Spade vs Shovel: The Difference Explained

Often times when you hear someone talking about using a spade or a shovel, the terms are used as if they are the same tool. But in fact, these are two completely different tools that have different purposes and uses. Here you will find out what those differences are and the purposes for each of these tools.

The Blade

First we will discuss the differences in the blades for these two tools. The blade, sometimes referred to as the scoop, is the end that is used to cut through sod, roots, or soil and is used to move various items, such as sand, small rocks, soil, gravel, etc. The larger the blade of the tool is, the more that can be moved at a time. 

A shovel has a sharply pointed blade that is better used for cutting through ground that is hard and other materials that are tough to get through, such as roots. The blade is often broader than a spade and curves inward when looking at it from left to right. The blade is rounded off or pointed at the tip of it.

There can be differences in the length and shape of a shovel's blade depending on what they will be used for. You can find shovels that have ledges down the sides, edges that are saw-toothed, and those with blades that are extra long. The blade of a shovel is typically bigger than that of a spade.

A spade has a flat squared-off blade that is better used for edging or lifting materials that are already loose. The blade of a spade is usually flat and has edges that are straight rather than curved.

The size of the blade can vary depending on what is being used for, but it is typically still smaller than a shovel's blade. The handle of the spade is more in line with the blade, rather than angled like a shovel is.

The Handle

The handle, which is sometimes referred to as the shaft, is another thing that is quite different in the two tools. The handle of a shovel is quite a bit longer than the handle of a spade. The longer handle gives you more leverage making it better for heavier work.

A spade has a shorter handle in order to give you better control while you work. This is ideal when you are trying to edge a garden or other area, in order to create a straight line, or for planting or digging up flowers or plants.

The Shape

There is a difference in the shape of the tools as well. When you look at both the shovel and the spade side-by-side, you will notice that a spade looks straighter, from the end of the blade to the top of the handle, than a shovel does. The shovel's blade angles forward, where the spade does not. 

The angle of the shovel is one of the things that makes the two tools different in functionality. The angle is part of what makes the shovel so great for digging where the spade is better for edging or lifting sod because it has more of a straight shape.


The materials used to make these tools is one thing that is quite similar. The handles of both can be found with either wood or fiberglass, and the blades are both made with either stainless steel or carbon.


The weight of the two tools can also be similar and depends greatly on the materials that are used to make them. If the materials are heavy in weight, the shovel or spade will be heavier.


The cost for each of the tools will also depend on the materials that are used as well as if they are a specialty tool. Spades or shovels that are designed a special way for a specific task will likely cost more than a standard spade or shovel.

Whether you have just a shovel or just a spade, you can use the one you have to accomplish the task at hand. But in order to make your work more efficient, it is best to have one of each. Being able to use the spade or shovel for the work they were designed for will make your work a little easier.