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The 7 Top Options for the Best Trenching Shovel

My 7 Top Picks for Best Trenching Shovel

& Why You Won't Go Back to Not Having One

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Best Trenching Shovel - A trench dug along lawn

When you have a small trench to dig, the last thing you need is the expense of renting a backhoe or mechanical trencher

YOU COULD USE ANY TYPE OF spade or digging shovel for the first foot or so of a trench. But in time, all you end up with is a backache. The right tool for the job will let you continue to work at ground level, get the job done right, and save you from a lot of unneeded soreness.

And it's that soreness that leads us to this article. Finding the best trenching shovel will save you a whole bunch of it. Because even professionals will break out the hand trenching shovel for short runs.

So lets get started and learn what a trenching shovel will do for you, what to look for and a few top picks to help you find the best one.

Man digging trench for sewerage/storm water with a wide spade

Using a wider shovel typically means moving excess dirt which is more work and stress on your back/knees digging it out, and filling it in

What is a Trenching Shovel?

This type of shovel is often referred to as a "clean out" shovel as well as a trench shovel. This is because they are designed to help you scoop up any loose soil in your trench after it has been cut. The cut can be completed by hand or by using a powered trencher.

The most important thing to remember is that the trench shovel is not designed to cut down into the soil. If you look at the design of this type of shovel, you can see that the blade is not really wide enough for you to get your foot on it.

This, in turn, means you will not be able to put enough downward pressure on the shovel for it to cut through anything but loose soil. However, the narrow design makes it the perfect shovel for cleaning out trenches that are both narrow and deep.

With this in mind, you may want to consider using a tile or drain spade to cut the sides of the trench and loosen the soil before using a trenching shovel to remove the soil and to finish shaping the trench.

What Makes a Good, Durable Trench Shovel?

A trench shovel should be narrow in design and feature perfectly straight sides and a pointed end. The straight sides are used to help keep the edges of your trench nice and straight, while the point makes it easier to scoop out any remaining soil.

Like any other piece of gardening equipment, the last thing you want to have to do is go out and spend more money replacing it because you bought the wrong one. So, what should you be looking for when buying this type of shovel?

There are 5 main parts. Here we go over them in detail

The collar of a Razorback Trench Shovel in action

A Razorback trenching shovel in action. Image courtesy of Home Depot

#1 - The Blade

This is perhaps the most important part of any shovel, whether you are buying one for trenching or digging holes in your backyard. There are three types of shovel blades, those with pointed tips, those with rounded ends, and those with square ends. All three will do the job, but each has its own advantages:

  • Pointed end – goes into the ground more easily

  • Rounded end – goes into the ground easily and does a better job of scooping up loose soil

  • Square end – makes scooping larger amounts of soil easier

They also have their disadvantages:

  • Pointed end – not very efficient at scooping soil

  • Rounded end – less efficient at scooping

  • Square end – not made to cut into soil

Always choose a blade that is made from steel as they tend to be stronger and are more likely to give you many years of service for your money (my personal preference as I hate wasting money). Look for tempered or forged steel for maximum value.

Also look for one that has a lip at the top of the blade that gives you somewhere to apply pressure with your foot. (Nothing hurts worse than trying to press down on the sharp edge of a blade that doesn't have this lip.

#2 - The Handle

Handles are typically either fiberglass or wood, both of which are truly fine for this type of work as they should never be subjected to heavy twisting as you might expect when digging a hole.

If you are going to look for one with a wood handle, Ash and hickory are the most commonly used materials as these hardwoods can stand up to a lot of abuse. One tip though, be sure the grain runs along the length of the handle as this ensures maximum strength.

#3 - The Grip

Any fiberglass handled shovel you buy is going to have some form of grip that covers the area where you might commonly put your hands. This is done to protect your hands in the event the fiberglass should splinter.

Depending on the length of the handle, a "D" style handle may be used (especially on shorter handles) to give you more control. Some wood handles are nothing more than a long length of wood without any form of handle. Again, you have to decide which style is likely to work best for you.

The collar of a bully tools trenching shovel

A close up of a collar. Image courtesy of Bully Tools

#4 - The Collar

The collar is the point at which the handle and the blade come together. Less expensive shovels are built with the handle being trimmed to fit tightly into the collar where they might be secured in place using a screw or a nail.

This could eventually become a problem as the wood ages and the screw or nail becomes loose in the handle and falls out. The best trenching shovels feature at least one, if not more, rivet that runs completely through from one side to the other to ensure maximum durability.

#5 - The Step

This is where the top of the blade has been folded over to give you somewhere to put your foot to help force the shovel into the ground. While the step doesn't need to be excessively wide, it needs to be wide enough for your foot to fit and allow you to apply the required pressure without hurting the bottom of your foot.

While some come without a step, look for those that do, you will find them much easier to work with.

Best Trenching Shovel - Man digging large trench by hand

Caring for Your Shovel

No matter what type of shovel or shovels you finally decide to add to your collection, if you don't take good care of them, you will be replacing them on a frequent basis.

The best way to store a steel-bladed shovel is to place it head down into a 5-gallon bucket that has been filled with sand that has oil mixed into it. This mixture will keep out moisture and stop your shovel from rusting.

If you buy a shovel that has a wooden handle, it should last for decades. But, if you want to ensure it does, you should wipe it down to remove any dirt. Then take a rag that has been lightly soaked in linseed oil and wipe every inch of the handle. The oil will help keep the wood protected and prevent it from decaying over the years.

The Top 7 Trenching Shovels

There are so many different types and brands of trench shovel on the market, finding the right one can be challenging. However, armed with the information above, you should have a better than average chance of finding exactly what you need.

Bear in mind (if the wife says it o.k., you can always have more than one shovel in your garden tool inventory). Here then are my top 7 picks for best trenching shovel:

Seymour S702 48-inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel

Five-inch-wide blade and a 48-inch handle make clearing trenches easy

Seymour_S702

SEYMOUR S702 48-Inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel

This trenching shovel from Seymour comes with a 48-inch long fiberglass handle and features a rounded tip blade that makes digging and clearing trenches much easier.

The blade features rear-rolled steps designed to make digging and cleaning out much easier. The PermaGrip® collar ensures you never have to worry about the blade coming loose from the handle. It also features a cushioned grip handle for more comfort while you work.

ProsCons
48 – inch long handleFiberglass handle has a lot of flex
Cushion grip handleMay receive a Structron brand, not Seymour (same company)
Round tip for easier diggingSome are shipped with a front roll instead of rear roll step

Razor Back 4705 Wood Handle Trenching Shovel

Natural hardwood handle for added durability

Razorback_Clean_Out_Ditch_Trench_Shovel

UNION TOOLS Razorback Clean Out Ditch/Trench Shovel Ash 48 " Industrial Gauge 3 " X 11 "

This trench shovel offers a uniquely shaped blade that has been designed specifically for digging and cleaning out trenches. It features a 4-inch wide blade that is perfect for use in narrow trenches such as those you might dig to install a sprinkler system in your yard or garden.

The blade is made from heavy gauge tempered steel for added durability and features a front rolled step for added foot comfort. The blade and handle are riveted together to ensure they remain tightly connected.

ProsCons
47.5 – inch long hardwood handleNot for initial digging of trench
Forward turned step for secure foot placementHead to handle angle is a bit much for some
Riveted for extra-strong head to handle connectionStep needs to be a little wider for comfort

Kobalt Long-Handle Fiberglass Trenching Spade

Pointed tip makes sinking this one in the ground simple

Kobalt_Long_Handle_Fiberglass_Trenching_Spade

KOBALT Long-Handle Fiberglass Trenching Spade

This trenching spade features a heavy-duty 5-inch wide blade made from tempered steel that is more than strong enough to get the job done. The blade has a pointed end that lets you break tough ground and work in rocky soil.

The fiberglass handle has a 9-inch cushioned grip to help give you more control and reduce hand fatigue. The extra-wide rear-turned step gives your foot a more stable platform to work with and more stability.

ProsCons
Heavy-duty tempered steel bladeFiberglass handle flexes
Wide rear-turned step for more stabilityBlade may fold if used in high-clay soil
Sharp point makes sinking blade into ground easyHandle breaks where it enters the blade

Corona-SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel – 4-inch

V-angled head for better penetration

Corona_SS_64104

CORONA SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel, 4-Inch

The V-angled head of this trenching shovel makes it easy to use for penetrating a wide range of soil types. The 1-inch sides make it much easier to retain the soil you have scooped instead of watching it slide off the sides.

Features a 48-inch long ash hardwood handle for maximum durability. The extra-deep sides also give the blade more structural rigidity for those harder tasks such as working in clay-heavy soil.

ProsCons
48-inch ash handle for strength and durability35-degree handle makes digging challenging
13-guage steel bladeNot the best choice for heavy soils
Pointed end great for digging into soilHard to keep foot on top of blade

Ames 14-inch True American Drain Spade

D-handle gives you more control

Ames_14-Inch_True_American_Drain_Spade_1564700

AMES 14-Inch True American Drain Spade - 1564700

The D-handle on this drain spade makes it much easier for you to maintain control while you are digging or scooping the soil out of your trench. Features a 14-inch long tempered steel blade and a round tip that makes it much easier for you to cut in the sides of your trench.

The hardwood handle is designed to provide you with years of flawless service. The blade features forward-turned steps for more secure foot placement while digging.

ProsCons
D-handle for more controlPlastic handle may break
Hardwood handle for maximum durabilityShort handle can be hard on your back
Strong blade doesn't bendBlade needs to be sharpened before use

Nupla SS14L-E Ergo Power Sharp Shooters Drain Spade

Ergo-grip for added comfort while digging

Nupla_SS14L-E_Ergo_Power_Sharp_Shooters_Drain_Spade

NUPLA SS14L-E Ergo Power Sharp Shooters Drain Spade

This "sharp shooter" shovel features a 16-guage super heavy-duty steel blade. This blade has forward-turned steps for better foot placement and a hollow back design.

The handle is 48-inches long and has an oversized ergonomically designed end that improves your grip and gives you more control., The fiberglass handle has a polystyrene core that is surrounded by a polypropylene sleeve that adds strength, chemical and weather resistance, and durability to the assembly.

ProsCons
Multi-layer handle for durabilityHandle has a lot of flex
16-guage steel blade is very strongToe step is too narrow
Ergonomic handle takes some of the pain awayBlade needs to be longer

The Bully Tools 72530 Commercial Grade Long Handle Drain Spade

Great for narrower trenches

Bully_Tools_72530

BULLY TOOLS 72530 Commercial Grade Long Handle Drain Spade

This drain spade is ideal for smaller trenches as it features an extra-thick steel blade that measures 3-inches wide and 12-inches long. The closed-back design helps to reduce debris build up.

The handle is made from wood reinforced fiberglass for superior strength. In fact, you are more likely to bend the blade before you can break the handle. The extra length ferrules and welded I-beam supports work together to create an extra-strong shovel.

ProsCons
Wood reinforced fiberglass handle is extra toughPoint is blunt and must be sharpened
Extra-long ferrules and welded I-beamsBlade is only 3-inches wide instead of 4
Heavy-gauge blade does not bendWood/fiberglass handle not covered under warranty

If a Trench Shovel Is Not What You Want

While the trenching shovel may be your best option, it may not be the most efficient tool for the job. Another very popular option is the Trenching Hoe or Grub Hoe. This very easy to use tool can make digging smaller trenches go smoothly and quickly. In fact, all you have to do is use the hoe to chop into the ground and then drag the soil up and out of the way.

Bully Tools 92354 12-Gauge Warren Hoe

A new approach to digging trenches

Bully_Tools_92354_12-Gauge_Warren_Hoe

BULLY TOOLS 92354 12-Gauge Warren Hoe with Fiberglass Handle

The Warren Hoe from Bully tools features a fiberglass handle that is weather and chemical resistant and features a cushioned grip. The blade is made from extra-thick 12-gauge commercial grade steel. The head measures 5" x 6.5" allowing you to cut the size of trench you need with ease.

The handle is made from wood reinforced fiberglass for maximum rigidity and durability. The handle measures 6 feet long.

ProsCons
6-foot-long wood reinforced handleHeavy
Handle is securely attachedLong handle can be hard to use
Very sturdily builtBlade has no edge needs to be filed

Rounding It All Up

When you have a trench to dig, you need the right tools to get the job done with the least amount of work, stress, strain, and pain. You can use either a trench shovel or a trenching hoe to get the job done, personally, I have both to make sure I can get the job done in a hurry. I like the two from Bully Tools as not only are they made in the U.S.A. but they offer great value for my money.

  • If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact us here.

  • Thank you for reading this guide on finding the best trenching shovel. I hope it has helped.



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[Walkthrough Guide] How to Choose the Best Landscaping Edger for Your Yard

The 6 Questions You Need to Ask About a New Landscaping Edger and 4 of our Favorite Picks

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WORX_WG896_Electric Lawn Edger

Things you need to know and consider before buying landscaping edgers...

Does the edge between your garden and lawn look ragged and unkempt? Have you been trying to cut a nice clean edge using a shovel with less than stellar results?

This could simply be because you are not using the right tool for the job. When you have nice clean edges, it shows your neighbors that you like to pay attention to detail and are concerned about keeping your yard looking nice.

The best tool for the job is a landscaping edger, not your string trimmer as so many people seem to think.

Multiple Landscaping Edgers to Choose From

While a string trimmer might be able to give you at least some semblance of a clean edge between your lawn and a concrete sidewalk or driveway, it really doesn’t get the job done right.

If you are serious about having nice straight clean edges, you need to invest in some form of landscaping edger.

These simple tools come in two styles, the old-fashioned hand-operated version, and the new powered walk-behind models that can save you a lot of time and effort.

In recent years, several manufacturers have also introduced a multi-purpose tool with interchangeable heads, including an edger attachment.

Adding a lawn edger to your tool inventory can be a great idea, there is no better way to make your gardens look fantastic than by edging them.

No matter how the rest of the garden may look, a straight clean edge can only make it look better. However, before you rush off and buy the first landscaping edger you happen to come across, there are a lot of things you need to consider.

Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Landscaping Edger

With so many different brands and types on the market, finding the right one to fit your needs can be challenging.

If you are not sure which one will best suit your needs, start by asking yourself these questions.

#1. How Big is Your Garden/Yard?

This may the most important question of all, if you have a large yard with a number of gardens, paths, and driveways to be edged, you may be better off with a larger powered edger.

Garden Tiller- Large front yard with plenty of garden beds

 

On the other hand, if you have a small yard that only has minimal edging to be done, you may find a hand edger or trimmer attachment can get the job done for less money.

#2 What Does Your Schedule Look Like?

No matter how big or small your yard happens to be, edging it properly is going to be time-consuming. Obviously, the bigger your yard is, the longer it will take to edge.

When you have unlimited time to work with, you may find a hand edger the perfect tool. But, if you are like me (and most others), time is probably in short supply.  In this case, a powered edger makes more sense, even though it will definitely cost more than a hand operated unit.

#3 Hand, Electric or Gas Powered?

Although hand edgers are cheaper, we recommend for even a medium sized yard to get a power edger

And if you are going to buy a power landscaping edger, your choices are gas or electric power.

In most cases, you can buy an electric edger for under $100. At the same time, top-of-the-line gas-powered models can run as much as ten times this amount. Thus, it is very important for you to sit down and decide on your budget right from the outset.

As with many things, the more you spend, the better quality machine you are likely to get, but at the same time don't be fooled into thinking that just because you spent a fortune on your new landscaping edger, it is the best tool for the job.

#4 How Many Wheels?

This applies to powered edgers as they are available with either three or four wheels in most instances.

No matter which style of edger you choose, the two wheels in the back are used to roll the edger along, in the front is a guide-wheel that is typically used to keep the edger blade in line with your cut.

Those that have four wheels frequently have what is known as a “curb wheel” designed to be extended for additional balance and stability when working along a fixed curb or edge.

#5 How Many Cycles?

Gas powered edgers come with either two-cycle or four-cycle engines.

The two cycle versions are more common in all states except California where two-cycle engines are banned. These models require you to mix the gas and oil before using them. They are noisy, but powerful and are most certainly not environmentally friendly.

Four-cycle engines are quieter, do not require you to mix the gas and oil, and tend to be heavier and cost more. Both are equally capable of getting the job done.

Of course, if you are buying an electric powered edger, you don't need to worry about this.

#6 How about Angled Blades?

The average landscaping edger uses straight blades that run perpendicular to the surface of the ground. For the most part, you will find this type of edger will work just fine for just about any project you have in mind.

Some of the newer, and more expensive, models feature blades that can be adjusted to various angles, letting you create edges that look amazing.

More about the Different Types of Landscaping Edgers

Each of the different styles of landscaping edgers can handle the most basic form of edging your lawn and garden. However, where they differ is in how they approach the task.

In order for you to find the right one for your yard, start by considering the information above and how it applies to the job you have in mind.

While a good hand edger can get the job done and do a very good job of it, it requires you to do the job using nothing more than human power.

This type of edging takes a lot of time and effort as well as a commitment to getting the job done. They are the perfect tool for the purist, but when time is an issue, may not be the best choice.

Edger Attachments

 These are edging attachments designed to be used with your electric or gas powered string trimmer. In most cases, you simply remove the string trimmer head and replace it with the edger attachment.

You may also find a number of tools that look like they started out life as a trimmer with a straight shaft that has been permanently modified into an edger.

Electric Edgers

These come in two varieties, those that have a long cord and must be plugged in to use them and those with a rechargeable battery pack.

The corded versions are nice and quiet, they vibrate less, and must be used within a certain range of the outlet they are to be plugged into. Cordless versions let you go practically anywhere on your property.

However, they typically don't have much in the way of power and are best suited to keeping the edge of your grass cut back from the driveway or sidewalk.

Corded models are typically rated at 10 to 12 amps and are quite lightweight, perfect for those with physical limitations. Cordless models come with a range of battery packs running from 12V to 18V or more.

Most now come with a longer-lasting lithium-ion battery. Be sure to look for a model with a good strong blade.

Be aware that using an electric edger is going to take longer than using a gas-powered model. Battery-powered models are only as good as the battery in them, they are best suited to smaller jobs.

Gas Powered Edgers

These edgers can go virtually anywhere on your property, and they have the power to take on virtually any edging task you might have.

They take most, if not all, of the hard work out of the job and are considered to be far safer than using a converted string trimmer to get the job done.

They typically have heavy duty frames, multiple cutting heads, and replaceable tires, making them an excellent choice for larger jobs or when you only want to have to buy one edger to keep your yard looking nice for many years.

They are however quite heavy and require the user to be in good physical health to use them.

The Stick or Hand Edger

The handheld edger is the lightest landscaping edger on the market and by virtue of its design the easiest to use.

While you can use this type of edger to cut a new edge, they are best-suited to being used for follow-up or clean-up work.

They are not intended for lengthy jobs as doing so can cause excessive fatigue and possible physical injury.

Our Favorite Landscaping Edgers

Now that you have a better idea of what you need to think about before you invest in a landscaping edger, let's take a quick look at some of our favorite powered edgers and see what they have to offer.

Black and Decker LST522 20V MAX, 12″

Battery Powered Combo Unit Great for Smaller Yards

This landscaping edger is among the most powerful on the market, it comes with a 20V lithium-ion battery and can be converted from a string trimmer to a wheeled edger.

It features a unique Black and Decker Power Drive Transmission® to increase the amount of torque at the head. You get a 2-speed power control that lets you choose between more power and longer battery life.

While most “combo” units are not the best choice, this one is more than capable of handling most smaller edging tasks around your yard.

Pros

Cons

Long-lasting 20V lithium-ion batteries

Battery life not good at highest setting

Can be used as a string trimmer or edger

Combo units not as good as dedicated units

Very lightweight for a cordless unit

Only good for smaller yards

Black and Decker MTE912 6.5-Amp Mower, 12″

Three-In-One Mower, Edger, and Trimmer Gets the Job Done

When you are looking for a single tool that can handle multiple tasks around your yard, this one from legendary toolmaker Black and Decker is just what you need.

With four wheels and an electric motor, it can mow, trim, and edge your yard with its powerful 6.5-amp motor. The gear drive transmission keeps you from getting bogged down while the design makes it easy for you to switch from one version to the other.

The conveniently located foot pedal makes inserting the edger or trimmer attachment a breeze. The deck features two height adjustments and the AFS auto feed ensures you never run out of trimmer string.

Pros

Cons

Everything you need in one convenient tool

Trimmer spool does not hold enough line

Swapping between trimmer, edger, mower easy

Not made for use in large yards

Set up takes less than five minutes

Does not mow very well

Atom Professional Edger ATCPE4

Gas Powered Professional Edger for Bigger Yards

This gas-powered edger features a dead man's throttle trigger that stops the blade from spinning the moment you take your hands off of it. The transmission and gears are fully enclosed to keep dirt and fingers out.

Despite having a gasoline engine, the Atom is very lightweight, coming in at only 20 pounds without gas.

It has been built to tough commercial standards and features hardened spring steel blades. It also comes with wire brushes that can be used to clean up the sidewalk or driveway when you are done.

Pros

Cons

Lightweight, only 20 pounds dry

Transmission is prone to failure

Built-in safety features

Exhaust outlet is pointed towards your face

Wheelbarrow design makes it highly maneuverable

Single wheel design may be hard to handle

Troy-Bilt TB516 EC 29 cc 4-Cycle Wheeled Edger 

From One of the Finest Yard Tool Manufacturers in the World

With its 29 c.c. 4-cycle engine this may be one of the best landscaping edgers on the market for a very reasonable price.

It features 3 wheels and a total of 6 height adjustments and a large 9-inch edging blade with dual tips. It also features Troy-Bilt's patented Jumpstart and Spring Assist technology for easier starting.

The durable steel frame has folding handles for easier storage and comes with a  full 2-year warranty.

Pros

Cons

Very easy to assemble

Counter clockwise spinning blade can make it hard to use

9-inch blade edges very nicely

Hand-set throttle hard to use

Starts very easily

Can be hard to keep running

Summing It All Up

When it gets right down to the nitty gritty, finding the right landscaping edger can be challenging no matter how much you read.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to know what you are looking for before you get started. Follow the above advice and you are sure to find the right one to meet your needs.

Personally, I like the Atom model, I have one that has been doing a great job o my hobby farm for the last two years, a situation I expect to last for many more years.

If you have enjoyed reading about the different landscaping edgers, please let me know.

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