Terms of the Trade: Shovel Vs. Spade

A grouping of spades and shovels.

While often used interchangeably, shovels and spades have different characteristics that make them work better than the other at specific tasks. Shovels and spades both have long handles to assist in moving dirt and debris, digging holes, and otherwise manipulating the ground. However, a spade is the one that doesn’t have the curved tip on the blade. That’s right; a spade in the DIY sense is not the same shape as the spade in a deck of cards. The tool typically has a flat edge that makes it ideal for cutting and scraping hard ground (i.e., outlining a garden bed, beginning a trench). For this reason, a spade also usually has a D-shaped handle at the top for gripping capabilities as tough ground is broken. A shovel does have the curved tip on the blade, making it ideal for digging those holes and scooping debris.