You can never have enough snow shovels.
You need a variety of shovels to handle the different kinds of snow that winter brings. And, of course, you need plenty of them so that when the big blizzard attacks, you can quickly restore order to the sidewalk.
I have three snow shovels. If I laid them end-to-end, the shovels would cover about half of the length of the sidewalk that sits in the front of our row house.
To the untrained eye, it may seem odd to have so many shovels for such a small amount of sidewalk.
But the snow shovel selection business is complicated. Besides the front sidewalk, another factor to be considered is the back yard. It, too, has a path that has to be cleared of snow. And if you have two shovels and two shovelers, the front and the back sidewalks can be cleared simultaneously. This is known in the trade as a double shovel.
Moreover, there is the weight of snow to factor in. A true craftsman doesn't just walk outside and start throwing snow. First he evaluates the snow, checking it for depth, moisture content and weight. Then, much as a golfer selects the proper golf club, the snow shoveler selects the proper tool.
If it is a fluffy snow, he may choose one of those all-aluminum numbers. This type of shovel has a lightweight handle and flat blade. A related lightweight shovel has a plastic blade and a wooden handle.
Both can toss feathery snow great distances, sometimes even onto a neighbor's property.
But if it is a heavy snow, the artful shoveler fights bulk with bulk. He chooses a shovel with a heavy wooden handle and a strong, metal, "C"-shaped blade. Rather than lifting and tossing a dense snow, this shovel allows him to push it off the sidewalk.
Some snows require using the multiple-shovel approach. For instance, if you get a heavy, deep snow like the 7 inches of wet stuff we had in Baltimore recently, then you gotta break out all your tools.
First, using your lightweight shovel, you cut the snow down to size. You do this by removing the snow in 3- to 4-inch layers. A thicker layer either slips off the blade, or buckles the shovel.
Then, after the lightweight shovel has taken off the top layers of snow, you use the heavy metal shovel to scrape off the remaining layer of snow. Finally, if you are a real pro, you finish up with the broom. Good broom work can transform a sidewalk into a shining path.
A variation of the multiple shovel approach is to attack the snow with multiple shoveling sessions. You clear the sidewalk twice. Once when it is still snowing, and then again when the snowfall has stopped.
In addition to keeping the snowfall in manageable, shovel-size portions, this shoveling technique guards against the occurrence pedestrian-packed snow or PPS. This PPS condition, dreaded by even the most stout-hearted shovelers, occurs when the pedestrians tromp on the sidewalk before it has been cleared of snow. The foot traffic compresses the snow making it heavier, and in extreme situations turns it into ice.
XTC Once ice is on your sidewalks, it is time for the chipper.
The chipper is a kind of shovel that cracks sheets of ice. Aluminum and plastic shovels are terrible chippers. Nowadays the best kind of chipper is a garden spade, a shovel that has an almost flat, rectangular blade.
But the snow shovel I long for is the shovel of my youth. It was a steel shovel, with the wooden handle.
It did it all. It scooped, it pushed, and it was an awesome chipper.
PD The great glaciers on the sidewalk, whose Ice Age relatives once
flattened mountains, were reduced to mere slush by this shovel.
Yes, it was heavy. Yes, the blade could cut through your rubber boots. And, yes, the corners of the blade sometimes turned up. But after the corners were trimmed, the steel shovel was ready to get down, all the way down in one stroke, to the bare sidewalk.
And, as all shovelers know, a sidewalk cleared of snow is like a newly mowed lawn, or a freshly painted front porch. One of your basic artistic wonders.