Snow Shovel Fever!
November 16, 2008
[BUMP from 2/08] I'm a student of shovels.
Whenever I do hours of work with something I end up studying the tools involved.
It takes on the fever aspect when the work is of the maximum output type. This means seasonal yardwork.
Yardwork takes work even if it's motorized. Motors are heavy and involve sweaty, strainful pushing, pulling, lifting, hauling, noise, danger, maintenance, and expense.
For me, snow shoveling is a big deal because our driveway is big and dirt, and because I also take care of an apartment building parking lot. My goal is to have energy left over after snow-removal to do a little skiing!
My snowblower is the smallest Honda. I can pick it up and put it in the van. It's a dead-lift every time---with only a SLIGHT lean outward as I hoist---probably just enough to blow out the ol' back oneathesedays.
Darn, that snowblower is hard work. And it's not even very quick. I notice that handwork is often faster than motorwork, and sometimes it's even easier. I keep my eye out for such times! I'm thinking that my snow situation might qualify---if I can just figure it out.
And after coming up empty at all the local shops, I think I found the solution online! But first some more background...
A snowblower is great for a heavy dump of 10", say. And people with really big areas to clear need a big solution. But most of our local snowfalls are 2-4". And I don't have THAT big of an area to clear. I note that even folks with big lots often have small missions to cover, too. So shovels have their place!
I have several shovels already for light duty. But I'm now considering shovels again for the Full Acreage, although it would be for non-maximum snow-dumps.
One of our local hardware stores (Okemos) has a large variety of shovels. But they didn't have what I needed. So I started googling. That's when I discovered what just might be the answer for me: a wheeled plow. Below is the story. I'll also provide links and info below to some other shovel options beyond what you are likely to find locally. If you use em---tell em OYB sent ya! If you go to Amazon, please use the link here out from OYB---it gives OYB a much-needed kickback at no cost to you. Thanks!
There's quite a bit of feedback online about snow-shovel quality and performance. People know this stuff matters! But here's my take, based on years of doing a LOT of shoveling.
I like LIGHT WEIGHT. And for that plastic is fine.
I rarely lift snow. That's extra work. So I prefer pusher shovels---but on a dirt/gravel driveway they tend to dig in, "stub" and stop. Argh! So if there are obstacles in your shoveling, use a heavier curled shovel. I also really watch the handle angle---lower it to avoid stubs.
Here's my method for clearing one car-width lane of snow up to 6-8" deep and 150 feet long using a pusher shovel. (If you have more depth x acreage, that's when I always *used to* say a snowblower is justified.) I stand in the middle of the lane and reach as far as is comfy to one side then clear snow away in an arc to the other side. I rock from one foot to the other and extend my shove as far as is comfy to the other side. My reach lets me take in a whole lane with each sweep. It's a pretty narrow lane, though. I get a rhythm going and change directions occasionally.
An important note: Stretch out before shoveling and start easy. Take pauses before you feel tired, especially early in the season. My method involves twisting at the waist. But I don't lift or bob. I keep my torso stable so it doesn't seem to bother my back. But be careful! Treat your arms like they're cables. Hold em straight to avoid fatigue. No need to get hot, either. Strip off layers as you warm up. The winter outdoors is pleasant when you're working!
Of course you should be in good shape before winter. But shoveling builds fitness, too. It helps make XC skiing a breeze! And you'll be ready for springtime fun---the cycle goes 'round and 'round! Canoeing, hoeing and push-mowing are just around the corner!
I finally discovered online that there are some true plow-type snow shovels available. I could tell that's what I needed, but my local stores didn't have them. I didn't even know they existed. I tried imitating a plow with my wide 36" Garant---but it's dumb and strainful to work with a shovel held at an angle. So I googled around...and presto!...I found what I think is the answer! I haven't tried one yet, but I'm going to!
The simple plow shovel has a fixed-angle plow on a stick. There are 2 main models, the common Ames 24" and the 24-inch "EZ Plow", which seems to have a better design --- http://www.ezplow.com. But I see no online reviews at all. Hmm... This breed requires you to work opposing sides of your drive in an ever-widening loop---you can't just turn around and push back the other way or you'll throw snow where you cleared! This limitation and others brings up the shovel that I'm most excited about: the big, wide deluxe wheeled plow!
Here's the big discovery: I just ordered the Yeoman Polar Tuff Flipover Plow with small wheels (from the embedded Amazon link here). There are several brands of wheeled plow out there, but only one or two seem good, so be careful. Wheeled plows cost $75-$100. You push the plow via a strong hoop-handle, then at the end of your run you flip the device over and the plow changes angle. One version, the Snowpusher Plus (snowpusherplus.com) is metal and you don't flip it---you change blade angle with a lever, I think. (It looks to be produced by a one-man shop. It seems decent.) For serious clearing of a lot of pavement I want the widest blade width. That seems to be 38". I'm hoping that the plow shape will also avoid infuriating "toe-stub" stops when I hit uneven pavement, by sliding over them due to the angle. I think there's a chance I'll be able to clear my parking lot faster and easier with this plow than with a snowblower!
UPDATE 12/08: Here's my report... My plastic plow is good for up to 4" of fluffy snow over a dry, flat surface. It digs into and "snubs up" on any unevenly packed snow beneath. The hoop handle is too short for me (I'm 6 feet tall). It would likely be suitable for people up to 5'10". It bogs on heavy snow, but if I hold it at an angle it'll still move a lot of it. I do use it occasionally and for a few specific purposes, but I'm thinking of trying that metal plow now. I'll look into it some more. I need these features: stronger; lengthenable handle; change angle; change "bite height." (Maybe I can rig up a couple "bite" angle limiting straps to let it just move the surface snow.)
I note that there are two poor-quality wheel-plows to avoid, according to Amazon reviews: the Snowdozer by Vertex, and the 24" Flip Snow Shovel with a T-handle --- both are infamous for breaking.
The Dakota Snoblade looks to be the same thing as what I ordered. They seem like an indie operation and I'd prefer to buy from them, but they don't answer email---a bad sign.
I discovered some other nifty shovels in my quest.
The Wovel is a wheeled shovel---a great idea for those who need a scoop instead of a plow. It makes it easy to both push then lift snow. http://www.wovel.com. I see that a DIY weld-your-own version of the Wovel popped up on ebay awhile ago---it used bike parts (see pic below). Cool!
Then there's the double-handled shovel. They add a second handle to the shovel, down by the blade-end of the shaft, and connect it with a pivot. (You could make one yourself!) This lets you somehow both push and lift snow without bending, and it lets both arms work equally. http://www.sno-easy.com/
I haven't used a (common) bent-shaft yet. To me they seem heavier and INDIRECT. But I did find a bolt-on extra handle online for $15 that can convert any straight-handled tool into one with a more ergo-posture---the Backsaver grip at: http://www.backsavergrip.com.
In the deep-snow of the UP they use the Yooper Scooper. I haven't used one of these, either, and don't get the concept entirely, as I never want to scoop snow, per se, just move it. I'm sure that it fits some kind of heavy-snow situation just right, or it wouldn't be so famous.
There's room in every quiver for the right snow shovel or shovels.
After considering some of the more hard-to-find options out there, you might find that shovels can do even more than you thought! We'll see how that flipover plow works!
The Snow Push Plus! --an indy inventor's offering
Nifty new Wheel-Plow unit! --The Yeoman Polar Tuff Flipover Plow!
The Sno-Easy double-handle tong-type shovel.
The EZ Plow's dialed-in shape...
The Plow Cycle! (was seen on ebay)
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