Garden Shovel Materials: Pros and Cons of Metal, Wood, and Plastic Handles

Garden shovels are an essential tool for any gardener or landscaper.

They are used for everything from digging holes and trenches to planting bulbs and shrubs.

But with so many different materials available for the handle, it can be hard to decide which one is best.

In this blog post, I will examine the pros and cons of metal, wood, and plastic handles for garden shovels.

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the benefits each material provides and which one is likely to be the best fit for your specific needs.

Let’s dive right in!

Metal Handles

Metal garden shovel handles are one of the most common types you will find in the market today. They are popular because of their strength and durability. Metal handles are available in different materials including steel and aluminum, both of which have unique features.

If you are an individual who prefers sturdy and reliable tools, then metal handles might be the best option for you. They are perfect for digging heavy soils and are less likely to snap or break like their wooden and plastic counterparts.

One of the primary advantages of metal handles is that they can withstand harsh weather conditions making them suitable for use in different seasons. What’s more, they are resistant to rust which minimises the wear and tear of the shovel, giving it a longer life-span.

However, the weight of the metal handle could be a concern for some people. If you are a senior gardener or you have any physical conditions that make it difficult to use heavy tools, then metal handles may not be the best option for you. Additionally, metal handles can be uncomfortable to use in colder months as they could feel very cold to the touch.

In summary, metal handles are the perfect option for individuals looking for durable, long-lasting garden shovels for use throughout the year. They are resilient, resistant to wear and tear and perform exceptionally when digging heavy soils. However, if you are looking for a lighter, more comfortable garden shovel or you are a senior gardener, then you may find that metal handles are not the best option for you.

Wood Handles

Wood garden shovel handles have been used for generations and remain a popular choice for many gardeners today. Wooden handles are typically made from hardwoods such as ash, hickory, or oak, and come in a variety of finishes from natural wood to stained or painted.

One of the major advantages of wood handles is their durability. They can withstand a lot of abuse over time and are less likely to break or crack than plastic handles. Additionally, wood handles are easy to repair if they do become damaged by sanding or filing out small splinters.

Wood handles also offer a level of comfort and ergonomics that is not found in metal handles. The natural feel of wood in a gardener’s hand provides a comfortable grip that is easy to hold onto for extended periods. Plus, wood handles absorb some of the shock and vibration from digging and make it easier to use the shovel for all types of gardening tasks.

However, the main disadvantage of wood handles is their susceptibility to rot and insect damage. With wood being an organic material, it is vulnerable to weathering over time, which can cause the handle to decay and split. To prevent this, it is essential to regularly maintain your wood handle by keeping it dry and varnished. Otherwise, it may become brittle and not be able to hold up under pressure.

Despite their vulnerability to rot and insects, wood handles remain a classic choice for gardeners who appreciate their natural feel and durability. They are often considered the best garden tools for people who value comfort and longevity in their gardening tools over other features.

Plastic Handles

When it comes to choosing a garden shovel handle, plastic is an option that has its pros and cons. One of the main benefits of plastic is that it is lightweight and affordable. If you’re on a tight budget, a plastic handle may be your best option. Additionally, plastic handles are often ergonomically designed, with contoured grips that provide a comfortable grip while you work in the garden.

However, it’s important to note that plastic handles are not as durable as metal or wooden handles. While they can withstand significant wear and tear, they may crack or break over time, especially if left outside in extreme temperatures. As a result, plastic handles may need to be replaced more frequently than other materials.

Another potential downside of plastic handles is that they are not as environmentally friendly as metal or wooden handles. Most plastic is not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. Additionally, manufacturing processes for plastic can release harmful chemicals into the environment.

Overall, if cost and comfort are your top priorities, a plastic handle may be a good choice for your garden shovel. However, if you’re looking for a material that is more durable or environmentally friendly, you may want to consider other options. Keep in mind that regularly maintaining your garden shovel can help prolong the life of the handle, regardless of the material it is made of.

Comfort and Ergonomics

When it comes to comfort and ergonomics, the material of your garden shovel handle can make all the difference. If you’re going to be spending hours on end digging through soil, you want a shovel that is both comfortable and functional.

Metal handles tend to be less comfortable than wood or plastic handles because they are harder and can cause discomfort and blisters after prolonged use. However, metal handles are generally more ergonomic than wood handles because they are lighter and easier to maneuver.

Wood handles, on the other hand, are more comfortable than metal because they are softer and easier to grip. However, wood handles can be heavier and more difficult to manipulate, especially if they become wet.

Plastic handles fall somewhere in between metal and wood handles in terms of comfort and ergonomics. They are softer and easier to grip than metal, but not as comfortable as wood. However, they tend to be lighter than wood handles and easier to use in wet conditions.

Ultimately, the best handle material for you depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you prioritize comfort and don’t mind a heavier handle, wood might be the way to go. If you want something that is light and easy to manipulate, plastic might be your best bet. If you’re willing to sacrifice some comfort for improved ergonomics, metal might be the right choice.

It’s also worth noting that the shape and design of the handle can affect comfort and ergonomics as well. Look for shovels with handles that are designed to be comfortable and ergonomic for your hands, and consider trying a few different shapes and materials before making your final decision.

Durability and Maintenance

The handle material of a garden shovel can significantly affect its durability and maintenance. Metal handles, for example, are durable and can last for years. However, they require maintenance to prevent rust and corrosion. Wood handles are susceptible to wear and tear over time, but they can be easily replaced. Plastic handles are durable but can break easily, which can be inconvenient.

When it comes to maintenance, metal handles require regular cleaning, particularly when they get dirty or wet to prevent rust from forming. Meanwhile, wood handles need to be sanded and oiled occasionally to help prevent them from rotting or splintering. Plastic handles, on the other hand, do not require much maintenance and can be simply wiped down when needed.

It’s important to note that the type of soil, frequency of use, and the intensity of gardening activities can affect the durability and maintenance of garden shovels. For instance, if you use your garden shovel on rocky or hard soil on a regular basis, you might want to consider a metal handle, as it is less likely to break or wear out. In contrast, if you have soft, loamy soil that is easy to dig, a wood handle might be a better option as it is more comfortable to use and can be easily replaced.

Overall, each handle material has its own pros and cons when it comes to durability and maintenance. So, it’s essential to choose the one that fits your gardening needs and preferences.

Environmental Impact

When considering the environmental impact of garden shovels, it’s important to look at each material and its effect on the environment. Metal garden shovels are often made using non-renewable resources, such as iron and aluminum. These materials require a great deal of energy to extract and process, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, wooden garden shovels are often made using sustainably harvested wood, making them a more environmentally friendly choice.

Another factor to consider is the disposal of garden shovels. Metal and plastic garden shovels are not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill. Wooden garden shovels, on the other hand, are biodegradable and can be easily composted at the end of their useful life.

When it comes to plastic garden shovels, the environmental impact largely depends on the type of plastic used. Some plastics are made from non-renewable resources and can take centuries to break down in the environment. Others are made from renewable resources, such as cornstarch, and can be composted at the end of their life.

Overall, when selecting a garden shovel, it’s important to choose a material that is environmentally friendly and can be easily disposed of at the end of its life. Wooden shovels and shovels made from renewable plastics are generally better choices than those made from non-renewable resources. Additionally, choosing a garden shovel that is built to last and doesn’t need to be replaced frequently can help reduce waste and limit the overall environmental impact.


The cost of a garden shovel is often a deciding factor for many gardeners. Metal handles are typically more expensive than wood or plastic handles. However, you’ll get a longer life span from a metal-handled shovel than from a wooden one. In the long run, it may be more cost-effective to spend a bit more on a high-quality metal-handled shovel.

Wooden handles are often the least expensive option. They have their downsides, though—wood handles can dry out quickly and crack, making them less durable. Over time, you may need to replace a wooden-handled shovel multiple times, which can add up in cost.

Plastic-handled shovels often fall in the middle of the cost spectrum. Inexpensive plastic shovels can be flimsy and break easily, but high-quality options can be relatively affordable and durable.

When considering the cost of a garden shovel, it’s essential to think about how much use you’ll get out of it. A high-quality shovel with a metal handle may be more expensive upfront, but it will likely last longer than a cheaper shovel with a wooden or plastic handle.

It’s also important to remember that a more expensive shovel with a metal handle may offer long-term cost savings by reducing the need to purchase replacement shovels over time. Ultimately, the choice of material depends on your budget and how much use you’ll get out of the shovel over the long run.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, choosing the right material for your garden shovel handle is crucial to ensure maximum comfort, durability, and environmental responsibility.

Whether you prefer metal, wood, or plastic, there are pros and cons to each type of handle.

Consider your individual needs and preferences before making your choice.

So, which handle material are you leaning toward?

Let me know by sending me a message.

And if you found value in this post, please do share it on social media with your fellow gardening enthusiasts.

Thank you for reading!

Author: Scott Sanders


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