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A buying guide – hand shovel specifications

Shop for Shovels

Points to consider when choosing a shovel It is important that you understand the anatomy of a shovel so that you select the right one for the job (see, What are the parts of a shovel?). We have discussed the five key criteria from which to differentiate shovels:
This is a robust solid socket shovel used to dig narrow trenches for pipework and underground cables 1. How the blade is attached to the handle

2. The shape, size and angle of the blade

3. The length of the shaft and the type of handle grip

4. The different materials used to make a shovel

5. Its weight

The following section outlines the different designs of shovel on the market By understanding the configuration of a shovel, you will be able to identify an inferior shovel over a high calibre one as well as understanding the jargon that manufacturers use, so you can get maximum benefit from the tool you choose..

Now it’s time to dig the dirt on the different types of shovel.

Type of shovel

Application

Features

Round mouth shovel

Round mouth shovels are the most versatile and can be used for digging and shovelling
  • Digging, especially in hard ground
  • Moving rubble and other semi-compacted material
  • Not ideal for preparing a bed for paving stones
  • Choice of open socket, solid socket and strapped solid socket blade connections
  • Shaft can be made from hardwood, fibreglass or steel
  • Handle can be D-grip and T-grip
Square mouth shovel

A square mouth shovel is designed for scooping and shifting bulk material

  • Shovelling large quantities of loose material
  • Levelling out soil and other sub-base material
  • Preparing a bed for paving stones, flags, etc.
  • Not ideal for digging
  • An aluminium or plastic blade is lightweight and useful in the food or agriculture industry
  • Choice of open socket, solid socket and strapped solid socket blade connections
  • Shaft can be made from hardwood, fibreglass or steel
  • Handle can be D-grip and T-grip
Taper mouth shovel

A taper mouth shovel is designed for digging in hard ground

  • Digging, especially in hard ground
  • Shovelling dense material such as crushed stone and gravel
  • Levelling
  • Choice of open socket, solid socket and strapped solid socket blade connections
  • Shaft can be made from hardwood, fibreglass or steel
  • Handle can be D-grip and T-grip
Snow shovel

Snow shovels are designed for...shovelling snow!

  • Moving snow from driveways, roads, pavements
  • Anywhere it causes an obstruction!
  • Some shovels are designed for pushing snow, others for lifting it
  • Shovels can be plastic, aluminium or steel depending on its usage
  • The size of the scoop varies considerably between shovels.  A wide scoop which curves upward is the most efficient for shovelling snow.
  • Look for a blade with a strong cutting edge.
Ergonomic snow shovel

An ergonomic snow shovel

  • Specifically designed to reduce back strain when shovelling snow
  • Look for designs with additional handles halfway down the shaft to minimise stooping and to help with balance
  • Check that the handle grip is also ergonomic
  • Look for a shovel with an ergonomic design such as a bend in the length of shaft if you suffer with a bad back or want to avoid injury.
  • A shovel with wheels will also help reduce back strain
Coal shovel

A coal shovel for shovelling coal

  • Shovelling coal, coke and other fuels
  • Scooping ash and wood debris from a fireplace
  • Shovels are generally plastic, aluminium or steel
  • A wide, flat blade with upturned sides makes it easier to remove ash and debris from a fireplace
  • Vintage coal shovels are also available.  Perfect as a gift or part of a fireplace set
Grain shovel

A grain shovel is used for granular materials such as grain, seeds and fertiliser

  • Shovelling granular materials such as grain, seeds and fertiliser
  • Scoop is usually plastic or aluminium. Both materials are lightweight enough for prolonged shovelling and neither will damage the grain.
  • Look for scoops with deep basins to prevent spillage when transferring material
Cable laying shovel

A cable laying shovel has been specifically designed for digging narrow trenches for cables or pipes

  • Specifically designed for digging narrow trenches for cables or pipes
  • Or any heavy, ground breaking work
  • Blade is usually forged from one piece of steel (solid socket or strapped socket)
  • Shaft can be made from hardwood, fibreglass or steel
  • Length of shaft is either standard at 700 mm (28 ins) or extra-long up to 1800 mm (72 ins)
  • For work on or near live cables, use an insulated shovel.  These are covered in our section on ‘Insulated Shovels’
Drainage shovel

The long, narrow blade of a draining shovel is useful for digging drain or pipe channels and irrigation work

  • Long, narrow blade is useful for digging drain or pipe channels and irrigation work
  • Not suitable for prolonged shovelling
  • Blade is usually forged from one piece of steel (solid socket or strapped socket)
  • Shaft can be made from hardwood, fibreglass or steel
  • Length of shaft is either standard at 700 mm (28 ins) or extra-long up to 1800 mm (72 ins)
  • For work on or near live cables, use an insulated shovel.  These are covered in our section on ‘Insulated Shovels’
Rabbiting spade

A rabbiting spade is ideal for digging deep and neat trenches, land drains and fence post holes

  • Ideal for digging deep and neat trenches, land drains and fence post holes
  • Planting sapling trees, perennial work
  • Not suitable for prolonged shovelling
  • Blade is usually forged from one piece of steel (solid socket or strapped socket)
  • Usually fitted with either a fibreglass or a steel shaft
  • Length of shaft is either standard at 700 mm (28 ins) or extra-long up to 1800 mm (72 ins)
  • Extra-long shaft – usually without a handle grip – gives greater digging depth
Grafting shovel

A grafting shovel is specifically designed for heavy work

  • Specifically designed for heavy work (grafting!)
  • Either digging into hard ground such as clay based soils or shifting heavy material
  • Choice of open socket, solid socket and strapped solid socket blade connections
  • Shaft can be made from hardwood, fibreglass or steel
  • Length of shaft is either standard at 700 mm (28 ins) or extra-long up to 1800 mm (72 ins)
  • For work on or near live cables, use an insulated shovel.  These are covered in our section on ‘Insulated Shovels’
Trenching shovel

A trenching shovel is designed for digging and clearing trenches

  • Designed for digging and clearing trenches
  • Ideal for producing neat trench walls without disturbing the soil too much
  • Choice of open socket, solid socket and strapped solid socket blade connections
  • Shaft can be made from hardwood, fibreglass or steel
  • Length of shaft is either standard at 700 mm (28 ins) or extra-long up to 1800 mm (72 ins)
  • For work on or near live cables, use an insulated shovel.  These are covered in our section on ‘Insulated Shovels’
West Country shovel

A West Country shovel is designed for digging in very heavy soils

  • Digging in very heavy soils
  • Scooping and moving loose material such as sand, gravel, crushed stone
  • Ideal for those with taller frames
  • Blade is usually either stamped out of sheet steel (open socket) or hot forged (the more robust solid socket method)
  • Shaft is extra long – up to 1800 mm (72 ins) – and usually made from Ash
  • Extra long shaft – usually without a handle grip – gives greater digging depth
Irish shovel

An Irish shovel has been designed for digging in very heavy soils

  • Digging in very heavy soils
  • Scooping and moving loose material such as sand, gravel, crushed stone
  • Ideal for those with taller frames
  • Blade is usually either stamped out of sheet steel (open socket) or hot forged (the more robust solid socket method)
  • Shaft is extra long – up to 1800 mm (72 ins) – and usually made from Ash
  • Extra long shaft – usually without a handle grip – gives greater digging depth
Micro shovel

A micro shovel is ideal for use in confined spaces

  • Good things come in small packages!
  • Ideal for use in confined spaces
  • Small and easy to transport
  • Overall length of a micro shovel is usually 700 mm (27 ins) compared to a standard length of 1200 mm (48 ins)
  • Blade is usually stamped from carbon steel, can be round mouth or square mouth
  • Shaft is usually fibreglass for its lightweight properties
Folding shovel

A folding shovel is useful for camping trips or outdoor activities

  • Useful for camping trips or outdoor activities
  • Easily transportable in a rucksack
  • Can be kept in your car for any emergencies
  • Lesser quality folding shovels are flimsy and prone to breaking
  • Look for a full steel construction for long-term, heavy-duty use
  • Check the shovel comes with a bag or pouch for easy, clean storage
  • Folded length is generally 250 mm (9.5 ins) and overall length 600 mm (23 ins)