▷ Choosing the Best Trenching Shovel (2020 Update)

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Choosing the Best Trenching Shovel

Written by Joseph Biggs and updated on June 10, 2018
Choosing the Best Trenching Shovel

It’s amazing just how many different shovels there are out there, all of which have their own special purpose. A lot of people think that a shovel’s just a shovel, and there need be no variation. How little do they know! Not having the right shovel to do the job can be an absolute nightmare. Can you imagine trying to cut your steak with a butter knife or butter your bread with a carving knife? It just wouldn’t work.

Well, it’s the same principle when you want to dig a trench or deep hole in your garden. Without the right tool to help, you will invariably struggle. And, that’s where trenching shovels come in.  

What is a trenching shovel?

As the name suggests, a trenching shovel is designed for the digging and clearing out of trenches. However, it can also be used to dig deep holes near plants without disturbing them or for removing or transporting plants. 

These shovels come in two different designs: those that have a slim and pointed blade and those that have a tapered mouth blade that’s more narrow at the cutting edge rather than at the shoulder. Trenching shovels with the slim, pointed blades are mostly used for digging or planting in soil which is already soft. Those with a tapered mouth blade are better for penetrating more densely packed soil.  

Things to consider when buying a trenching shovel

There are just three main parts to a trenching shovel: the blade; the shaft; and the handle, and it’s these that you need to pay attention to when making your purchase. Let’s look at these parts in more detail:

Blade

You’ll notice that part of the blade on the trenching shovel is bent. This is to make it easier to get to the bottom of trenches or large holes and remove any loose debris or dirt. The head shape will differ across different models also. Some have been designed to slice through tree roots and soil like nobody’s business, whereas others are flat or more round-headed.

Both the length and width of trenching shovel blades can vary considerably, so be sure to take the time to find one that’s most comfortable for you. You may also want to think about where it is you’ll be digging. If it’s somewhere that requires a little finesse and precision, a smaller blade may be more useful. 

The strength of the blade is also something you should take into consideration when making your purchase. Most decent trenching shovels are made out of high-quality steel as it’s known for its strength and durability. Those that have been powder coated are also beneficial as they add another layer of protection to the blade. 

Shaft

You’ll find that the length of the shaft will vary across trenching shovels, and the length that’s best for you will largely depend on what you intend to use it for. Longer shafts are more useful when digging deep trenches, but they’re also harder to control. Shorter shafts are much easier to use, but you have to bend down lower to get to the soil.

Another thing you’ll want to take note of when it comes to the shaft is the material that it’s made from. Most trenching shovels shafts are made from either wood or fiberglass. Wood is the traditional material used to build trench shovels as offers excellent durability. The problem with wood is that it’s prone to splitting or breaking due to exposure to the elements.

Fiberglass shafts are often more durable than wood and require less maintenance. The problem with fiberglass is that it can be harmful to those with asthma if not coated.  

Handle

The third main part of a trenching shovel is the handle. Equally important as both the shaft and blade, the handle should be strong and easy to grip. Most trenching shovels have either a D-ring or O-ring style handle which allows for easy gripping and maneuvering. Those that have straight handles are ok too, but try and look for one that’s fitted with a rubber area to enable you to get a tighter grip.

The material of the handle on trenching shovels is another thing that differs quite considerably across different models. Some are made from steel or other metals, while others are made from fiberglass or wood. All three are considered to be very good as are tough and long-lasting.

If you decide to opt for a wooden handle, look for one that’s made from either ash or hickory. These are both hardwoods and are both very good at taking a lot of abuse. To ensure maximum strength, be sure to choose a model with grain that runs along the length of the handle.     

Other considerations include:

Head shape 

Trenching shovels come with three different head shapes: pointed; rounded; and square, all of which have their pros and cons. Those with pointed heads are ideal for penetrating hard soil but aren’t very good when it comes to scooping soil. Trenching shovels with rounded heads are great for scooping up loose soil and go into the ground quite easily. And lastly, those with square heads are good for scooping, but not so good for cutting into soil. 

The collar 

This is the point where the handle and the blade meet. Look for trenching shovels that have at least one rivet that goes all the way through the shaft for maximum durability.

The step 

This is the part of the blade that’s designed for you to put your foot to gain extra force for getting the shovel into tough soil. It only needs to be wide enough to fit your foot enough to apply pressure without causing any pain to your foot.   

Overall strength (handle and blade)

The strength of both the handle and blade will depend largely upon what material they’re made from. Fiberglass, wood, and steel are all very good mediums to be used for the handle as they’re extremely durable and are likely to last a long time. The blade of the trenching shovel should also be made of something strong such as steel, ideally with an added layer of powder coating for extra protection.

Warranty 

Most decent trenching shovel manufacturers are quite happy to provide some kind of warranty. If you can’t find one that offers a lifetime guarantee in the event that it breaks, look for one that offers at least a limited warranty. Beware of any company offering no kind of warranty.

Price 

As with anything, the price of trenching shovels varies across the market, but most of this is due to the brand name and the quality of the product. If you buy right the first time, you should only ever need to purchase one trenching shovel in your whole life. So for that reason, it’s worth investing in one that’s of good quality.

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