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Are Metal Shovels Really More Durable Than Plastic?



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The Bottom Line

Ames True Temper Arctic Blast aluminum snow shovels are not durable products. That is, these aluminum products will not tolerate abuse. If you are able to recognize that fact, accept it, and treat the equipment accordingly (i.e., with "kid gloves"), you'll find it a passable product. However, one hopes for more out of a metal unit. Sure, these aluminum snow shovels are light-weight; but I can get that from a plastic unit.

Frankly, during mild winters, I'd rather use the Ames True Temper product I discuss in my review of ergonomic snow shovels: the Avalanche. Hard winters are another story, though (see below).



Pros
  • The Ames True Temper Arctic Blast is light-weight.
  • Advantage of aluminum units over plastic ones: cutting through packed snow.

Cons
  • Even light ice chopping is out of the question with the Ames Arctic Blast.
  • The plastic handles are of questionable durability.

Description
  • Handle is advertised as "oversized" to accommodate a gloved hand, although its size strikes me as fitting the current norm.
  • Steel-core shaft.
  • The blade, advertised as being 18 inches, is actually 17.5 inches wide.
  • The blade's wear strip is made of steel.

Guide Review - Aluminum Snow Shovels

Before I continue with my review of Ames' aluminum snow shovels, some defining of terms is in order.

The basic snow shovel is composed of the following parts:

 
  1. The handle or "grip," often called a "D-grip" because of its shape
  2. The blade, which is the wide part you use to scoop up Old Man Winter's refuse


  1. The shaft, which is the part that connects #1 to #2
  2. The wear strip, an extension of the blade

 

The blade is generally attached to the shaft by means of rivets, mainly. Likewise, the wear strip is held to the blade with rivets.

Note that many use the word "handle" to refer to the shaft, which introduces ambiguity into the discussion. Our hold on the shaft of a snow shovel is, indeed, just as critical to the act of shoveling as our hold on the grip; therefore, the shaft does function as something of a "handle." But to avoid confusion, it's necessary to distinguish between these separate components.

While Ames boasts that the plastic handle on this product is durable, I was aware that other reviewers had challenged the claim before I purchased the product for review. And while I haven't owned my aluminum snow shovel long enough either to corroborate or contradict that challenge, I must note that what I saw at the store (where I bought it) wasn't reassuring. For in the bin at Home Depot where I found the unit, the handle on one of the other aluminum snow shovels was already broken!

To add insult to injury, I noticed another issue with the blades of some of the units in the bin: their rivets were rusty. If these were used aluminum snow shovels, Home Depot had not marked them as such. And perhaps the rust would do no harm, as the product would probably have to be replaced on other grounds long before the rust amounted to anything. Still, I thought the fact worth noting.

Of much greater significance is the fact that you can't chop ice at all with this aluminum unit. I wouldn't expect to be able to chop much ice with them, mind you; but when I say that they're useless for ice, I mean that you will damage the product in just 15 minutes if you use it to break ice in your driveway. I can say that because, in the process of testing my aluminum snow shovel, I did some ice chopping with it, just to see if it would hold up at all. The result: Within 15 minutes, the wear strip started to become disengaged from the blade in the spaces between the rivets.

Invest in an ice chopper as a complementary tool if you plan on using this aluminum model from Ames.

In defense of the Ames True Temper Arctic Blast, though, I will say that it is potentially more useful than plastic products during winters with heavy snowfalls. Just today, after a big snowstorm, my wife tried backing out of the driveway without shoveling. The car skidded into a snowbank and "bottomed out." I couldn't remove the packed snow under the car with my plastic unit, but my aluminum snow shovel sliced right through it.




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