I remember when I first started out metal detecting, and all I had to dig up the dirt when I hit a tone was an old plastic gardening trowel. It was terrible, but I was determined. I did my best to pry through some small roots and around some small rocks, but there is only so much you can do without a proper digging tool. I have since upgraded to a true—well made—hand shovel, and if you plan on making metal detecting your hobby, so should you.
Two Recommended Digging Tools That are Essential to Metal Detecting
Heavy Duty Shovel with a serrated blade for roots – Lesche Ground Shark T-Handle Shovel
A shovel, and not just your standard spade head shovel from the hardware store, is definitely a necessity for metal detecting. Whether it’s to dig up deeply buried objects, or to cut through large stubborn roots, I always wind up using one of these on almost every outing. For me, a heavy-duty shovel with a serrated blade can be just as important as the metal detector itself in the process of reaching tough to get treasures.
The metal detecting shovel that I use is the Lesche Ground Shark T-Handle Shovel, (Link to Kellyco for prices and reviews) and let me tell you it is a beast of a digging tool. It’s a 36-inch long T-shaped shovel with full-metal construction. And not cheap metal either, in fact Lesche uses aircraft quality material to make this shovel as durable as possible, which I love. The blade of the shovel is very sharp all around, but of course, it also has one serrated side to help tear through the larger roots I occasionally come across.
Heavy duty hand shovel – Lesche Standard Digging Tool and Sod Cutter
A larger shovel is great for digging up a lot of dirt or for leveraging roots to the breaking point, but a hand shovel is great for digging up objects and not damaging them. I’ve had it happen to me in the past where I get overconfident and use my regular shovel to completely dig up an object and when I finally get it uncovered it has a huge scratch, or dent, or even cut from the blade of my digging tool. That’s why I have since learned to always use a hand shovel when I’m near the object, and importantly always use caution when I’m digging.
The hand shovel that I use when I’m metal detecting, which like my regular shovel is also made by Lesche, is the Lesche Standard Digging RS and Sod Cutter (link to Kellyco to get one). As the name suggests, along with being an amazing digging tool, this hand shovel also helps when I’m cutting through the top layer of some deeply rooted grasses. The shovel looks a lot like a blade, and even comes with its own belt holder. But most importantly, at least in my mind, it is definitely heavy duty and dependable enough to bring on any and every metal detecting outing.
Why Digging is a Core Skill When Metal Detecting
As I just explained, I’ve had my fair share of accidents when it comes to damaging an object while trying to dig it up. In my experience this is one of the worst feelings, especially if the object is in pretty good shape otherwise. Being careful while you’re digging is the most important aspect to being ‘good’ at digging up an object. But, of course, it’s not the only aspect to digging well.
The best reason that I have heard to why being good at digging is actually an important skill when metal detecting is that it doesn’t matter how good your metal detector is if you can’t get the object out of the ground. And it’s true, you could get a thousand hits but if you can’t find the target then it might as well not even be there.
Moreover, if it takes you forever to find a target, or if you wind up damaging the object or even your tools, then the whole thing can become more stress than it is fun. I think a lot of first timers can get discouraged, simply because it doesn’t feel good to not be good at what you’re doing. Having good digging skill is definitely a core skill to metal detecting for this reason.
The Importance of a Great Shovel While Metal Detecting
One of my favorite things about having a good quality shovel is how quickly you can dig a search hole. A shovel which was designed with a geometry that fits its purpose is, of course, going to be better than one which was designed for general use labor. This is what a good heavy-duty metal detecting shovel is. It’s easier to do a job when you’ve got the right tools.
Another consideration which is important to make is what the material of the handle is. As I mentioned I prefer an all metal construction, and that is for the singular reason that it’s a lot more difficult to snap the thing if it’s made of aircraft grade aluminum rather than even the strongest piece of Hickory. Moreover, if the blade of the shovel is made of a hard metal then it will keep an edge better, and for longer, then a thin piece of cheap steel.
Another benefit to a specialized design is that it’s a lot easier to prevent yourself from damaging the object before you’ve even got it out of the ground. A metal detecting shovel will be smaller and have less curvature than a regular shovel. This makes it much easier to make a small hole with tight angles rather than a cone shaped divot in the ground.
As an added benefit, this superior design also means that you can fill your metal detecting plug quicker. This is partly because the shovel will help you move the dirt back in, but also because you were able to dig a smaller more precise hole in the first place, again, because of the special geometry of the head of the shovel.
On top of having a special design, the head of a good metal detecting shovel will have at least one edge which is serrated. This is because a thick root can be almost impossible to get through with out the ability to tear through it.
Is the Weight of Your Metal Detecting Shovel Important?
In a sense… yes… but also not really. Anything at or under 3lbs is pretty much a good weight that won’t bother you too much. But, I’ve had a couple of bad experiences where I brought a regular spade shovel or even a particularly heavy metal detecting shovel, and believe me your arms will get tired. So, like I said, I think it’s best to stick to the lighter 3lb or less variant. Here is a char of the weights of some of the most popular metal detecting shovels…
|Lesche T-Handle Heavy Duty||3 pounds||31 inches|
|Whites Ground Hawg||2.85 pounds||36 inches|
|Anaconda NX-5 Long Handle||3.85 pounds||31 inches|
Other Things to Consider with Your Metal Detecting Shovel
Length of Handle: Comfort and Leverage
The longer the handle, the more leverage you’ll be able to take advantage of when prying through roots or even just some particularly tough ground. However, I have had some handles snap, so it is important to consider the material of the handle when you’re also looking at the length of the handle.
The End Grip on the Handle: T, Straight and Ball:
Again, a T-handle can give you some extra grip to take advantage of as much leverage as possible. To a lesser extent this is also true of a ball handled metal detecting shovel. However, ultimately this is a personal preference that you need to think about before making your purchase.
As I mentioned, the durability of your metal detecting shovel will determine what kind of stress you can put it under. This isn’t just about material, however, the quality of the connection points between the head of your shovel, or between the handle and the body of your shovel, can also determine how much you can do with it.
Sharp and Serrated:
Most people, including myself at one point, never think about the head of a shovel ad a blade. But, the head of a shovel is basically cutting through the ground, and anything else that might be in it. A sharp shovel head, with at least one serrated edge, it an invaluable tool on any metal detecting outing.
Size of the Blade:
What I used to think was that… the bigger the head of the shovel the better, this is because I had thought that the primary objective was being able to remove as much dirt as possible in each dig. However, most metal detector shovel will actually have a smaller head on account of what is actually needed. A smaller head it better for digging strategically so that you can get to the object as quickly as possible.
A Great Hand Shovel or Sod Cutter is Essential for Metal Detecting
While a great metal detector shovel is essential, a quality hand shovel or sod cutter can often be even more useful. Many of the holes I dig are small and don’t absolutely require a full-size shovel, moreover, when I’m using my hand shovel I can usually avoid damaging an object more easily. And, because my hand shovel doubles as a sod cutter I can usually not make much damage to the area where I’m digging when I’m done filling in my metal detecting plug.
Furthermore, if your hand shovel has a serrated edge then you can cut through tough roots without having to switch to your metal detecting shovel. I find this especially helpful when I have a situation where the root which is in an awkward place, this is because it can be uncomfortable to try and use a larger shovel to cut a root in a small hole.
I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.
- My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
- I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
- When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
- Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.
Features That Make a Hand Shovel Useful Metal Detecting
Strength – Metal Handle
The strength of a hand shovel, I find, definitely makes a difference when I’m metal detecting. While a plastic shovel has its uses, mostly that of being a cheap tool you can use or lend to others, a metal hand shovel wont bend or break under pressure. Moreover, a plastic shovel probably won’t have a particularly sharp blade like a metal one most likely will.
Serrated Edge – Cuts Roots
As I mentioned, a serrated edge on a hand shovel is very useful in small spaces. If you have a big root in a small hole then you either have to dig a bigger hole, or if you have a hand shovel with a serrated edge you can just cut it with ease.
Comfort of Handle and of the Grip – Using it for Hours
My least favorite part about using a plastic shovel is that their grips usually are hard and uncomfortable to use for a long period of time. That is why I think a good, soft but firm, handle and grip is incredibly important to a hand shovel. This is especially true, because when your using it for metal detecting you’re going to be using it a lot (and usually for a long time).
Length and the Shape of Blade – Sharp Tip
The hand shovel that I use for metal detecting isn’t really shaped like what you would think a shovel looks like. In fact, it looks a lot like a shovel-knife combination. This is because I often use it to cut through sod and don’t really need it to do any of the heavy lifting when it comes to digging up soil.
A longer blade helps with this a great deal, and also helps make up for its strange shape by having a greater surface area to move soil. I’ve used my hand shovel countless times in this exact fashion. I’ve also used shorter hand shovel with more standard shapes and found them to be not nearly as useful.
Other Metal Detecting Digging Tools
Sand Scoops for Beach Metal Detecting
The Sand Scoop I use is the CKG Sand Scoop Dune (link to Kellyco great prices) Essentially, it’s a small bucket with perforations which let the small grains of sand out and the object I’m looking remain inside. This saves me a ton of time whenever I go to the beach. Whenever I use it I almost always find the coin (or more commonly the pop-tab) which my metal detector was signaling was in the sand.
Without a sand scoop, it can be especially difficult to metal detect in the sand because as you are digging the hole, the sand will back-fill the space immediately. But, as I said with a sand scoop this process is made much easier because it is okay if the sand flows back into the hole because I don’t need to get rid of it all to find what I’m looking for. I just need to find the general area where the object is located.
Great Gloves for Metal Detecting
A good pair of gloves can both keep your hand safe, and also, they will keep your hand clean. There is a ton of broken glass in the sand on the beach, especially if your digging more than a foot down. With a god pair of gloves, you most likely won’t cut yourself by accident. Moreover, if there is a sharp piece of metal in the ground you’ll be less likely to get hurt trying to pull in from the soil.
The first pair of gloves that I used for metal detecting were perfect in every way, except they had metal rivets. I hadn’t realized this when I bought them, but it’s way better to have gloves which are simply stitched together. This is because the metal rivets in your gloves can set of the metal detector when you’re on the ground trying to pin-point its location.
Metal Detecting Pick
The metal detecting pick which I use is the Lesche Feather Weight Mini Pick (yes I do have an affinity for Lesche products).
A metal detecting pick is like a pick-axe, but a hand-held version. This means that you can, and I do, use it to move soil, rocks, and anything else that could be in the way. A pick is similar to a shovel, but I find is better at dislodging rocks which are stuck to the walls of the hole or in the worst-case scenario at the bottom of the hole.
Brass Brush for Cleaning Finds
A brass brush is a great tool for gingerly uncovering an object or just to clean off something. This is a bit of a more niche tool which only people who have gotten really serious about metal detecting will buy, but there is a reason for that. The pros know how use one of these can be.
I once had a coin that was covered in oxidation, and which I almost threw away thinking it was to damage to be worth anything. But, when I cleaned it with my brass brush almost all of the oxidation went away and left me with a pretty cool find. I find it always helps to make sure an object is trash or treasure before throwing it away.
Check Out These Spots for your Next Metal Detecting Trip
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.