Whether getting ready for the Spring planting season at home or on the jobsite, sooner or later, you need a shovel. Gone are the days where you’re subjected to that old wood handle model that threatens to break off with every root it touches. We now have options like the newest Stanley FatMax Shovel with better features and greater durability.
Before we dig too deep into this product, let’s set the record straight. The Stanley FatMax Shovel is not produced by our friends and Stanley Black & Decker who make the tape measures and other tools we see around the jobsite. This and several lines of garden tools are made by Bond Manufacturing who license the Stanley name among others. Licensing a name doesn’t ensure the same quality – but it doesn’t mean it’s not there, either.
So which is it this time?
That’s exactly what I intend to find out.
The Head of the Table
A shovel has just one job – dig. If it can’t perform that function well, it should be thrown away. The business end of the Stanley FatMax Shovel is made from carbon steel, so it should hold up over the long run. I’ve only been using it a few weeks, so making a call on how long it will last is out of the question. However, it’s holding up well for what I ask it to do so far.
It’s also got a serrated edge on the side to help break through tough ground. It’s not designed as a root cutter, though. Here in Central Florida, we have a lot of sugar sand. It’s so soft that we rarely need this feature. However, we bring in clay on our jobsites and that does take some breaking through once in a while. So far, so good – the FatMax has made getting through the clay easier.
There’s also a large step – they call it the Xtreme Step – to give your foot plenty of surface area to drive the head through soil. At its narrowest point near the outside edge, you have 2 inches of width. It tapers to 3 inches near the center. This is much more comfortable than the old style that gave you maybe a 1/2-inch of surface to push down on. Not that we’re saying you should, but you could use this shovel barefoot or in flip flops if you really wanted to. That said, please lower the risks of injury and wear closed-toed shoes when working in your garden or on the jobsite.
Get a Handle on the Situation
The handle takes advantage of a fiberglass construction. This absorbs shock and won’t rot or splinter like wood will. That’s not the end of the story, though. The handle enters an extended shaft to the head, moving the pressure point of lateral force further up the handle. In other words, it’s a lot harder to break the handle.
Since we’re talking about the connection to of the head to the handle, the head isn’t one piece like most shovels. You have the head welded to the extended metal shaft on the face of the head and where it comes through the step. Then you’ll find the handle set into the shaft. It’s not immediately obvious how the handle secures to the shaft, but there are a couple of protruding points under the overmold that tell us it’s pinned or bolted in place in two locations.
The top half of the shaft has an overmold that I’m thankful for when I need to reach down to lift the soil up. You’ve got a solid 8 inches of gripping surface there.
Moving up to the top of the shaft, you’ll find an extended TPR overmold to create what Bond calls the ControlGrip. This surface features a contour that tapers up to a large end to keep your hand from slipping off, much like a baseball bat. There are 14 inches of gripping surface here that will ensure most users will find a comfortable spot for their hands regardless of height.
The Bottom Line
Overall, this Stanley FatMax Shovel is one of the most comfortable and effective shovels I use. The combination of its head and handle design allow it to break through tough soil without breaking the skin of your hands to get it done.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. The durability that I’m praising it for comes at a cost of higher weight compared to many other shovels on the market. And let’s keep things in perspective. This is a hand tool that requires you to put in most of the work. It just so happens that the features come with the benefit of making that work easier than it has been in the past.
Stanley FatMax Shovel Key Features
- Ideal for digging through hard-packed soil, transplanting and cutting sod
- Carbon steel head will hold up against demanding jobs
- TPR grip on the handle for comfort
- Serrated edge allows users to penetrate soil effortlessly
Standley FatMax Shovel Specifications
- Model: BDS7134T
- Length: 60-7/8″
- Handle Material: Fiberglass
- Head Material: Carbon Steel
- Weight: 6.4 pounds
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Price: $39.99 (MSRP), $29.99 at Tractor Supply Co.