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What are shovel blades made of?

Shop for Shovels

Molecules make up everything we see on our planet! Depending on the work a shovel is designed for, the blade will be made from one of three materials:

  1. Plastic
  2. Aluminium
  3. Steel
  WD says "Thankfully, we've moved on from shovels made out of an animal’s shoulder bone... "

Plastic blades

Shovels made from plastic The blades of some shovels are made out of plastic.

Advantages 

Affordable and light to hold, plastic shovels are ideal for clearing snow as it does not stick to the glossy surface. Plastic is also rust proof.

There is a wide range of colours to choose from, which is particularly useful when colour coding to avoid cross-contamination in the food and agricultural industry.

Where a plastic blade may break

Disadvantages

While the lightweight properties of plastic shovels are an advantage, they are prone to cracking or breaking under constant use, very cold temperatures, hard debris and heavy snow loads.

The metal strip makes it easier to cut through solid ice The shaft of a shovel with a plastic blade is usually made from a hard plastic or wood.

Some plastic shovels have a metal strip called a ‘wear strip’ attached to the blade to make it easier to cut through solid ice.

Take care, however, as this metal strip tends to snag easily on rough ground, putting additional stress on the blade.

Sandcastles are not just for kids!

Plastic blades are suitable for:

  • Shovelling light to medium snowfall
  • Scooping and spreading grain
  • Shovelling light bulk material such as sand
  • For use in the food industry to distinguish between various hygiene programmes

Aluminium blades

A blade made from aluminium
Some shovels have aluminium blades.

Advantages

Aluminium blades will not break as easily as plastic and are more suitable for chipping through packed snow and ice as well as holding a larger quantity of material.

Like plastic, aluminium does not rust and is lightweight.

Aluminium is usually more expensive than plastic

Disadvantages 

Shovels with with aluminium blades tend to be more expensive than those with plastic blades.

In addition, aluminium blades are more likely to bend and lose their shape during use.

Don't overburden your body. The shaft of a shovel with an aluminium blade is usually made from wood or aluminium.

 

Aluminium is an all-purpose material where the optimum between maximising the shovel load and taking into account the limitations of the human body is reached.

Using a lightweight yet robust aluminium shovel to clear snow

Aluminium blades are suitable for:

  • Shovelling light to heavy snow
  • Cutting through packed snow and ice – perfect for digging a friend out of a snowdrift!

Steel blades

Steel blade and shaft Steel is an alloy (a combination) of iron and a small amount of carbon (usually between 0.002 and 2.2%).

Additional traces of metallic and nonmetallic elements can also be alloyed with steel to further improve its strength and other characteristics.

The shaft of a steel blade can be made from wood, fibreglass or steel.

Most steel shovels are made from either:

  • Carbon steel , which offers supreme strength
  • Manganese steel (contains approximately 13% manganese), a material highly resistant to wear and high-impact shock
  • Stainless steel (contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium), which is highly resistant to scratching and rust.
Steel blades, although the most long lasting and robust of all shovels, require a lot of strength to use

Advantages  

Steel blades are the most robust of all types of blade.

 

Disadvantages  

They are more expensive and heavier than aluminium blades.

A steel shovel is strong enough for use even on a construction site

Steel blades are suitable for:

  • Heavy duty digging in hard, rocky ground
  • Shovelling heavy, compacted materials
  • Commercial use and trade work

Steel or aluminium?

Metal ingots
Generally, steel is considered to be stronger than aluminium.

Where quality, performance and long-lasting durability cannot be compromised to the demands of rigorous on-site conditions and heavy duty usage, steel is the best choice.

Steel weighs more than aluminium
Aluminium, however, has a better strength-to-weight ratio than steel.

This means that although it is not as strong as steel, it weighs a lot less.

Therefore, steel shovels will require more strength to operate than aluminium shovels.

Aluminium weighs less than steel and is ideal for those who haven't been eating their spinach Where weight is a concern (for those with smaller frames), an aluminium shovel is the better choice.