Although we've been using them for thousands of years, the shovel has never garnered much respect, and it's the person using the shovel who has had to pay for it in injuries. But Stephen Walden of Bosse Tools is hoping to change that, with a literal twist on the design of the common shovel that he hopes will revolutionize the science of shoveling.
The science of shoveling? That's a real thing, albeit one that's been mostly forgotten about since the industrial era. Back before the invention of steam shovels, all excavation was done with millions of one-size-fits-all shovels: You just put shovels in the hands of as many people as possible and told them to get digging. All of these shovels were the same, because it was considered wasteful to give a laborer—who was considered little more than a brute—a different shovel for clearing dirt than he would use for coal or gravel. As little care as had been given to the shovel's design, it was still considered more valuable than the man holding it. But in the late 19th century, famed mechanical engineer, Frederick Winslow Taylor, who figured out that by designing different shovels specific to different tasks, construction companies could actually save money through efficiency. Brute work didn't need to just be brute work: There was a science to it that could be applied to a shovel's design.
The science of shoveling is one that hasn't advanced very much since Taylor's time. But Stephen Walden of Bosse Tools is hoping to bring it back with a new shovel design that features a rotating handle and a center footstep, leading to more efficiency and less injury. "Hundreds of thousands of Americans are injured from using traditional tools, like shovels, every year," Walden tells Co.Design. "It shouldn't be normal to wake up sore every day after using your tools."
The solution, as Walden saw it, was better ergonomics. "When you use a regular shovel, you tend to pronate your wrists, so if you're right-handed, your right hand would pronate out with your palm down and your left hand would pronate in with your palm up. Additionally, traditional shovels force your shoulders out of alignment, putting strain on your back that could be eliminated if your shoulders stayed aligned."
For inspiration on how to solve the problem, Walden looked at other tools with perpendicular handles, such as hedge trimmers and weed whackers, and realized that if he could figure out the same approach for digging, he could create a better, ergonomic shovel.
He started with the handle. Every Bosse Tools shovel has a rotating center handle, which allows diggers to customize their hand position for any job or task. "Imagine shoveling snow out of a driveway or filling a wheelbarrow with dirt," says Walden. "By angling the handle towards the place where you will pitch the snow or dirt, you can do your job in one single motion—dig, scoop, and pitch—all in one."
In addition, Walden realized that the foot stomp on the common shovel was an ergonomic problem. "Current shovels force your foot to one side of the tool, but our center footstep allows you to apply force through the center of the tool. You can dig right through the center of the shovel head."
The science of shoveling might be forgotten, but if Walden and Bosse Tools have their way, it might be about to have a resurgence. You can pre-order an ergonomic shovel from Bosse Tools today by supporting their Kickstarter campaign.