Many people use the terms “shovel” and “spade” interchangeably. But did you know that they’re actually very different tools? Below is a brief summary of the main differences. For more details, keep reading.
When thinking of a spade, most people think of an actual spade, and the same with a shovel. Ask yourself, do you even know the difference? Most people use the term interchangeably but they are used for different things, and are different tools entirely.
Strictly speaking, a shovel has a shorter handle and has a broader bottom for moving loose rock, dirt and other materials. Spades generally used for digging purposes and their shafts are usually longer in length, giving the user that extra leverage.
Shovels Vs Spades
Primarily used for lifting and shifting loose material
Primarily used for digging
Ergonomic grips for comfort and fatigue
Can be fairly narrow
Wide flat base
Sharp and narrow edges
A Gardening Spade
A gardening spade is typically used for cutting through soil and through thick roots. Generally, a garden spades head is heat treated and is sharp around the edges for the specific purpose of cutting through material. This type of spade is also used for edging areas, dividing plants and other shrubs, moving and transporting plants and can help with the process of planting as well. When picking a spade, we advise that people go and handle them, so they get a feel of what type of spade they would want to buy. For instance, one with a fiberglass shaft is going to be lighter than a wooden shaft and not all spades have a d-handle at the end either. A sharp gardening spade will make work much easier.
Shovels and Scoops
Shovels can fall into multiple categories however, they are generally used for shoveling material and scooping away loose material. Shovels are intended for digging purposes as well and generally have a straight curved blade and raised sides. Shovels can have short handles for lifting and moving objects and dirt, however if you are doing this more so than digging, maybe its time to invest into a scoop. A scoop can be used for moving debris and moss off roof, getting rid of snow in unwanted areas, and for moving and tidying up lose material.
The shovel blade is generally curved in shape and has a broader blade than a spade. Blade lengths will vary depending on the use and people will find shovels with extra long blades, extra thin blades, blades with saw-tooths on the edges and so forth. The shovel blade is usually longer and wider than a spade blade because of the primary use. A spade is generally equipped with a thinner narrower blade used for cutting through soil and roots.
When using a spade or a shovel, the blades can be very similar. The blade will be rounded or straight or taper off. Flatter shovels are used to cut into the ground and can get through roots and soil, similar to a space. However, they are primarily used to transfer loose material from one place, to another. Think of a tarmac, a road or moving soil from your wheelbarrow. Shovels are handy when it comes to removing soil that has been loose or tiled, to remove compost or garden mulch or other material that will help to maintain your garden.
A spade can have very similar blades as well as having a longer shaft. This means its easier to dig with as the leverage offers more opportunities than a shovel. A spade can have a round or pointed blade as well and is generally narrower. These are the ones that you will use more often in your garden as you may be digging into roots or thick soil and you’ll need a sharp and narrow blade. A quality blade on either tool can help immensely when doing garden work.
People also may notice a spade being straighter from the shaft to the blade than a shove. A shovel blade is usually angled whereas the spade is not. This is due to the primary use of the tool. If one was to scoop with a spade, you’d find it would take a lot more effort than a shovel as they are designed differently. A spade can be used for digging and cutting through material and the shovel is used for transportation.
The Handle and Shaft
A spade generally has a longer shaft for that extra digging leverage. A shovel has a shorter shaft and because its used for moving material, its easier to use this than a spade because of the strength involved in the gardener. A shorter shaft keeps the load closer too you rather than a longer one which makes heavier lifting much more extreme. The handles on both tools can be made out of fiberglass, wood or in one single piece of metal. With a wooden shaft one might need to sand and varnish it often, to keep it from splintering. IT also keeps the wood in tip top condition. If you have a steel tool, you will need to stop it from rusting, as this will degrade any joinery in the tool and could eventually lead to it snapping under pressure. A shovel is also equipped with a D-ring at the top for that extra grip whereas a spade might not have this in all instances. This is because its used as leverage for lifting and transporting loose material rather than a spade, with its primary function of digging.
Picking the right tool for you
In summary it really comes down to the type of work you’ll be doing and what sort of tool you are looking for. If you are looking for a spade, to cut through tough soil and roots, digging up trees or shrubs, then you absolutely need to get a spade for this purpose. It will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. If you are mainly moving material from one area to another and trying to tidy up any loose matter, then you absolutely need a shovel. Shoveling will help you move dirt, mulch and other materials that a spade would. Its also easier on your back and your joints. Your body will forgive you.