Shovels and Spades - How Do They Differ?

December, 2023
Darren Spalding

Shovels and Spades - How Do They Differ?

Many non-gardeners and even gardeners speak of shovels and spades quite regularly and think they mean the same thing. However, there are some notable differences between the two. Would you like to know what makes them unique and of how they benefit you in different ways?

Let’s find out!



At face value, shovels are more concave and feature a rounded tip. The handle is usually made out of wood and has a long shaft. They are way larger than a spade and are often used to loosen up tough or hard soil.



These have shorter shafts that end in a t-shape or a d-shape. The instrument is rather small in most cases and is used to cut through stubborn roots or for moving soil into another container.

What About Materials - Do You Notice Any Differences?

In terms of the kind of materials used in the manufacturing process, you will hardly notice a difference. Both are made up of either stainless steel blades or carbon materials.

The weight of these is slightly different, depending on their intended purpose. However, the weightier they are the more it will cost you.

While the materials are the same, you will almost immediately notice the differences between a spade and a shovel when you look at the shaft and blade shapes of these gardening tools.

How the Blades are Different

The scoop or blade of both tools serves a similar purpose in that they are used to cut through roots, soil, sand, or sod. The bigger in size the blade, the more material you will be able to move.

Be careful what you ask for though. If you load too much, then you will have difficulty lifting the shovel or spade. You may find that you get tired very quickly with continued use.

The sharply pointed blades of the shovel are way more effective in cutting through tough ground and roots.

On the other hand, spades are pretty useful for lifting and in cutting a beautiful edge all along the border of your garden.


More About the Shafts and Handles

Longer shafts or handles offer better leverage and are handy as leverage for cutting through tough soil and to cut through roots. Shorter handles offer improved control when you have to dig out bulbs or plant something.


Key Difference Between Spades and Shovels

As discussed, shovels feature broader blades that are curved inwards from the left to the right and have rounded tips. The blade length of these would vary as there would be a variety of sizes made available where some have longer ledges on the side.

Spades usually have a flatter blade and straighter edges. You will find that the shaft is fairly short, but there are larger sizes. One notable difference is the fact that the blade is in line with the shaft.

When it comes to the shaft, shovels will have longer and straighter handles that do not have a tip that is shaped in a “D” or “T” shape. This allows the gardener to take advantage of the leverage it offers and dig deeper holes.

When you have to work in a tighter space, then a spade can be put to better use. Especially if you have to carry out garden duties in a flowerbed.

On closer inspection, you will notice that spades are a lot straighter in terms of their shape than shovels. The blade of the shovel is angled forward whereas the spade’s blade is not.

It is this angle that makes a huge difference when it comes to digging or shoving large amounts of soil or lifting sod.

Gardeners would do well if they ensure they stock spades and shovels in their garden shed or garage. You never know when they will find a need for one or the other.


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