Manual Digging Tools
Shovels, Scoops, Picks, Mattock, and more...
Our HISCO professional-grade shovels and scoops with reinforced fiberglass handles are made in the USA. We also provide picks and mattocks with extra-long handles to minimize bending and back strain.
Click here or scroll down to see excerpts from the 1961 Popular Mechanics article "The Right Shovel for the Job". It has easy-to-understand details on shovel types, lift angles, handle lengths, and blade designs. (located at the bottom of this page)
How to Select the Right Shovel for the Job
Using the wrong tool for the job is the #1 biggest mistake people make when digging. It leads to unnecessary extra effort and dangerous back strain.
That’s why we want to make it easy for you to select the right shovel, for every project, every time.
The pictures and excerpts below are from a 1961 Popular Mechanics article titled The Right Shovel for the Job. The same advice that was good then is still good today. Shovels have not changed much, except for the switch to stronger handles. You can see the full article here (scroll the archive down to page 138)
"The long handle is best for stand-up digging or scooping as it saves you from stooping....The shorter D-handle is better where you need to toss loads with good accuracy....The crosspiece in the D grip gives you something to push against during the start of the throw, and something to haul back against when you 'shoot' the load....A long, straight handle provides you more reach for stand-up shoveling without stooping, and for getting down into pits or trenches....After the hole is deep enough to stand in, switch to the shorter D-handle shovel for good leverage and control."
Round or square point spade?
"A round-pointed shovel pierces the ground more easily, and is best for general digging, especially in rocky or hard soils. A square-edged spade will sever roots that can slip past a round shovel blade, and so is good for transplanting trees. Spade also cuts a square-sided trench, as needed for footings." Note: Scoop shovels all have straight flat edges for scraping up material.
Lift: What it is. Why it matters.
A shovel's lift is the angle that it makes with the blade. The higher the lift, the greater the angle....For digging, you want low lift so you can push the blade straight down into the earth, and still grip the handle comfortably. A high-lift handle would force you to lean way too far forward, throw you off balance, and tire you out faster....For shoveling, such as scooping and spreading soil, sand, or gravel, you want a high-lift handle so you can slide or scrape the blade flat along the ground without stooping over much."
How to determine lift.
"Check for lift by measuring the distance from the tip of a long handle to the floor, with blade held flat against the floor. It should be at least 32 inches for a good high-lift shovel, no more than 22 inches for a low-lift spade." (Note: A combination shovel, what we call a Digging Shovel, will be in the middle of this range.)
Why do I need a heavy-duty spade shovel?
It can save you money. It can save you frustration. And it can save you from an injury.
Let's tackle injuries first. When the handle on a cheap shovels snaps, you may fall backwards and wrench your back muscles, or land on something dangerous. Then there is the frustration of having the tool break right when you are in the middle of a job and time is short and the store is miles away. Lastly there is money. If our heavy-duty HISCO shovels cost twice as much, but out last two cheap shovels, then you at least broke even. But if it outlasts three of them, then you are money ahead.