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What is a Coal Shovel?

By J.S. Metzker Erdemir
Updated May 17, 2024
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A coal shovel is a type of square point shovel. They have heavy-duty blades designed for scooping, so while the scooping edge is square and flat, the body of the blade is curved like a shallow bowl with raised edges along each side. Coal shovels can be used to scoop and transport heavy, loose materials like rocks, mud, coal, or sand. Although coal shovels and snow shovels might look alike, a coal shovel usually has a smaller blade made of steel while a snow shovel’s blade is made of plastic or aluminum and designed to scoop lighter materials.

A coal shovel is a useful and versatile garden tool. It can be used for clean-up because its flat edge makes it efficient at scraping debris up from the ground, and it can move large amounts of material in one scoop. Coal shovels are also used to transport and spread dirt, gravel, manure, and other soil amendments. The sharp blade of the coal shovel can be used in a similar manner as a spade for cutting and maintaining straight edges on lawns and garden borders. While round-point shovels are more efficient at digging and breaking into new sod or soil, a coal shovel can be used to hit large pieces of sod or hard clumps of mud.

There are a few different types of handles on coal shovels. The handles can be made of wood or fiberglass. Wood coal shovel handles are usually ash or hickory, woods known for their strength and flexibility. Fiberglass handles are as strong as wood, but they are less susceptible to weather and moisture damage. Handles are of different lengths to suit various users’ heights and strengths. Coal shovels can have both straight and D-grip handles. A D-grip is a handle at the top of the shovel that some users prefer for the extra leverage in heavy lifting.

The strongest coal shovel blades are forged from single pieces of tempered steel, while cheaper types of coal shovels are made of stamped steel and intended for lighter jobs. The blade can have turned steps, which are flat parts at the top of the blade for the user to step on and push the shovel. Smaller coal shovels often have turned steps so the shovel can be used for edging shallow borders. The smallest type of coal shovel is the hand-held type which is used for cleaning fireplaces.

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Discussion Comments

By cardsfan27 — On Mar 26, 2012

I have to say that I have a coal shovel at my house and I find it to be the best shovel, not for digging, but rather for simply moving dirt from a pile into say the back of a truck.

I worked at a place that moved the dirt that was dug out in building the foundation to a house. Although earth movers did the job of moving the dirt, what they could not do was move the dirt off the property and to another location. That is where people with my job came in.

As one would imagine there is a lot of dirt taken out of the ground when building the foundation to a house and the only realistic way to get rid of it and take it off the property is to have individuals move it into the backs of trucks.

As an individual digger I have to say that it was so much easier to simply use a coal shovel, as it allowed the person more dirt to be scooped at a time and loaded in the back of a truck.

Some people liked to use normal shovels, but this led to more tosses, which caused more exhaustion at their job.

By titans62 — On Mar 25, 2012

I have always thought that a coal shovel and a snow shovel were basically the exact same thing. I understand that snow is much lighter than coal rocks, thus the plastic shovels and maybe even the aluminum shovels would not work for this task, but I always thought that coal shovels were simply heavier forms of snow shovels.

I wonder if the similarities between the two are simply because of the simple design that works well for scooping or if there is another reason besides that?

It would be nice to know who really invented the modern form of the coal shovel and if they got the idea from snow shovels or vice versa.

By andee — On Mar 24, 2012

We have a wood burning fireplace and keep a fire going all day long in the winter. Every morning, part of my routine is scooping the ashes out of the fireplace and starting a new fire.

I have a light-weight coal shovel that is right next to the fireplace. I use this shovel to scoop out all the ashes and put them in a coal bucket.

I found out the hard way how important it is to use a bucket that can withstand heat. Many times the ashes are still pretty hot, and I don't want to take any chances.

I usually let the bucket of ashes sit outside for awhile before I get rid of them. Those ashes can stay hot for a lot longer than you realize.

By golf07 — On Mar 23, 2012

@bagley79 - It is really nice to have both kinds of shovels around when you need them. Once when I was trying to dig up some plants for transplanting, all I had was a square point shovel.

Do you know how hard it is to dig up something like that with a flat coal shovel? A neighbor saw what I was trying to do and came over with her round-point shovel for me to use. What a difference that made!

Now I make sure I have one of each in my garage, so I can use the right shovel for the job.

By bagley79 — On Mar 23, 2012

My husband has his own concrete business, so I have a variety of coal shovels in my garage. Usually when I garden, I prefer to use a round-point shovel, but it depends on what I am trying to get done.

A round-point shovel works great for digging up and transplanting plants. A square point coal shovel is great for spreading mulch around my plants. I also like to use it to spread compost and manure on my garden.

With a coal shovel you can pick up a large amount of material and easily transport it and spread it where you need it.

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