Difference between spade and shovel

I have been asked on multiple occasions the difference between spade and shovel.

I’m going to share with you today, what the differences are and the tasks suited to a spade or shovel. There are many variations from different companies, just remember there’s some clear design differences to know which is which.

The Spade

A spade is typically flatter and sharper than a shovel, often with a point at the blade. The main function of a spade is to dig or cut into hard ground, in addition, to get through tough soil such as clay a spade will have treads to push with a foot.

To cut through hard soils you would typically use a pick, but you can avoid this with a spade. The only drawback is not being able to shift as much material as a shovel.

The Shovel

A shovel can be used for digging, but this isn’t their original purpose. Having a wide curved blade enables them shift larger amounts of materials like dirt, soil and sand after being broken up by a pick or spade. There are some variations that offer a pointed blade such as a plumbers shovel or round mouth shovel.

Materials used

Metal or hard plastics can be used for shovel or spade blades, which makes them incredibly strong. Hardwood or hard plastics usually form the shaft. Shovels and spades can have a T or D type handle, or no handle with a longer shaft.

Digging Spade

This spade is designed for digging planting holes, the cutting edge allows easier penetration through hard ground. But can only shift small amounts of material.

digging spade
digging spade

Planting Spade

This planting spade is designed for digging planting holes, edging beds and removing small amounts of soil. Great for garden beds due to its small design.

planting spade
planting spade

Square Mouth Shovel

A Square Mouth Shovel is perfect for scooping and shifting sand, soil and other materials. It’s not suited to digging hard surfaces.

square mouth shovel
Square mouth shovel

Plumbers shovel

This particular plumbers shovel has a fibreglass handle. It can be used for digging drains, holes & general garden jobs. It can also shift more material than most spades. The image shows the shaft with out a T or D type handle.

plumbers shovel
plumbers shovel

Round Mouth Shovel

Round Mouth Shovels are great for digging, scooping and shifting. They offer a good balance between spade and shovel.

Round mouth shovel
Round mouth shovel

Trenching Shovel

Trenching Shovel is your ‘go to’ tool for laying pipes or cables. Digging and clearing trenches is made really easy.

trenching shovel
trenching shovel

Grain Scoop Shovel

As the name suggests this shovel has been designed to scoop grain. With this particular model it has been designed so it won’t create a spark and ignite the material being moved.

grain scoop shovel
grain scoop shovel

When buying a spade or shovel

Select one with a quality shaft such as ash or maple wood are good choices, the new plastics are just as strong. Have a look how the shaft attaches, ones that are fastened to the blade are a bit more durable over time.

There’s a lot of companies that offer a decent warranty on their products. One company still offers a 25 year warranty with its products.

Think about the tasks that you would like to do, remember if you are going to use it in a tight space, then a long shaft might not be suitable. 

My ‘go to’ is a round mouth shovel, but I have all of the variants “just in case”.

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