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A local shop offers a shovel made of spring steel (specifically - steel used for leaf springs) which is like twice as expensive as a regular one. The implication is that using special steel makes a more durable and reliable shovel.

Is such shovel really more durable and reliable?

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  • It could be a marketing gimmick. A steel designed for leaf springs is going be more elastic - i.e. appear 'springy' and more likely to bend rather than experience brittle fracture. I can't see this being of any use in true shovelling. For digging, it might be beneficial in a heavy soil but I doubt it is worth twice as much! I think I would bother more about getting a comfortable handle of the correct length, and general resilience/good construction of the spade/shovel.
    – winwaed
    Oct 10, 2012 at 13:28

4 Answers 4

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A question like this comes down to many personal factors such as how often you use them, how much tool-pride you have, would you prefer rusted tools or tools with dings and dents in the blade. To help you make an informed choice for you I've compiled some info from wikipedia:

Spring Steel is a type of carbon steel that will return to its original shape despite significant bending or twisting. The benefit of Spring Steel tools is that even with heavy use, they will return to their original shape.

However, two points to consider:

  • Are you currently using your tools so much that they are being permanently damaged?

If you buy good quality (stainless steel) tools you should find they aren't easily damaged. If they are maybe the real problem is the way you're treating your tools.

  • Spring steel is a Carbon Steel which means there is no requirement for Chromium

(Chromium is the element that is added to iron to make Stainless Steel)

Spring Steel may be prone to rust. I think this will be more detrimental to your tools than some dings in the blade.

The best possible tool would be Spring Steel with Chromium. If such a product exists, it would be a good investment.

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  • Also consider the quality of the rest of the tool, including the handle and how it attaches to the metal. Although I've lost more shovels and trowels to problems with the metal than the handle, I did lose one shovel to the wooden handle coming loose from the metal blade, and I have also seen older shovels where the wood deteriorates and starts to splinter. I have had so many tools wear out over the years, I think it's always worth paying a bit more to buy a better tool, but assessing quality can be tricky. I read reviews and want to see evidence it holds up to heavy use over many years.
    – cazort
    Oct 27, 2021 at 16:11
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So I actually bought several identical shovels like that - primarily because they have otherwise good design. Three years later I can say that yes - it's worth it, especially for grubbing bushes. A regular shovel would hold its shape and then irreversibly bend or break under load. A shovel of spring steel bends under serious load and once load is withdrawn it just bends back and restores its shape as if nothing happened. IMO totally worth it for the price difference (something like equivalent of ten USD for regular one versus something like equivalent of twenty USD for one of spring steel).

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  • I live in a family that wears shovels and spades out. General applications, cheap spades ok. Chopping roots, prying rocks out, spring steel is best. After you've worn your spring steel spade down, hit the shank with a torch, bend it and turn it into a hoe. Something you don't do with a pressed steel implement. Sep 21, 2015 at 22:25
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I'd recommend stainless steel for garden tools such as spade and fork - they stay sharper longer and don't rust, thus allowing them to be more efficient when used for digging, as its harder for the soil to stick to stainless steel. Not sure I can think of an advantage for a stainless steel shovel, which will get scratched and battered being used for all kinds of things, from shovelling grit to wet concrete. As for 'spring' steel, unless that's a name used for 'stainless' steel where you live, not sure what advantage it might have.

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  • I'm not sure what difference you're trying to draw between a spade and a shovel... they're both mostly the same tool or different forms of the same tool (more often called a spade in the UK and shovel in the US). At best, a spade could be called a type of shovel (since you have shovels for dirt, snow, coal, etc.) Oct 9, 2012 at 20:08
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    @yoda I would distinguish between the two although they are variations of very similar tools. The spade is flatter and usually smaller - it would be inefficient at shovelling. The shovel is usually curved up a little at the sides and tends to be a bit bigger - ideal for shovelling, but very difficult to dig with.
    – winwaed
    Oct 10, 2012 at 13:24
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    Well, I've only just seen these two comments - Winwaed's answer is precisely what I would have said. Yoda, go outside and try digging the ground with a proper shovel, as described by Winwaed - its next to impossible. They may be similar types of tools, but they are not interchangeable.
    – Bamboo
    Nov 8, 2012 at 17:56
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Advertising jargon, it sounds good and the public does not know what it means anymore than the person that wrote it. It probably means a steel that had been hear-treated to increase strength above the standard ( which is probably fast cooled after hot forming). It could contain more carbon which would make more hardening possible. Industrial spring steel is likely to have chrome and vanadium as alloys which promote hardening when heat-treated; chances that the shovel contains these alloys are slim and none. When I have a conventional shovel blade that cracks or bends , I weld on some steel ( cold rolled) reinforcement; works fine.

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