It moves dirt, it's a shovel, what do you really need to know to figure out how to choose the right shovel? Ah, gentle reader, there is science and art that goes with this selection. If you want to get a shovel that you can toil in the dirt with for years to come, read on:

  1. Shovel construction - open-backed shovels are usually the cheapest and least durable (these are the ones with the hollow depression on the back side).
  2. Metal thickness - yes, there are grades of thickness that will measure the "gauge" of the steel used to produce your shovel. 14 is the strongest, 18 is not worth owning.
  3. Open-back vs Closed-back/solid-socket - the hollow back shovel (open-backed) collects dirt in areas that if not cleaned properly will eventually corrode the metal. The best and strongest shovels have heads made of a single forged and tempered piece of steel.
  4. Tread - this is the slender, flattened area on the back edge of the blade. A forward-turned shovel tread is best but many good shovels have a rolled tread.