Many years ago I purchased a home that had a worn out snow shovel standing in the corner of the garage. The shovel blade was nearly worn through and the handle was covered in duct tape. I decided to throw it out and as I held it over the garbage can I figured that I would “finish” the shovel off that coming winter. The blade did break off that next winter so I tossed the shovel into the garbage can as a thought came to me…….Maybe I could cut the blade off and let my young children use the shovel when they were helping Dad clear snow. So I retrieved the shovel from the garbage can, proceeded to cut the blade off and hung it back in the garage.
Over the course of the next couple years when I would head out to clear the snow I would grab the closest shovel to me. Sometimes it was a new shovel and sometimes it was the old worn out one. One day I was clearing the snow on my driveway using the old shovel. I came across some hard packed snow that was made by driving over the snow before it was cleared when I noticed that the shovel was peeling up the hard-pack tire marks at an astounding rate. So much so that I picked up the shovel head to examine it. The shovel had grown teeth. As a professional engineer, I did a quick calculation and realized that the teeth it had developed had essentially increased the impact pressure considerably where the shovel blade hits the packed snow. This shovel became my go-to shovel for the next few seasons.
As the shovel began to wear out I panicked. In fact I hid the shovel in a corner so no one would inadvertently use it instead of the newer shovel. So one Saturday I went looking at multiple hardware stores for the correct shovel head design that I could then cut and preform the blade. My goal was to purchase 5 shovels, cut off and preform the blade then hang them in my garage for use over the next 20 years. I could not find the right shovel head design, it was now obsolete! It did occur to me that the shovel would be marketable if it also had a straight blade for clearing snow from steps and in tight places.
Placing an easy to use straight blade on a shovel that also had the teeth I wanted for hard packed snow went through many sketches and ideas before the swivel head design surfaced. The day I solved the straight blade issue I called my wife and told her, “Hey do you remember that old worn out snow shovel in the garage?” She said, “Yes it’s my favorite shovel.” All this time I thought I was the only one using it! I asked her why it was her favorite shovel and she replied, “I don’t know it just works better.”
I patented the design. We went through several prototype builds plus un-numbered design changes over the course of 3 years until we finally ended up with a shovel all of us should have in our garage.
Shane Swanger, PE.