How is a shovel blade attached to the shaft?
One way to judge the quality of a steel shovel is to look at how the blade is connected to the shaft.
The blade meets the shaft through a tube of metal called a socket.
There are three types of socket connections:
1. An open socket
2. A solid socket
3. A solid strapped socket
1. Open socket
An open socket is usually the cheapest blade-to-shaft connection and can be identified by a folded seam or tab at the back of the blade.
The blade and socket are stamped out of a thin sheet of metal and the shaft (normally wooden) is secured in the socket with one or two rivets.
A reinforcing ‘crimp’ or 'frog' on the front of the blade provides additional rigidity.
This is the hollow fold or bend in the metal.
Some open socket shovels can also be identified by looking at the back of the shovel where the end of the shaft can be seen protruding through the bottom of the socket.
An open socket shovel is used for general purpose light work such as scooping and shifting loose material, e.g. snow, sand or gravel.
These shovels will not hold up long under a lot of pressure, but are the cheapest of all three connections.
Although most open socket connections have not been designed for digging or prolonged shovelling, some sockets are extra long (usually by a couple of inches) to cope with more heavy-duty work.
2. Solid socket
With a solid socket, both the blade and socket are formed or ‘forged’ from one piece of steel by being heated in a furnace and then shaped by a machine press.
The shaft is then inserted into a 'hidden' socket free from any welds.
No reinforcing crimp is required. The solid socket is much more durable than an open socket.
This sturdy shaft-to-blade connection boosts the load-bearing capacity of the shovel so the shovel is less likely to break where the shaft meets the blade.
The shaft of a solid socket shovel can be made from wood, fibreglass or steel.
A solid socket shovel is designed for both heavy digging and shovelling.
It is more expensive than an open socket shovel.
3. Solid strap socket (or strapped socket)
The third kind, a solid strap, has two steel straps, which extend from the socket along the shaft and are riveted in place.
Any load-bearing stress is applied across both straps rather than creating a singular weak point where the blade meets the shaft.
Like the solid socket, the blade, socket and strap are all forged from one piece of steel. Generally, only wooden shafts can be fitted to strapped tools.
Solid straps are the sturdiest of all wooden shaft to blade connections. As a result, they are usually the most expensive.