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Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

We, a group of 3 civil engineering students, are assessing a range of square-headed shovels on the market, with a view to designing a new product that incorporates modifications suggested by users of currently available brands. It would be really helpful to us if any readers of this post who have experience in using a square-headed shovel (or, indeed any other kind of shovel) would be generous enough to tell us about the experience. We are interested in, for example, opinions about the weight of the implement, its dimensions, materials, the shape and comfort of the handle, the shape and length of the shaft, whether it was suitable for use by left-handed people or by smaller people. If you could design your perfect shovel, in what ways would it be different from the one you have used? We'd be really happy to hear from you.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

You would learn a lot about a shovel if you would simply use one.

It is a rudimentary instrument that serves its purpose well and has limitations that are well known. Its performance depends largely on the capabilities of the user...both in brain and brawn.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Strike that...."instrument" is is a tool.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Thank you Ron for your helpful comment that we would learn a lot about the shovel if we 'simply' used one. We have indeed all 'simply' used a shovel, thank you. And we all have brawn as well as brain. The question is: have YOU used a shovel? And if so, would you be agreeable to telling us about the best shovel you ever used and the worst as well, and what was the difference between them. In your opinion, is heavier better than light, is long better than short, is a polypropylene handle better than a steel one?

We are sorry to hear that you object to our use of the word 'implement'. Thanks for correcting us by informing us that the shovel is a 'tool'. Your response has therefore been doubly useful to us.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Lose the sarcasm. I was sincere in my comment. Read further toward the bottom of the posting box and you will see that student posting is not allowed. I am deviating from the forum rules in replying to your post for two specific reasons....

First, you identified yourself as a student...honesty is good
Second, you have a legitimate study, although it has likely been done by every producer of shovels you can imagine.

Leibe....I was correcting my own use of the word "instrument" not your word "implement". Your term was more correct than my initial offering!

As for using a shovel, I have done so many times and still do. I'll give you the benefit of my observations; however anecdotal they might be:

Wooden handled shovels are still the norm because of cost and consumer acceptance. They can be gripped easily without significant gripping force and have some ergonomic features that are useful, such as a slightly larger diameter near the top for "pulling" the shovel. Some shovels actually have hand-grips for pulling...mostly on shorter shovel handles. Wooden handles are non-conductive in case you cut into an electrical line.

Fiberglass handles are lighter in weight but seem a little "unbalanced" when compared to the wooden handles. They are heavier on the blade end. They also vibrate more when the shovel blade hits refusal on things like roots or buried debris. They are also non-conductive.

Steel handles are useful for durability in certain applications (foundries, smelters, etc.). Outside that, they can be dangerous because they are conductive. The same is true of aluminum.

Steel is the better material for the blade, since aluminum is not as durable and would have to be thicker or a specific alloy to achieve the same level of durability. Aluminum is commonly used for blades on snow shovels because the blade can be quite large without being overly heavy.

You might want to research why the flaring on the sides of the blade usually is done at a specific angle and what difference the height/length of the flare makes. Look as different specialty shovels....there are many. Look at why some shovel blades are serrated and most are smooth.

Good luck with your study.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel


Nice going. However, this being an engineering forum, I doubt that many engineers have spent a lot of time using hand tools out there, or elsewhere. There are a few fortunate guys that grew up using a lot of hand tools to then be able to apply that experience here. Perhaps a mining engineer site might be better, but construction laborer forums, if available, would be the best place to ask I think. You and I, Ron, I think are the exception. As a grad student I dug test pits for density tests and asked the laborers on the job if I could leave my shovel there a few days. They replied "Fine, don't worry about anybody stealing it here", implying that it was of little value. Even there I had trouble with the union, since they wanted to dig the pits. I had to make some excuse about accuracy being affected.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

OG...I had almost the same experience with a union! I was doing field density tests on a site with a drive sleeve, so required smoothing with shovel then excavating the drive sleeve. I used exactly the same excuse you did! Have also dug many test pits. I'm an oddity...a structural engineer with a lot of geotech experience.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Ron: Well it got sort of sticky. It was a part time density testing job while a student and had nothing to do with my research project and it was some 100 miles from Ithaca. However, with that union rule about labor work, I finally gave up and, instead came back on Sundays, dug my pits and did the FDT tests without interference. It was a Vibroflotation compaction job for a large oil tank. As to shovels, well my main gripe with them was braking handles when I was stuck in the mud with my Model A Ford as an undergrad. Could not afford tire chains then. Now there is a good project for students. How to attach tire chains for a vehicle buried up to or over the axle. I've had that experience many times later in life.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Before you can design the perfect shovel, you have to define what its use will be. There are many square headed shovels out there for many different uses and although they are similar, they all have minor differences that make them more applicable for certain tasks. I have been using shovels all my life, still do and have about four different square headed shovels that I use on a regular basis, mostly in my private life. What do you want this shovel to do?

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

I work in a very rural area, so there are definitely times when an extra hand is needed on a construction site. But I've largely avoided using shovels while working as an engineer by telling my clients that my billable rate doubles for any hard labor.

Unfortunately, this ploy does not work at home...

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

I will happily shovel all day if they pay me my hourly engineering rate. Good pay and a good workout, what's not to like? I wouldn't even have to spend non-billable time going to the gym.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East -

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

I agree with beej67 about the good workout when you shovel. I would rather spend my time shoveling outdoors for a work out than spending time working out in a smelly gym. A square headed shovel(not a spade) is good when you shovel coal and gravel.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

My experience. If I don't use gloves I may get blisters. If I shovel say when I started my vegetable garden I sweat. Some people would see these as negatives. I would not mind shoveling all day long for half of my billing rate.

You could always add a clock.

B+W Engineering and Design
Los Angeles Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

As a New England Yankee, I have to say that square-edged shovels are only useful for loosely stock-pile materials and shoveling manure out of an animal's pen.

For real digging in undisturbed New England soil, the ONLY answer is a pointed, round bottom shovel. "D" handle is a must for better control.

I do agree that I'd happily work outside in the Spring & Fall with a shovel (at my pace) for half of my usual billing rate. In the Summer though, an A/C'd office is best.

Structures Consulting
Northeast USA

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Square or as I call this end arrangement, flat nosed shovel is very good for scraping stuff off pavements and for mixing concrete or mortar in a 'mud box'. The sflat end makes it easier to get into the corners. or allows more contact edge. But maybe you guys should buy a round nose and a flat nose shovel and use them for a couple hours. Job experience is as valuable as classroom time.

Richard A. Cornelius, P.E.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

When I worked on "The Gang", the guy with seniority got to pick the first shovel and always chose the one with the sharpest edge. Everybody else picked before me and I got the dull one. IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE. Make a shovel with a well hardened blade.

Weight, too, is everything - shovel trenches all day long in the Folsom California sun and you will be cursing every ounce of that shovel!

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Shovels are used for a lot of things, not always dirt. Ask a stable hand.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

And Ron:

You shouldn't have been nice to a student who cannot read the directions. machinegun

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Mike...looks like they dropped out rather quickly! Assuming my son is a common example of a college student, they have little experience with a shovel....round or square point. But son is smarter than I am.

RE: Design modifications for a square-headed construction shovel

Mine too.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

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