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The AMES Tools guide to spades and shovels

The AMES Tools guide to spades and shovels

What’s the difference between a spade and a shovel?

The two are quite different to the trained eye, so let’s clear things up with an AMES Tools guide to both.

It’s easier for gardeners to get started with the right tools for the right job, so here we’re explaining the difference between spades and shovels, and offering handy advice about what to use when, how and what for.

What’s the difference between a spade and a shovel?

When it comes to the material it’s made with, a spade isn’t much different from a shovel. They’re commonly made with a wooden handle, and stainless steel or carbon steel blades.

But a spade and a shovel have different uses, as reflected in their markedly different construction.

A spade is best used for slicing through roots and soil and moving loose material. Some spades, like the AMES Tools carbon steel digging spade (right), have a tread edge on either side of the handle so the gardener can press down into the soil with more weight. AMES carbon steel spades feature a Comfort Step – larger and wider tread edges with perforated holes for that extra grip.

The blade shape is almost flat with a straight edge which makes it great for edging; the relatively short shaft provides greater control, and a D shaped handle provides grip and a hand pivot point.

Meanwhile a shovel’s best use is digging, breaking up and turning soil – it has a slightly larger blade with a pointed, concave tip that creates a scoop for lifting and moving material – and a long handle that offers greater leverage for heavier work and digging deeper holes.

In short: a shovel moves material, while a spade will cut, slice and dig holes.

Choosing the right tool for the job

There are different types of spades and shovels, and it’s important to pick the right one for the job to make the task as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Digging spade
A digging spade (left) is the most common style and often one of the first tools a gardener buys. Its wide design makes it perfect for slicing through roots, and moving and turning the earth.

Border spade
Lighter and smaller than a digging spade, a border spade is a similar shape but flatter, designed to dig straight down into the earth. It’s easy to use and manoeuvre – ideal for borders, beds, raised areas and for people who prefer a lighter tool.

Square mouth shovel
Shovels with square mouths are excellent for general-purpose use and do the job for a wide range of tasks including lifting, scooping, spreading and moving large amounts of loose material.

Round pointed shovel
A round pointed shovel (right) is used for digging in sticky, denser material; the round point allows for improved penetration into the soil and makes filling dug holes fast and efficient.

Do I need a spade or a shovel?

If you’re building your gardening tool kit, you know it’s important to pick the right tool for the job – and when it comes to spades and shovels, one can’t replace the other. Every gardener should have a selection of tools in their shed to get the job done properly.

From the AMES Tools guide to spades and shovels, here’s the takeaway: a shovel moves material, while a spade will cut, slice and dig holes.

The importance of trying before you buy

Knowing the right tool for the job is just part of choosing a spade or shovel – it’s important to prioritise quality over price, understand the product warranty and learn about the tool’s proper use.

Whether you’ve already decided which garden tools you need or still doing your research, we highly recommend visiting an AMES Tools stockist to try out AMES spades and shovels for yourself – making sure you pick the tool that’s a manageable weight, comfortable to use with an ergonomic fit for your hands and feet, and easy to grip.

AMES digging tools are stamped from one piece of tempered steel, making them extremely strong, but also lighter than other tools that have multiple welded points.

While you’re there you can also learn more about the 15 year guarantee that comes with every tool in the range.

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