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The search for the perfect snow shovel

Published December 12. 2009 09:00AM

I love winter, but like most I hate shoveling snow.

I remember when I was a child and a teen there was one kind of snow shovel we had at my house. They were wooden handled with steel scoops. The handles were straight and the edge was sharp. We used that shovel no matter what kind of weather we had. Even when I was older that was the shovel I used until one day the edge was bent and could no longer be sharpened.

I know the snow didn't change. It's still the way it was for eons before I was born. But shovels have changed. Now we have plastic shovels, shovels with bent handles to "help backs", shovels with normal scoops, shovels with flat scoops and shovels with narrow scoops. Each one is useful for something different and none seem to work the same way for different kinds of snow.

Right now, I have three different type shovels in my garage and each one was bought after a different storm. I have one that is supposed to be space age plastic and strong as steel. That comment makes me chuckle simply because it is the second shovel I own that is made of a plastic as "strong as steel". Where is the first one? I'm glad you asked. The first one met an untimely end when I accidentally hit a hidden chunk of ice under a fresh powder two years ago and bent the supposedly strong plastic handle like a soda straw. When I tried to unbend it, SNAP! It definitely made me think twice about being an astronaut.

Last year I bought a shovel with a half moon scoop. From the side it looks like a letter "C" on a stick. I figured this would work just fine. It's a snow pusher. I imagined myself pushing snow off the sidewalk like the plow does. SWEEP! One shot down the sidewalk and the snow shoots off my handheld plow like butter leaving behind the wet pavement. Right!

The first snowfall we had was wet and heavy and thanks to my wonderful pipe dream I was stuck with a shovel that was good for creating big ice balls on the sidewalk and not even touching the cement. Why? It didn't touch the cement because I could not put enough downward force on the handle due to the angle of the scoop to make it stay in contact with the cement. After that revelation and several hours of work, I had partially cleared pavements with a thin layer of ice that stubbornly refused to budge from its place on the cement. Of course I couldn't break the ice either like you would with a normal shovel because the shovel designer in his or her infinite wisdom didn't put a sharp edge on the tool. So it was useless and required another trip to Walmart.

This time I found a shovel with the bent handle that was supposed to be good for your back since you supposedly do not have to bend over as far as you do with a traditional shovel. It solved the "inability to push wet snow off the sidewalk problem", but it had other drawbacks. First, it was also plastic as well as its handle. Second, it deflects any force you try to administer with the shovel blade on ice off of the scoop so it is useless as well for cleaning ice off of surfaces. Finally, the handle that is good for the back is bad for heavy payloads. At least mine seemed to be that way. The first ice storm we had after the new purchase gave me the opportunity to put the shovel to the test.

It worked well initially, but I made it to the front street after the snowplow did it's accursed run of snow out of the gutter onto the sidewalk. Streets should come with large manholes twenty feet deep at the end so when it snows, the plow can push the snow forward and down into the large cistern beneath such manholes instead of pushing all the snow and ice up on our sidewalks. It's bad enough shoveling the snow nature puts there, let alone the white junk added by the plow.

It was some of this street junk that did my second shovel in and sent it to its maker. There were two large ice chunks on my sidewalk laying on each other compliments of the plow. I slid my bent handle scoop between the two to pry them apart. I pushed and pushed and one started to budge and then this shovel's handle cracked. For a moment I debated the strength of duct tape to repair the problem. I went to get some but it was not strong enough to hold the shovel together. I guess it never made it to space either.

After that experience I finally found a shovel like my old one. It still had the "space age" handle but the scoop was exactly like the one I had when I was younger complete with a sharp edge. I was in heaven. I got to use it once and it cut through the snow like butter. Perfect. Unfortunately last year didn't give us that much to shovel, but this year, shoveling with that shovel will be much better. Of course I still have the scoop for the powdered ones, but this last shovel will be my new general purpose all-around tool at least until it breaks also, probably next week.

Til next time

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