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What is a coal shovel?

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Application

A coal shovel is used for shovelling coal and removing ash from a fireplace, firebox or furnace. A coal shovel is used for shovelling coal and removing ash from a fireplace, firebox or furnace. There are two types of coal shovel:

1) A domestic coal shovel, which is used to keep open fires in the home neat and tidy.

2) A firing shovel, for use on locomotives, traction engines and steam trains.

Domestic coal shovel

A typical coal shovel for the home

Blade

Domestic coal shovels are typically small shovels in size with a wide, flat scoop and upturned sides. The width of the blade varies but is generally around 100mm (4″) to 150mm (6″).

Designed to shovel bagged coal and to clean out ashes and wood debris, the domestic coal shovel is compact enough to take its place on a fireside hearth.

The typical lengths of shaft available

Shaft

The shaft of a domestic coal shovel is normally wooden and can be anything from 100mm (4″)  to 230mm  (9″) plus in length.

These shovels are available with or without a handle grip although you will usually find that the shorter handles don’t have one at all.

Which you choose is entirely up to you. Some people claim that it is easier to have a longer shaft with a handle grip as it is less likely to get lost in large bags of coal while others prefer the dinky dimensions of a fireplace shovel.

Often decorated and individually produced, a vintage (or antique) coal shovel makes a great fireside accessory or gift.

A vintage coal shovel

Often decorated and individually produced, a vintage (or antique) coal shovel makes a great fireside accessory or gift.

A firing shovel

This is a more heavy-duty shovel for use on steam locomotives

Blade

With its long, wide blade, a firing shovel allows the fireman (the person who attends the fire or furnace of a steam locomotive) to deposit coal all around the firebox.

The size of the blade varies, but is usually around 400mm (16″) in length and 200mm (8.5″) in width.

Firing coal in a steam locomotive

Shaft

Firing shovels can have either a long or short shaft:

  • Short shafts, around 500mm (20″) in length, are ideal for smaller locomotives with less roomy cabs.
  • Long shafts, around 660mm (26″) in length are used in larger engines.

Blade materials

Used for accurate measurement when cutting pieces of steel The blade of both a domestic and a firing coal shovels is usually made from sheet steel of varying thickness.  This is known as gauge steel .

Generally speaking, as the gauge number increases, the material thickness decreases – you will need to check with the manufacturer for a gauge conversion chart.

The thicker the steel, the more robust the construction but remember that this will also mean that the shovel is heavier and more expensive.

Scoop design

A Western pattern scoop has reinforcing moulded ribs to give it extra strength for more heavy-duty applications e.g. moving heavier, bulk material. Coal shovels typically have a scooped blade, which usually comes in one of two designs:

1. Western pattern

The scoop has reinforcing moulded ribs to give it extra strength for more heavy-duty applications e.g. moving heavier, bulk material.

With its flat, rib-free surface, an Eastern pattern scoop is designed for for lighter, general purpose work e.g. general cleaning up, use in the food industry, lighter shovelling.

2. Eastern pattern

With its flat, rib-free surface, this scoop is designed for for lighter, general purpose work e.g. general cleaning up, use in the food industry, lighter shovelling.