Can You Dig It? How to Choose the Right Shovel
With a little shovel schooling, picking out the right shovel for your needs can be a snap.
When looking for the right kind of shovel to meet your needs, you might find yourself a little intimidated at first. Some shovels are meant for very specific duties, while others are general-duty workhorses. There are different blade designs, widths and lengths along with a plethora of materials, shaft lengths, weights and a host of other considerations.
Naturally, cost will also factor in. While budgets should be considered, avoid making price your primary selection criteria. Go with the lowest price and you may end up working twice as hard for half the results. Spend more than you need to, and you’ll have an expensive piece of under-used hardware.
Clearly, the first order of business is to narrow your options and make choosing the right shovel a little simpler. Our equipment experts always recommend shovel customers start the process by asking themselves a few questions:
- How will you use the shovel? Specialized jobs? Or a myriad of general purpose projects?
- Will it be used frequently, such as daily? Or maybe only a few times a month?
- Do you have a preferred material for the shaft? Composite? Fiberglass? Wood? Metal?
- Will most projects require a low-lift or a high-lift shovel?
- Are you looking for a shovel that lasts a few years or one guaranteed for a lifetime?
- Finally, do you have a specific budget or do you have budget flexibility to move up in quality if possible?
Let’s start with the construction of the typical shovel. Though there will be variations depending on the purpose of the shovel, these general features will be found on most.
The shovel’s grip is the uppermost part, attached to the shaft. It can be made of wood, plastic, or metal. A D-shaped grip is common amongst shorter shovels and digging shovels, which gives the user better handling and control.
Shafts are generally made of wood, composite materials (including fiberglass) or metal (steel or aluminum.). All of these materials have pros and cons in terms of shovel use and durability, and the type you want to choose may come down to personal preference or budget. The length of the shaft varies, and the height of your shovel should be matched to user height so that it is comfortable to use.
The collar of a shovel is where the blade meets the shaft. It’s important that the collar is secure and sturdy; otherwise, it may crumble or snap during heavy work. The collar usually connects to the shaft and blade portion of the shovel with a rivet or screw, and can be disconnected if you need to replace either end. A blade usually has a much longer lifespan than the shaft and grip, so if either of those parts breaks, you can buy replacements and attach them to your old blade at the collar.
The blade of a shovel is the lowermost part of the tool, which makes direct contact with the ground. It is usually made of metal or aluminum, though in some instances might be fiberglass or plastic. Shovel blades come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and it is arguably the design of the blade that makes the most difference between different shovel types.
The kickplate of a shovel is also known as a step. It is the uppermost edge of a blade where you can place your foot to add pressure, though not all shovels will have a kickplate. Kickplates are usually found on digging shovels where the extra weight of the user can be utilized to dig deeper into the ground. Using a kickplate will achieve better results, and make the job much easier ergonomically for the user, as they can use their weight to help dig rather than just arm and back muscles.
The tip of a shovel is the lower edge of the blade, furthest from the shaft. It takes various shapes depending on the intended use of the shovel. Flat tips are best for scooping or moving, while pointed and rounded tips work best for cutting and digging.
Types of Shovels
Imperial Supplies offers a range of shovels, including Digging Shovels, Snow Shovels and Snow Pushers, Scoop Shovels and Spades.
As their name implies, Digging Shovels are general purpose hand implements made for digging into dirt under a variety of conditions. Our digging shovels are available in round point or square point. Round Point shovels are best used in soft, loose, tilled soil, while Square Point models perform well in heavy, packed soils. We also offer Mud and Sifting Shovels in both Round Point and Square Point, as well as Ceremonial, Street/Coal and Nonconductive Square Point shovels. Choose from the blade length and width, shaft length, and grip type that meets your requirements.
Snow Shovels and Pushers
Snow Shovels and Snow Pushers are designed to help you move a maximum amount of snow whether light and fluffy, or wet and heavy, as quickly and easily as possible. Our snow shovels feature blades that come in a variety of widths and heights, in options that include Plastic, ABS Plastic, Aluminum, Aluminum with Steel Nonstick Wear Strip, Aluminum with Standard Wear Strip, Steel, Carbon Steel, HDPE, Nonstick Aluminum with Wear Strip, Nonstick Steel, Poly, Poly Steel Strip, Polycarbonate, Polypropylene, and Polypropylene with Aluminum Wear Strip. Shafts come in various lengths and are made of wood, aluminum, steel, plastic or fiberglass. They’re available straight or ergonomically bent, and integrate features that improve performance and user comfort, including dual ergonomic and mid-grips, D-grips and U-handles.
Spade shovels feature a sharp, pointed tip and squared sides to produce clean trench walls and minimize disruption of the surrounding soil. They're indispensable for laying irrigation pipes, digging a compost trench, and removing deeply-rooted plants. We offer several models of Spade Shovels, including Drain Spades, Garden Spades and Landscaper Spades, with shafts made of ash, fiberglass or steel, in several lengths. As with our other shovels, blades come in an array of lengths and widths.
Broad and wide-flared with a flat tip, scoop shovels don’t provide much help in digging, but are unbeatable for moving loose materials like coal, gravel and grain. Those with steel scoops tend to be a bit heavier than aluminum versions but are less likely to twist or warp over time. Imperial offers Scoop Shovels with blades made of Aluminum, Cycolac, HDPE, Poly, Polycarbonate, or Steel. Styles include Eastern Scoop, General Purpose Scoop, Grain Scoop, Non-Sparking General Scoop, Non-Sparking Grain Scoop, Scoop Shovel, Sifting Scoop and Western Scoop.
Clearly there’s a lot more to knowing the ins and outs of shovel selection than meets the eye. Matching the shovel to the job can save a lot of time and extra labor, so it pays to take your time and choose carefully. If you need help in finding the right shovels, or any equipment for that matter, feel free to Contact Us directly at any time during business hours (6 am to 6 pm) by phone or Instant Chat.