Shovel vs Spade: What’s The Difference (and does it matter)?

December 2019
Shovel vs Spade

Naming garden tools is often a task we get wrong! For example, there is a difference between Shovel vs Spade. And while people might use these terms interchangeably, they’re wrong!


We’ll explain the difference so the next time you ask for a shovel, you don’t end up with spade! To some people it’s like asking for a pen, only to be given a pencil!


Predating the industrial revolution, we’ve been using spades and shovels for centuries. Originally, they featured a long-handle. As the industrial revolution loomed and coal was starting to be mined, the handle shrunk making it more practical to use in confined spaces.




Draper Tools LTD Shovel

photos by Draper Tools Ltd


Typically you’ll be shovelling loose material (such as gravel or mulch) from a hard flat surface (eg a road). You, therefore, require a tool with an angled blade as that it can be flat on the ground. 


As the blade flat on the ground, the shovel can be pushed under the material more easily than attempting to push directly into the material itself. This is especially true for coarser material with big lumps in. 


Shovels have a broad straight leading edge, which enables you to gather most of the material. The fluted sides of the blade hold the material in. 


They are fantastic for moving materials but useless for digging soil, which is why you need a spade!


In terms of cost, expect to spend around £20 for a good quality shovel. Start with out top picks for the best garden shovels.




Spear & Jackson garden spade

photos by Spear and Jackson


The blade and shaft are almost flat, allowing the user to generate a large cutting force. Typically they have a narrower blade made from thicker material than a shovel blade.


Useful for digging, a spade can easily be propelled into compacted soil with great force and break it into smaller chunks. These smaller chunks can be easily moved. 


While you can use a spade for shovelling, it’s quite inefficient and even after a short while, you’ll be desperate for a shovel!


Expect to pay around £25 for a good quality spade. If you’re looking to buy your first spade then you’ll want to start with our guide to the best garden spades.



What are the best brands?

Even with a quick Google search, you’ll see there are hundreds of brands and even more models of both shovels and spades to pick from. You can easily become frustrated with the sheer choice!


As with any gardening tools, it’s best to buy from a brand how offers at least a 2-year warranty. Our favourite gardening tools brands who manufacture superb tools with good warranties are Kent & Stowe, Spear and Jackson, and Draper.



Shovel vs Spade

While at first glance, they might appear identical and use the same materials, there’s a distinct difference between a shovel vs spade.


And because you now know the difference between the two, you’ll be able to correctly identify each item and understand it’s use. A happy gardener uses the right tools for the job!