Last updated on May 13, 2021
Shovels are one of the most basic and oldest tools. Invented somewhere around 300 – 1000 BC, shovels have been used by many cultures and civilizations around the world.
Large and small shovels have a colorful history in the areas of agriculture, construction, and digging up the earth. If you’re trying to dig a hole as a hobbyist, homeowner, or professional, a reliable shovel is sure to lift both your spirits and whatever material you’re trying to move, be it earth, loose rock, stone, soot, you name it.
But before we move on to different shovel types, let’s get familiar with the parts of a shovel.
Also called a “Scoop”, this is the shovel’s head and can take on different shapes to handle moving varying amounts and kinds of materials. The tip of a blade is often serrated, allowing it to cut through soft material such as soil and clay, with more ease.
This is the part of the shovel that you hold. Handle styles can be straight, D-grip, or crutch (T-grip). The different styles of handles basically make it easier for you to hold and work the shovel.
As mentioned earlier, the tip is basically the blade’s edge. The tip is more identifiable by its shape more than anything. If the blade does the carrying, the tip is responsible for cutting and can either be pointed, curved, or flat.
The quality of the grip material makes it easier to hold while adding a bit of comfort. Grip styles are usually no-grip, non-slip, rubber, or plastic, offering a spectrum between functionality and ergonomics.
Also called a socket, the collar primarily function as a connector between the blade and the shaft. It’s a supporting component that adds more rigidity and sometimes even functions as an adapter for rare shovels with interchangeable heads.
The step is usually found on top of the blade and near the collar. It provides a platform that you can literally step on to add more force. Stepping and using your body weight comes in handy when needing to delve through soft and hard earth to help alleviate strain on your back.
What are the different types of shovels?
If you want to know how many types of shovel are there, there are about 36 of them on this list. Here are the different shovel types and their uses:
1. Clam shovel
A type of digging shovel perfect for digging up clams along the beach. The angled head makes it easy to scoop up the clams underneath the chalky sand. Offers semi- or full stainless steel blades.
2. Coal shovel
Short-handed shovels that are ideal for handling coal and similar materials. The main feature of these shovels are the versatile, flat, square-shaped blades that can dig up more material due to their width and ‘walled’ edges.
The wide surface also allows you to smoothen gravel surfaces by using the back of the blade. Ideally used in mines, forges, and furnaces.
The most common shovel handle types are more of a handle variant than it is an actual shovel, D-handles are often short-handed shovels that offer better handling and control and are better suited for heavy-duty use such as large-scale gardening and mining.
D-handles make it easier to control the shovel once material has been lifted, and when making hard strikes.
Digging shovels are basically shovels that are designed to pierce the tougher ground. These often have sharp cutting edges and reinforced collars.
These usually have non-slip grips and special handles (D-grip/T-grip) for more efficient digging.
These shovels are mainly used to ‘edge’ instead of scoop or dig up material. They usually have flat blades with flat edges and can even be thinner than a standard spade.
Edging shovels excel at making clean and precise cuts for lawn and garden scaping.
Ergonomic shovels are easily identifiable by their bent shafts. Designed to greatly reduce back strain, these shovels have poor lifting power and would require more effort to lift over objects, mounds, or into a wheelbarrow.
These generally work better as a surface plow.
Usually part of a fire iron set, these long-handled, giant spoon-looking spades are used to remove or place coal and small debris to and from fireplaces.
Their blades are usually steeped with deep edges that make them perfect for scooping.
Also called a flat nose shovel, these are scoop-superior shovels with flat, cutting edges. What they lose out in digging ability, they more than make up for with their cutting and moving power, especially for sod and similar materials.
These are specialized shovels designed to fold where the blade meets the shaft. Their unique mechanism allows them to lock in an open, closed, or 90-degree position.
Folding shovels are usually small shovels with triangular grips that are meant for camping and mobile use. These are particularly handy in emergencies and some variants even come with a pick tool.
More commonly known as the garden spade, these hand shovel types are particularly just small garden shovels and are mainly used to work on tillable soil to cut, lightly plow, and move soft earth. Identifiable by their stumpy appearance and v-shaped blade.
With a blade similar to a coal shovel, this scoop-type shovel is mainly used to move grain and other small granular materials. They often have D-handles which makes them better to move grain around.
These are one of the spade shovel types with edges that usually have rounded tips and can be either spoon or scoop-shaped. Gravel shovels are mainly used to move gravel and other small stone materials and are likely found where masonry work is done.
These are shovels with a semi-circular blade and actually look more like rounded spears rather than shovels. The design of these shovels makes them great choices for edging as their sharp blades easily cut and shape grass and sod by using a simple back and forth motion.
These garden tools are much useful in landscaping along with weed trimming tools.
Anything with a moniker that involves “Military” or “Army” means versatility. These shovels not only dig, but their blades are also designed to cut, chop, and saw!
They’re highly portable and some variants can even fold and/or have expandable shafts.
A relatively new and already decorated shovel introduced by Maddox Prichard in 2020 for accurate sizing and spacing of holes for tree planting. The blade and shaft are outfitted with precision length and depth measurement marks.
Planned to be licensed by some major players including Stanley and Black+Decker in 2021.
Specialized shovels for finding buried metals. The blades of metal detecting shovels often have pointed cutting edges with serrated sides so as to be able to chew through roots.
The v-shape also helps to do more precise digging.
Basically, these are miniature versions of standard digging shovels that focus more on portability. Some have solid construction and some can fold. These are a good option for workers who are more mobile.
Similar in appearance to a grain shovel, the mulch shovel instead has a blade that curves towards the collar rather than an angled rear wall.
Mainly as a gardening shovel, it does a great job of getting large amounts of mulch out of a wheelbarrow and spreading it in large clumps on the ground.
These are specialized shovels designed to remove contaminated or volatile materials without creating sparks. Made of heavy-duty plastic, bronze, or even copper, they’re usually carried by firefighters and other rescue and response workers that commonly come face to face with highly reactive elements.
One wouldn’t think that this was literally a shovel for pizza, but it is. These shovels typically have a flat, square board to slide the pizza in, out, or flip it in an oven.
They usually don’t have handles and specialize more in lifting that masterpiece.
A unique ‘double’ shovel that looks like a man-sized pair of pliers. Their blades usually have rounded corners and look like half-cylinders. Post-hole shovels are used to create round holes for the insertion of poles and posts.
Mechanically powered snow shovel types for working either with snow or used as an excavation tool. These come in gas-powered or electric models. With components such as treads, an engine assembly, and a bucket, power shovels are great for siphoning and ejecting large amounts of material such as snow and archaeological rock.
Roof snow shovel
Wide, curve-bladed shovels specifically for getting snow off roofs. They look like giant squeegees. There is a handle connected to the top of the blade, giving the user more leverage when pulling snow across rooftops.
Square-bladed shovels with toothed cutting edges. They’re not really used for digging, but they are great for sliding under old roof shingles to remove aged and worn-out nails. The small dip in the blade serves as a catch basin for extracted nails and other small debris lodged within the roofing structure.
Scoop shovel (square-mouth)
This is basically a big scoop with an elongated shaft and handle. The blade has a pan’s layout, with tall sides and a curved back wall. Primarily used for material lifting and transport after the ground or digging material is already loose.
One of the best shovel types for cutting roots. With edgy nicknames such as ‘Root Assassin’ and ‘Root Slayer’, these shovels do more cutting rather than digging and lifting. The blade looks like a spade-shaped spearhead with the tip cut out. The edges of the blade are often serrated, allowing them to gnaw and easily saw through roots.
What appears to be giant eye-lash curlers are among the most common spades available. Snow shovels have wide blades that generally curve vertically.
These often include ridges and grooves that help in moving large amounts of snow. Better at plowing than actually lifting.
Though most digging shovels can actually be used on sod, these special tools with angled collars do even better, especially when wanting to get under a specific section of it. The blade is a half-moon shape that curves further back along the edges.
Long shovels ranging between 8 – 12 feet in length. Looking like spoons, these shovels work best at removing debris in deep, narrow, and tight spaces and are among the preferred tools for clearing mud, water, and backfill from various sewage and irrigation systems.
Square point shovel
Think of these as smaller scoop shovels with more of a square-shaped blade. While they’re technically spades, they do better at lifting and moving loose material than actual digging.
Same with the D-handle variants, except that these employ a cross beam at the end of the shaft. Also known as crutch types, these types of shovelheads provide you with the ability to exert more pressure on the step, thus allowing you to dig deeper down.
Not as efficient and controlled at lifting compared to D-handles, but offers far greater mobility.
Trowels with a flat, square blade mainly for scooping, spreading, and smoothing mortar or plaster. These are mainly used for masonry work and look like holeless spatulas.
They don’t work very well with materials outside of a pasty consistency given the shape and texture of their blades.
Plastic spades used by children at the beach or anywhere with sand, dirt, and basically any other light, granular material. Basically useless for any building site.
Drain spade shovel
Narrow-bladed shovels that are good at spacing planting holes as well as easily breaking up and scooping out small debris. Similar to military shovels, these are versatile tools that combine the capabilities of multiple shovels.
These served as the basis for the design of the Measuring shovel.
Shovels specifically designed for digging trenches. They have narrow, rectangular angled blades with a small, pointed cutting edge. These are efficient shovels for laying out pipework and irrigation systems.
Small shovels made of wood perfect for work that involves delicate procedures such as barley malting or any other application where material damage should be avoided.
These are sturdy when properly cared for and really help out in the garden and kitchen.
Proper shoveling tips and techniques
How to maintain your shovel?
Luckily, properly caring for your shovel is made easy by following these simple tips:
We can all agree that shovels are simple, straightforward, and just plain effective. In instances where you don’t need industrial machines to dig, lift, or level the ground, which is a majority of the time, shovels come in perfectly. Their design, function, and general portability are key traits that make shovels necessary tools.
If you don’t yet own at least 1 shovel, then we suggest getting one as soon as you can, you dig?
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