Spade vs Shovel – What’s the Difference

The English language can be quite confusing at times. Take for instance the words spade and shovel. Both refer to common garden tools used for digging - tools that are quite hard to get along without.

Despite the fact that these two terms are often used interchangeably, truth remains that spade and shovel refer to different tools that have their own usages and strengths.


The difference between a spade and a shovel is quite evident from their appearance or design. Let’s look at the differences in appearance based on blade shape, blade size and handle/shaft.

  • Blade shape: Spades have a blade that is flat and thin with a straight edge. A shovel on the other hand has a concave or bowl-shaped blade that has a rounded or pointed tip.
  • Blade size: Spades have a smaller blade size compared to shovels.
  • Handle/shaft: A spade has a shorter shaft fitted with either a D-style or T-style handle. There’s no angle where the blade connects to the handle. On the other hand, a shovel has a long and straight shaft. In a shovel, there’s an angle where the blade connects to the handle.

#1. Spade

Spades generally have a relatively flat blade that’s got straight edges. Although size does vary depending on the use, a spade is generally smaller compared to a shovel. Rather than angled forward, the blade of a spade tends to be in line with the shaft. It is this feature that creates a huge difference regarding the functionality of these two tools.

The straighter design of a spade makes it a handy choice for slicing through and lifting sod, opening straight-sided trenches and holes, edging lawns and beds, and skimming weeds.

A spade has a shorter shaft that comes in handy when working in tight spaces. Spades usually come with D-style or T-style handle to provide more grip options.

Spades come in different materials. Common materials used for the shaft and handles are wood and fiberglass. The blades are mostly made of carbon or stainless steel.

The weight and cost of a spade will largely depend on the material used. What’s more, the cost depends on the intended use. For instance, spades used for specialty purposes generally cost more.


  • Easy grip handle that gives more options for holding it
  • Shorter shaft provides great control and easy maneuver in tight spaces
  • Good for digging


  • Not very efficient in shoving materials

#2. Shovel

A shovel sports a broader blade that curves inwards from left to right. The shape of the tip tends to vary. Others have pointed tips while others come with rounded tips. Often, the shape and length of blade varies based on the intended use.

For instance, you’ll find shovels with extra-long blades and saw-tooth edges. Generally, the blade of a shovel comes larger than that of a spade.

Shovels typically have a long and straight handle that functions to provide plenty of leverage when it comes to digging holes. The angled blade makes digging even more efficient.

As the name implies, shovels are used to “shove” or move materials from one place to another.

Shovels and spades are made of the same combination of materials. Mostly, the handles come in wood or plastic while the blade is made of metal. The weight and cost will vary depending on the type of materials used.


  • Great for sliding underneath material
  • Ideal choice for scooping large amounts of material
  • Long and straight handle provides plenty of leverage for heavier work


  • Not so good in digging

>> Read More: 10 Best Shovels for Digging

When We Should Use Spade over Shovel?

The uses of a spade and a shovel are quite similar. But there are certain situations where a spade proves more efficient. For instance, when working in tight spaces a spade proves to be more efficient due to its shorter shaft.

Further, a spade is better used when edging around the garden. It creates aesthetically pleasing edges owing to its clean and straight cut.

A spade is also a preferred tool when it comes to flattening areas in the garden, such as laid down mulch or freshly dug soil.