How to choose a Contractor Shovel and Spade ?


When it comes to selecting the right contractor shovel or spade for your construction or landscaping needs, it's crucial to consider various factors such as the type of task, handle type, and socket design.

With JCB Tools, you can rest assured of professional-grade quality and durability. In this guide, we'll delve into what is the difference between a shovels and a spade, the different types, handles, and the benefits of solid versus open socket designs for your contractor shovels and spades.

While both contracters shovels and spades serve similar purposes in landscaping and gardening, their designs and functionalities are tailored to different tasks, with shovels focusing on moving materials and spades designes more suited for digging and cutting through soil.

Key Differences


  • Shovels are best suited for scooping and moving loose materials, while spades excel at digging and cutting through soil.
  • Shovels have curved blades, while spades have flat, straight-edged blades.
  • Shovels are generally larger and designed for moving larger quantities of material, whereas spades are smaller and offer greater precision in digging.

What are the types of Shovels and Spades ?

Square or Taper Mouth Shovels

Best For: Shoveling, digging, backfilling trenches, mixing concrete, working with tarmac, and carrying loose materials like sand, cement, gravel, and chippings.

The square or taper mouth design allows for more controlled movement of material and easier penetration into the ground or other surfaces compared to shovels with rounded blades. These shovels are often used in construction, landscaping, gardening, and other outdoor activities where accuracy and control are important.

Yard Shovel

Best For: Yard shovels are commonly used for tasks such as digging, scooping, lifting, and moving materials like soil, mulch, gravel, or compost in yard work or gardening activities

Yard shovels typically feature a long handle and a wide, flat blade at the end. The blade is usually made of metal and may have a slightly curved or squared shape.

Site Master Shovels

Best For: Excavation and digging tasks, particularly in construction sites where precision and care are crucial.

Site Master shovels typically features a narrower and sharper blade compared to traditional shovels, allowing for more precise digging without disturbing surrounding soil layers excessively.


Grafting Shovels

Best For: Heavy clay soils and ground-breaking work, often favored by landscapers for heavy-duty tasks.

A grafting shovel typically has a long, narrow blade with a sharp edge on one side and a flat, smooth surface on the other. The sharp edge is used for cutting through plant stems or branches cleanly, while the flat surface is used for splitting or shaping the tissues during the grafting process. The handle of a grafting shovel is often long and straight, providing leverage and control during grafting operations.

Newcastle Drainer or Grafter Spade

Best For: Making deep narrow trenches, cable and drainage channels, digging post holes, and tree planting due to its tough, long, narrow blade with built-in treads for leverage.

A Newcastle Drainer or Grafter Spade is a type of spade or shovel designed specifically for digging narrow trenches or drains. It typically features a long, narrow blade with a pointed tip, allowing for precise digging and the creation of straight-sided trenches


Border Spades

Best For:  Digging, Edging, Weeding, Transplanting, Dividing perennials and border work.

A border spade is a smaller, more lightweight version of a traditional spade, typically with a smaller blade and a shorter handle. It is specifically designed for working in confined spaces, such as borders and flower beds in gardens.

Garden Spades

Best For: They are commonly used for tasks such as digging planting holes, edging garden beds, lifting and moving soil, and transplanting small plants.

Garden Spades typically features a flat, squared-off blade with a slightly pointed tip and a straight, relatively short handle. Garden spades are smaller and lighter than traditional shovels, making them easier to maneuver in tight spaces and among delicate plants.  

Types of Shovel and Spade Handles

Wood YD Handle

At JBCB Tools, we craft our 'Y' or 'D' handles from a single piece of premium ash, perfect for garden applications. Each of our Wood YD handles is meticulously lacquered, ensuring a timeless, traditional sensation in your hands.

The JCB Heritage Border Spades and Garden Spades feature wooden YD handle.

Ergonomic PYD Handle / Polypropylene YD

Built from durable high-impact polypropylene, the Ergonomic PYD is designed to enhance comfort by maintaining a natural hand position during use, thereby minimising strain on the hands and wrists.

The JCB Professional Square Mouth Site Shovel features Polypropylene YD handle.

Metal MYD

The metal YD grip serves as a primary choice for contractors and users of heavy industrial tools. Built from durable steel framing, it features a sturdy wooden handle riveted to withstand twisting forces. Exceptionally robust, it seamlessly attaches to shafts made of wood, aluminum, steel, or fiberglass.

The JCB Site Master Shovels feature heavy-duty MYD Handle.

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JCB Professional Square Open Socket Yard Shovel | JCBYS01

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Top Tips for choosing a contractor spade or shovel

Handle Length and Material: Opt for a shovel or spade with a handle length that suits your height and the type of work you'll be doing. Longer handles provide more leverage for digging, but they can also be cumbersome in tight spaces. Additionally, consider the material of the handle. Wood handles offer a traditional feel and can absorb some shock. Steel spade and shovels are durable, making them a popular choice for heavy-duty use.

Blade Design and Material: For contractor shovels or spades, a sturdy, rust-resistant blade is crucial for longevity and performance. Look for JCB blades made from high-quality steel or tempered steel, as these materials offer superior strength and durability. The shape of the blade also matters; a flat, squared-off blade is ideal for digging, while a curved blade is better suited for slicing through soil or roots.

Comfort and Ergonomics: Comfort is key when using a shovel or spade for extended periods. Look for features that enhance ergonomics, such as the JCB Y or D-shaped handles that provide a comfortable and secure grip.

 Purpose and Terrain: Consider the specific tasks you'll be using the shovel or spade for and the type of terrain you'll encounter. For example, if you'll be digging in rocky soil or through tough roots, you'll need a shovel with a strong, sharp blade and sturdy construction. On the other hand, if you'll be working in softer soil or on delicate landscaping projects, a lighter-weight shovel with a narrower blade may be more appropriate.

Discover Heavy-duty JCB Contractor Spades

We hope you’ve found these tips helpful and remember: if you need any further advice, our team of experts is on-hand to help you, so just get in touch! If you have any questions please visit For expert advice or any questions you may have, you can give us a call on 01646 687 880, fill out the contact form here or drop us a message on any of our social media pages - Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.