All I want is a good shovel

I remember reading something that @Olpea wrote about.A guy who was working with him,while they were removing or planting trees,kept digging,long after he was getting tired.
He was using a floral shovel,which has the same handle as others,but a smaller blade.In this way,it takes out smaller scoops,with less effort.
I found one,at a garden store,as a scratch and dent and it is my most used digger.
It’s not the strongest out there,but handy to have.


Solid steel shovels are an essential part of my nursery business, but they are not the answer for an all purpose shovel, they are more for prying than shoveling and are unwieldly for using as shovels… maybe that’s why they are called spades. King of Spades is very strong but far from indestructible when you are doing things like prying rocks- it is not hard to spring the steel in the blade if you use all your strength but other solid steel spades I’ve used take half the effort to ruin. Once the blade is sprung it bends easily from strong force.

AM Leo doesn’t have a monopoly on well made shovels and not all the tools they sell are especially well made, but a lot of them are. I got a wheel barrow from them once that was supposedly guaranteed for life that cracked by t he 2nd year and it turned out the guarantee is bogus- it is only against manufacturers defects which would show up the day you received the tool in most cases and is no protection against breakage during use. I also have found their loppers not very good compared to a company like Bahco and there are better sources than AM Leo for them such as Pruners Warehouse. Gemplers is another good source of tools, but I do purchase from AML more often than any other single company but their lifetime guarantee is quite an annoying sales tactic and doesn’t reflect well on the company. Bring back Craftsman.

Nupla and Bully both make strong shovels for normal digging. We’ve not broken a handle on either one since they entered out tool kit about 15 years ago. I store them outside here in the humid region where fiberglass will outlast wood… at least since they stopped using hickory.

I don’t like the heavy shovel heads FN advocates, I’d rather wear out a blade after 20 years than have to handle that extra weight. When you shovel all day long seasonally (when planting trees) weight makes a lot of difference.

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I live in the Ozarks where we have heavy clay, rocks everywhere, and tree roots all over the place. If your handle isn’t rotten wood or busted fiberglass, knowing when to stop using your shovel handle as a pry bar goes a long way. If you feel that much resistance it’s time to break out the pickaxe or a breaker bar.


As Brady mentioned, I use a floral shovel, when planting small trees by myself. They have the same size wooden handle as a normal shovel, but the metal spade portion is considerably smaller. Makes planting small trees much easier, imo. But also as Brady mentioned, you can break them if one uses them to pry.

For prying, we use the equivalent of a King of Spades, but it’s one I made myself. The original shovel had a wooden handle. I replaced the handle with steel, after the wooden handle broke. The new steel handle gets progressively thicker as it gets closer to the head of the shovel, to try to keep it as light as possible, but still really strong. The steel in the handle farthest from the head is tube, then schedule 80 pipe, then solid rod right next to the head.

To keep the head from springing under extreme torque, I welded a gusset of 1/2 round rod on the head. I heated one end and beat it flat, before welding it, so that it doesn’t interfere with the digging too much. It’s really heavy, so we pretty much use the shovel only if we need to do some prying. It’s pretty indestructible. A long time employee is a weight lifter, pretty strong. He weighs about 210 lbs. and he hasn’t been able to bend it, regardless of how hard he pulls.


Look for a local professional landscape supply or contractor store. Not a big box. I purchased a several digging tools with fiberglass handles and they have held up through dozens of employees using them.

What brand was the one that broke?

King of Spades. get the rubber bumpers, your instep will thank you.

I have come to the school of thought that tools are specialized, but we treat them like one size fits all. We also want perceived good quality, like what was many years ago, but we don’t want to pay much. So we pay for cheap, get cheap, and then, complain about it.

I generally use two shovels when digging a hole, for just about any purpose. A nursery digging spade is going to cut through just about anything, but it’s not good at cleaning out the bottom of a hole. So, I use two.

These were just on sale last week for $20 at Target and for a short while on Amazon. I got 4 for me and a friend, they felt even more sturdier than my 8+ year old fiberglass ones.
I set some deal alerts on slickdeals forums, so it alerts me any deal for fiskar or other tools when im needing a particular thing.

I paid $18 in 2018, a little over $20 a week or so ago, and $30 for my first one in 2012.

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