Most of you have probably heard the term spade vs. shovel used interchangeably. Well, I’m here to tell you that spades and shovels, though similar in some ways, have very obvious differences.

So the next time you need to get a garden job done, you’ll know which of them to use.

Major Difference

The major difference between these two very important tools is in the tasks that they are used for. The actual fact is that a spade cannot replace a shovel while the shovel cannot take the place of a spade. That’s the reason why you will find most garden owners having a spade and a shovel.

Shovels are designed for digging while spades are ideal for scooping and slicing. Shovels will serve you best if the task requires you to dig a hole. If the task requires your moving any piles of loose materials then a spade will serve you best.

There are other tasks that you can use either of the tools for and we will be highlighting them later on.


Shovels are made mainly for digging purposes. They have scooped rounded blades that point to the end. This is the typical shape that shovels are designed in. The pointed end is then attached to a long handle that gives the shovel a spoon-like blade.

There are lots of different tasks that a shovel could be used depending on the owner and the scope of work to be done.

The curved blade plus the angled sharp point makes the shovel the ideal tool for digging holes and scooping up the dirt. Also, the shove’s blade makes it suitable for breaking up the earth’s surface.

After digging any hole, the shovel’s concave blade comes in handy for refilling the hole.

If you have the need to break the earth’s ground on a new garden bed, then the shovel’s sharp tip will allow you to do that with ease. The angled curvature of the blade is also great for breaking up the soil.

Some of the shovels are made in such a way that the handle is angled where it meets the blade’s shaft. This design offers the right leverage for any user who wants to lift a load with the shovel.

The average height of a shovel’s handle is 48″, though some handles tend to be longer. The longer the handle, the better it is for digging holes, especially for tall users.


Spades are flat shaped garden tools designed mainly for moving soil. They usually come in rectangular shape though this is dependent mainly on the manufacturer and its specific use.

If you had to make a comparison between both blades, you’ll find that a shovel actually resembles the spade in a deck of cards. This may be another reason why people mistake shovels for spades.

Handles of spades may have a D-shaped grip at the end to enable users to maintain a tight grip and a hand pivot point. In terms of blades, that of blades is usually smaller and less concave than the blades of shovels.

The interesting thing is that a shovel’s weakness is actually a spade’s strength.

If you have to cut through dirt or debris, the sharpened, flat edges of a spade are what you’ll need. It is designed for breaking up the earth and cutting through roots the same way a sharp knife cuts through butter.

If you would like to edge then you need a precise angle or make clean lines, a spade is the best tool for it. Spades can also be used for scrapping soft weeds from the surface of the soil. A spade is ideal for scooping, lifting loose materials, and moving loads quickly and efficiently.

If you have to move loads, ensure that you load your spade with what it can carry.


Now that you the basic differences between a shovel and a spade, let’s look at some factors to consider when buying.

You need to be aware that there are different shovels and spades that are designed for specific uses. That’s the reason why you need to decide what you’re going to use them for before buying.

Most blades in the market are made of steel; however, the handles come in different materials.

Here’s a list of some handle materials that you will find in the market.

  • Wood – This is a strong and classic material only that it develops splinters with age
  • Fiberglass – Fiberglass materials don’t wear down but they are quite expensive plus they cannot be replaced
  • Steel – These are very strong, bulletproof materials but they are usually heavy
  • Aluminum – These are quite cheap but they tend to bend easily.

You can decide on which handle to purchase based on their strengths or weaknesses.

Some Recommended Products

Here are my top recommended spades and shovels just in case you’re looking to buy one for yourself or replace an old one.

I – Fiskars 46 Inch Steel D-handle Square Garden Spade

This is a complete steel spade, from handle to blade, suitable for edging, cutting trenches, and slicing. The spade comes with an extra-large D-handle that you could fit in your hands without much trouble.

It’s very durable and can be used for a variety of garden tasks.

II – Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel

This is a steel shovel that is designed for breaking into the ground and digging holes in the soil. It is a very strong shovel with a lifetime warranty.

III – Bully Tools 12-Gauge Round Point Shovel with Fiberglass Long Handle

This is a strong, unbreakable shovel that is made with 3 walls of fiberglass with wood. It is a commercial-grade tool with a steel blade that gives it extra durability, plus it comes with a limited lifetime warranty.


This post highlights the basic differences between a shovel and a spade and also offers you guidance on when to use each.

From this information, you should know if you’ll be buying a shovel or a spade the next time you go shopping.

Hope you enjoy reading these articles and if you have a question about these product recommendations please write your comment below and I’m happy to write back to you. To know more details about the items, please click the images above.

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