For over 31 hours spent in research and testing, we think that the best trench shovel as of today is the Seymour S702 48-Inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel. The shovel joins a rather valuable feature of semi-rounded and semi-pointed blade nose that is good for breaking and shoveling lots of soil and rocks, which also makes work a little faster and easier and a durable fiberglass handle that can carry heavy soil and rocks while giving comfort to the user.
During a beautiful weather with your new found hobby, you’ve decided to run irrigation for your vegetable patch.
You start looking for a tool and found the family’s trusted old shovel. You think you're good to start?
No. You end up with a mess of super wide trench that is too big for your thin pipe.
Now you go online and look for “that” shovel.
Finally, you found that “that” shovel is called the trench shovel.
Finding its name is not the end of it. You need to comb through several of them to get the best for the job that you want.
So for gardeners, homemakers, DIY enthusiasts and even the pros, we’ve sifted through the market through hours of research.
We’ve round-up five of the best from the industry and put them into a test for you to determine their unique features, advantages, performance and which rises from the rest.
The Best Trench Shovels in Year 2018
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How Do Trench Shovels Work?
Did you know that shovels, including trench shovels, are among the most potent weapon a soldier can have during the first world war?
Maze trenches can be found around during the war to fill with gas, water or even be used as a pathway for the soldiers.
And how did the soldier dig these trenches?
Yes, with trench shovels.
Today, trench shovels are still used for digging trenches. But, it is for a more peaceful purpose.
With their narrow shoulder and pointed blade, these are commonly used for creating trench where pipes or cables are laid out. It can also be a tool used to dig out plants with deep roots.
The narrow blade creates the thin trench creating just the right width for plumbing. Meanwhile, the squared or cupped-edges prevents soil from collapsing creating a wall. Its pointed edges, on the other hand, helps with easy digging.
See this short clip on how trench shovel works.
Buying guide - home & work
Homeowners or even professionals can benefit from hand trench shovels. Although electric or machine-powered trench shovels are available, hand trench shovels are more lightweight and suited to thin trenches. You can also have greater control because it is manually powered.
However, trench shovels can be limited to the thin and small digging activities. If you are doing large trenches, this might not be the right tool for you.
1. Blade Design
The blade of the shovel pertains to the front part of the shovel that digs into the soil. Trench shovel blades are usually narrower than the usual or regular shovel. Their ends however differ.
You can have the pointed edge that allows you to dig easier as it pierces through the soil. There is also the rounded point that is good for scooping but in smaller amounts. Meanwhile, the tapered-mouth is good for spooning vast quantities of soil.
The regular or common trenching blade has small square-shoulders that allow to dig deeper and flattens the trench bottom. Another variant of trench shovel blades includes clean out shovel has a more prominent squared-shoulder that is used to dig out from the very bottom of the trench and secures the soil side walls.
2. Shaft Length
Shaft length can immensely affect your experience with the tool. A shorter length may cause you to bend lower to reach the deepness that you desire. Longer shafts can also be hard to control if you are a little shorter.
Aside from the relativity of your height and that of the shovel’s shaft, the length can also help with the depth of the trench you will be creating. Thus, choosing the right shaft length is as important as considering the blade design.
In our research, the most common sizes are 47 inches and 48 inches shaft, which is about 3 to 4 feet.
3. Shaft Material
While blades are made from steel, the shovel shaft can be wood or fiberglass.
Wood has been the oldest material used to build trench shovels. It comes from strong wood types like that of ash and cherry. Wood has excellent durability. This material type, however, is susceptible to breaking and splitting from the exposure to different elements.
Other shaft handles are made from fiberglass. Compared to wood, it can be more durable and with less maintenance. However, fiberglass has elements that may be harmful to those who have asthma. So, a coating is needed.
How Did We Assessed & Evaluated These Products
We took it to Google to begin or research process. It is to help us determine what look such as the kinds of trench shovels, their uses. Varieties of trench shovels are not very numerous. However, we want to fully understand how this tool work to ensure we are well-informed in selecting our shovels.
From the online research, we then developed our initial buying criteria to make our search more efficient.
After online research and armed with our criteria, we contacted and reached out to vendors from brick and mortar stores.
We want to expand further and supplement our online research. We asked the vendors their recommendations and what are most bought from their trench shovels.
Some stores have several kinds of trench shovels like the ordinary trenching shovel and the clean out types. While other only have the regular common ones.
We have about nine (9) shovels on our list. We cut them down to our top five (5) through the information we had from our research and through recommendations from the seller.
As to the hands-on testing. We spent two whole days to check the performance the shovels. We tried them on different soil and dug in varying depth. Our testers then ranked them through scoring their performance as to height, strength, effectivity, and comfort among others.
Our Top Picks
1. Seymour S702 48-Inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel (Editor’s Choice)
First on the list is the Seymour S702 48-Inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel.
What is immediately noticeable with this trench tool is its semi-rounded and semi-pointed blade. That is, the blade’s edge is not too pointed like that of the Nupla TS-V3-E, but is quite rounded.
The hybrid edge of the shovel was suitable for soft and even for the hard soil. It helps with breaking the soil surface, especially with those hard soil. Since the edge is a little rounded, you can scoop a good amount of dirt out from the trench line.
Also, our tested have noted that the shovel is strong enough use it to dig and remove the scattered stones and rocks in the soil.
As to the handle, the Seymour S702 is packed with 48 inches fiberglass handle. Like the other products with 48 inches handle, the testers are not too fatigued from bowing down and shoveling soil. The handle is long enough to help with the digging process in relation to the tester’s height.
Their fiberglass material likewise did not show breakage or weakness. It can support heavy fist-sized rocks. It also helps that there is cushioned grip that is just with the right circumference to prevent hand burnout.
However, we cannot attest to its fiberglass durability over time considering that we have limited testing hours.
The tester found that the rolled step feature is not very apparent, which was supposed to be one of the product’s highlight. Hence, during the testing cannot perform clean out as much as those with prominent rolled steps.
What We Liked
What We Didn't Like
2. Corona SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel, 4-Inch (First Runner-up)
Coming from a brand that has been making garden tools since the 20’s, Corona SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel, 4-Inch is our 2nd product on review.
This trench shovel offers a 4 inches V-Blade with its signature 35-degree angle. The V point shape of the blade makes the edging or cracking the soil when you begin the digging activity. It also helps that it is broad enough to be pushed with the feet when having to dig through tough dirt or when arm force is limited.
Our testers love the 35-degree angle of the trench shovel. This feature is useful when you want to reach the bottom and lay the shovel flat. It is advantageous when you want not only to dig, but also create a clean ground for the trench.
Another unique feature of this shovel is the V-angle of the blade. The blade is not flat like the others as it is slightly bent upwards. It holds the soil when spooning it and helps in scraping the soil walls to also flatten it out.
Going to its handles, the shaft is made from ash wood material. It did not disappoint, as the testers said. We tried it on with both cig stones and a large pile of soil, and it holds up. The wood did not break nor separated from the socket.
At 48 inches, the wooden handle allows that user to dig deeper while minimizing the need to bend down to reach the depth that you want. Hence, less back pains and arm fatigue when using it.
What We Liked
What We Didn't Like
The Nupla TS-V3-E Ergo Power Trenching Shovel, 3" V-Type Blade, Ergo Grip, 14 Gauge, 48" Long Handle features a V-shaped blade in three inches.
It performs well on the soft soil, where you can easily dig the soil without the use of significant force.
The challenge here is in scooping out of the soil. It proves to be more challenging to spoon the soil as you dig through it, in contrast to the concave-shaped blades.
Its blade is fairly accurate in creating a stable soil wall. So you have less worries in neighboring soil falling off.
Now, digging through three (3) feet of hard soil, the V-Blade can still do the trick. It was easier to thrust into the soil since the pointed edge causes the ground to break immediately.
One thing that our testers loved about the product is its long handle at 48 inches. Our testers’ height is about 5.10 feet to 6 feet, and managing the 48 inches handle was reasonably easy. They don’t have to bend too much to be able to dig up to 3 feet trench.
A distinctive feature of the product is its Nuplaglas handle, which is an established fiberglass brand in the tool industry for 60 years. It truly feels durable, and throughout the whole testing, it didn’t show any breakage.
The issue that the testers found was the tightness of the socket connecting the blade and the handle. As we test it in hard soil, we can see that it wasn’t compact or fitted well. So there is very light swaying.
What We Liked
What We Didn't Like
The Truper 33107 Tru Pro California Trenching Shovel with 3-Inch Blade and Ash-Wood Handle is another V-Blade shovel with a wood shaft.
It is similar to the Ames Razor Back as to the edge and the handle (also with 47 inches shaft). The most apparent difference between the two is that the Truper 33107 Tru Pro California is heavier than the Ames Razor Back.
The ash wood handle, among the most common and heavy-duty shaft, the material is quite strong. We dug through 3 feet deep trench both on the soft and hard soil. The wooden shaft can give good support and control when you are working even hard ground and on soil with big rocks underneath.
A slight problem that our testers have experienced during the testing is that the blade is weak for heavy liftings like large amounts of soil and rocks. The blade shows instability slightly bends when used with a bulky load.
Compared to the Ames Razor Back, the rear end of the shovel where connects to the socket is too small when you need to push with your foot. It may be because the blade is at 3 inches compared to Ames’ 4 inches.
However, Truper 33107 Tru Pro California Trenching Shovel has a distinct blade design from all these shovels on review. Aside from the V-Blade, its sides are relatively bent, which is effective for clean out. It can help in flattening the trench bottom for easy layout of cables or pipes.
Of course, the V-Blade is efficient in cracking down molded and dry soil into pieces. So it will be smoother when you scoop it out.
What We Liked
What We Didn't Like
This trench shovel is the lightest in the batch, will it affect performance?
Our testers said that the one pound weight of the tool makes it easier to lug around and do light and shallow diggings. The problem arises when the testers encounter heavy rocks, where shoveling several of them will cause the shovel to wobble from its socket. It can also be experienced with digging in hard soil.
Although, the V-Blade helps a lot when dealing with the hard soil because it can break them into smaller pieces for easier digging. The testers find it time-consuming with big projects. One tester said that it the Ames Razor-Back may be sufficient for home use.
The blade is a heavy gauge, and the steel blade looks sturdy. You cannot dent it easily when used with care. It could also have worked well when managing rocks and heavy soil if not for the slight wobbling.
This trench shovel is the first wood handle that we have tested. Our testers have preconceived idea that wood might be not stronger than fiberglass.
There is one tester that initially finds the wood not durable because the shovel feels lighter, but then changed his impression upon testing. He observed that it’s a wrong impression. This shovel proves wrong because even with vigorous digging the wood can hold up on hard soil with a few rocks here and there.
At first, the testers also can see the difference of the handle height at 47 inches. But, when using it, there is not much disparity regarding in-depth digging. Hence, for 5.10 feet to 6 feet height, a 47-inch handle can still work.
What We Liked
What We Didn't Like
Editor's Pick: Seymour S702 48-Inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel
Seymour S702 48-Inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel stands as our top pick. This trench shovel grabbed the coveted spot with the combination of a distinct blade and a sturdy fiberglass handle.
Not only does the semi-rounded, semi-pointed blade nose able to smash those chunks of solid soil, it can also scoop out a decent amount of soil.
The shovel is packed with a good length for deep digging and prevents slips and hand stress with the cushioned grip. Its fiberglass material proves to be tough when used with heavy soil and rocks.
1st Runner Up: Corona SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel, 4-Inch
Coming at close second to Seymour is the Corona SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel, 4-Inch at First Batch.
This trench shovel also has a unique blade with its V-Blade nose, V-angled body and a 35 degree bent angle from the socket. All these angling provides users with edging capability, bottom flattening feature and solidifying side soil walls with just a single shovel.
What is cost it from getting the top spot is that it cannot scoop as many soils as the Seymour. It is an important consideration as we want a tool that is efficient as it is effective.
2nd Runner Up: Nupla TS-V3-E Ergo Power Trenching Shovel, 3" V-Type Blade, Ergo Grip, 14 Gauge, 48" Long Handle
Our Second Runner-Up is the Nupla TS-V3-E Ergo Power Trenching Shovel, 3" V-Type Blade, Ergo Grip, 14 Gauge, 48" Long Handle.
It has a V-Blade nose for breaking-up dirt and a branded Nuplaglas shaft. The pointed nose is capable of making the digging less difficult, while the fiberglass shaft is among the best and most reliable in the industry.
It has fallen next to Second Runner-Up because the blade has less spooning capacity and its sockets are a little loose.