Broken Shovel

I broke the handle on my primary shovel the other day. I wasn’t even working the thing very hard. When it snapped, the handle wasn’t bent much, and it broke cleanly and suddenly away from the blade. I looked at the point of break and noticed bit of dry rot!

Please learn from my mistakes

Oh, what I would give to have the hardened steel and fiberglass shovel I had back in the U.S. If such a shovel can be purchased in New Zealand, I’d buy two of them, almost regardless of price. I might actually look into getting this Nupla shovel imported. It looks like el ultimo.

Having a tool as basic as this break is a serious, “Oh shit!” moment. It’s unthinkable, really. Until it happens. I have a backup shovel, but it’s a similar design, just made out of slightly better materials. It is not sufficient. Please, don’t wait to get your tools.

General Hint on Shovels: If the nose of the shovel is pinned to the handle, just forget it. I’ve broken two shovels, one in the U.S. and one here in New Zealand. Both had blades that were pinned to wooden handles. I’m ready to say “forget it” to wood handled shovels as well. Whatever shovel you buy, choose it like your life is on the line. Then buy two or three of them. The same goes for wheelbarrows.

Related: Nupla Tools

8 Responses to “Broken Shovel”

  1. Doug Mitchell says:

    I’ve had three of those “oh shit” moments over the last four years of thrashing about here in the Eifel. Two were fair quality, discounter-priced spades purchased by the father-in-law. One was broom handle improperly installed by the handicapped (but highly motivated) uncle-in-law also living here. Didn’t fix it before “just using it for a quick job” — and the rest is firewood history.

    The spades were replaced with a monster of a thing made here in Germany, hardened-steel blade bolt-clamped to a hardwood club of a stock. Still, I can see breaking it on certain jobs, especially the pulling up sections of old stone patio originally part of the house that were simply buried after the war.

    Still, I’ve seen well-worn Nupla gear in the hands of firefighting, and they love their stuff. Rigid and light.

    But then I wonder, what IF on of them was to crap out, say twenty or thirty years from now. Considering my general worldview, which is not dissimilar to yours, I have to consider what I’d be doing about a replacement. This is an extruded (actually “pultruted”, a process Nupla patented) plastic handle.

    In the absence of an on-hand spare, I sense a long pruned branch from the european ash (Fraxinus excelsior) drying in the stable for several months — before being transformed into a sturdy hand-carved stock. After all, what would you have done before early WWII aviation development put the American plastics industry into overdrive…

  2. rich says:

    Bummer…but it’ll happen again, and again. I’ve purchased a couple of stout, fiberglass handled shovels that I treat kindly, and scoured auctions for junk shovels that I can beat up. If you find a landscape company auction, jump on it…I got 5 workable shovels for $3 US.

    A good ash coppice for replacement handles is a pretty good idea, too….


  3. John says:

    Check out this Fibreglass Long Handle Gardeners Shovel from the GarrardGroup in Auckland…

  4. Kevin says:


    I doubt it would be easy to fix the Area-51 technology in that Nupla shovel handle. HA. My total ignorance of basic woodworking skills is quite humbling.

    And thanks for the suggestions, Rich and John.

  5. Nathan says:

    Why don’t you find a tree branch that is about the same diameter as the shovel handle, but a little larger, whittle it down to a perfect fit, and pin it into the old shovel blade? That’s what you’ll be doing in 20 or thirty years any way.

  6. Kevin says:


    We don’t have any trees on our property that have wood remotely hard enough to make tool handles.

    Besides, trying to get things up and running seemed like a better way to spend time than learning how to build tools. Maybe it’s the other way around… Probably, it’s both simultaneously. Use a modern tool to get work done now, learn how to make tools from scratch in the evenings.

    >>>That’s what you’ll be doing in 20 or thirty years any way.

    I wish I was as sure about what I’ll be doing 20 or 30 years from now. HA

    Can you tell me what I’ll be doing next week, or a month from now? I’d be much more interested in knowing that information.

  7. Doug Mitchell says:

    A week from now? That’s an easy one: weeding.

    A month from now? Harvesting berries like a madman.

    Twenty or thirty years from now? If pre-destination holds any water, probably fashioning a new handle for an old shovel…

    Woodworking skills are actually quite “organic” in the pantheon of things worth knowing, just above root skills like swinging a scythe and the like. If you’re one of those folks who really enjoys working with their hands — like yours truly — you’ll find it even a little sensuous as you become familiar with basic tools and finishing work.

    I’m hardly an expert. I came by the skills early in life and largely let them languish until recently. The artisan that’s always lived in my head can’t wait to take on some of the interior details in our new guest rooms when the time comes.

    For the time being, it’s literally “tons” of structural work, like today’s last bit of mortar work capping one half of a repaired outer wall. This afternoon, in just a few moments actually, the scaffolding comes down for the holidays. I’ll probably wait until March/April to put it back up, when the days have grown longer again and the weather wears a milder demeanor.

  8. […] I’ve written about shovels before, but I thought it would be worth noting that this quest if finally over for me. […]