by Bob Niklewicz PT MG.
What is the difference between a shovel and a spade?
To save time I will tell you. Photo 1. The tool on the left side is a SHOVEL, with the SPADE on the right.
These are two different tools. Even though the terms are used interchangeable, they have specific tasks that they were designed to do.
Who said the tool on the left is a Shovel? You would be right. Who said the tool on the right is a Shovel? You would be right too. Yes that was a trick question. You see any tool you use for shoveling is a shovel, whether there is a point on the end or not. It is the shape of the “Bowl” that is the difference. You use a Shovel to move material around, but with a sharp bottom edge it is great for edging.
A Spade is made for digging. If it has very little contoured to the bowl and it has a wide “shoulder” or “flange” where you put your foot, it is a spade. In the above photo, the middle one is a spade. The other two are shovels.
I confuse the two constantly. Use the tool you want and call it what you want, just consider what you need to do with it. Another thing to consider is that there is a difference in what is called the lift angle. This is the position of the handle angle compared to the blade of the shovel or spade. Mechanically, the flatter the angle, the better the blade can be pushed into the ground. A higher angle makes scooping up and moving material easier.
In Photo 3, the handle in front is almost in a vertical position. The handle in the back as an obvious forward leaning handle. The blades in the ground are in the same vertical position, so the handle in the back has a steeper/higher “Lift Angle”. That means when shoveling, the handle in back is easier to use for moving (shoveling) materials. While the front one is much easier to push straight down into the ground. Photo 4, shows the wider flange or shoulder on the RED spade, where you push with your foot. The larger surface area reduces the contact stress pressure to the sole of your foot and you can push harder and deeper, compared to the narrower shovel blade's shoulder (yellow one).
Photo 5 shows the bent back posture trying to flatten the digging spade against the ground that has a straight handled tool. Photo 6 is doing the same task except with an angled shovel to scoop up material. So picking the right handle angle is important for your body mechanics.
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Photo credits: Bob Niklewicz