear on your foot and shoe!). Another vital part of the blade is the way it is connected to the handle. This part of the blade is called the tang. The longer it is, the better, for this will provide a stronger connection. Also, you want the handle to be secured to the tang with a bolt or heavy duty screw.

Shovels have a handle length of 5 to 6 feet (known as a long handled shovel) or a shorter length of 3 to 4 feet with a D-grip handle. Either length gets the job done, it’s just a matter of using the one most comfortable for you. Sometimes manufacturers include a spongy, cushiony material along the length of the handle for a more comfortable and secure grip.

The materials used for the handles are wood or fiberglass. Wooden handles are made from hardwoods, usually ash. Both a fiberglass handle, and a high quality wood handle shovel can last a very long time. Both materials have strength and flexibility, although fiberglass is more weather resistant.

Many women use standard sized tools without any trouble, but there are light weight and scaled down versions of shovels for women who may have difficulty with using a standard sized shovel.

Having the right tool for the job can make all the difference in the world!




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  1. Hannah says:

    I think this is a great website. In science, we are digging holes for a garden and some kids were quizzing each other in the different types of shovels. If I get quizzed then at least I won’t look like an idiot.. thanks to this site. Thumbs up!! :)

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