03 September 2018

Calling a spade a shovel

Melania Trump's recent participation in a gardening event at the White House provides a teachable moment about garden tools.  Properly speaking, a spade and a shovel are quite different tools:

Shovel Spade
Blade Shape Bowl-shaped (concave) with a rounded or pointed tip Flat (or nearly flat) with a straight edge
Handle/Shaft Long, straight shaft Shorter shaft, may have a “T” or “D” handle
Blade Size Larger Smaller
Best Uses Digging, breaking up, and turning soil Slicing through soil and roots, moving soil and loose material

A shovel [left in the embedded photo] has a broader blade that is curved inwards from left to right and is rounded or pointed at the tip. Blade length and shape can vary, depending on the intended use – you’ll find shovels with extra long blades, saw-tooth edges, and ledges down the sides. The shovel blade tends to be larger than that found on spades.

A spade [on the right] generally has a relatively flat blade with straight edges. It’s smaller than a shovel (although size does vary, depending on use) and the blade tends to be in line with the shaft, rather than angled forward.

You may also notice that a spade tends to be straighter than a shovel from handle to blade tip. Whereas the shovel blade is usually angled forward, the spade blade is not.

It’s that angle that makes the biggest difference in functionality between the two tools. The angled shovel blade makes it efficient for digging. The straighter spade can be used for digging but is better used for slicing through and lifting sod, edging lawns and beds, skimming weeds and opening straight-sided holes or trenches.
Further explanation and photos here.

TYWKIWDBI has absolutely no objections to someone wearing a $4,000 skirt while gardening, or for opting to aerate the soil with 4-inch heels.  Those aspects are commented on at NDTV.

Photo credit AFP Photo.


  1. I always thought it was the other way around, with a spade looking like the spade shape on a card deck.

  2. I second Zhoen's comment. Why is a playing-card spade called a spade and not a shovel?

  3. It is called a shovel:

    In Switzerland, the suit is known as Schuufle ("shovel") and in many German regions, e.g. the Rhineland as Schüppe/Schippe ("shovel").

  4. the easiest way to remember what is a spade, and what it looks like, is to recall the label of that well known, and good tasting, german beer 'spaten'.


    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaten-Franziskaner-Br%C3%A4u#/media/File:Spaten_001.jpg

  5. spade = der Spaten (Ger.), shovel = die Schaufel(Ger.)


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