Wear Edge for a Plastic Snow Shovel




Introduction: Wear Edge for a Plastic Snow Shovel

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...
Our plastic snow shovel works well, but I wanted a steel wear edge to handle snow "glued" to the concrete after freezing rain and to prolong the life of the shovel. We are somewhat "snowed in" right now, so I wanted to use materials in my shop. I chose to use some steel from an old bedframe because it is so hard and will wear very well.

In the photo the wear edge is not finished, but only ready for fitting.

  • Angle iron from a bed frame
  • 1/4 inch bolts and nuts
  • Angle head grinder, cutting and grinding wheels
  • Measuring and marking tools
  • Vise-Grip pliers
  • Keyhole saw with a fine blade
  • File
  • Flux core wire feed welder and 230 volt stick welder
  • Wrenches

Step 1: Make Flats From Angle Iron

I had angle iron from a bed frame. I needed flat stock. I put angle iron in a vise and used a cutting wheel to make two flats from one angle iron piece.

Step 2: Mark and Cut the Shovel Edge to Make It Straight

I cut one of the flats to length to fit the leading edge of the shovel. I used a pair of Vise-Grip pliers to hold that flat in place so I could mark a straight line across the ragged front edge of the shovel. 

Then I cut on the marking line with a fine saw. (Second photo. The saw is from a previous Instructable I did. In this Instructable I showed how I fitted a blade from a common reciprocating construction saw.) Use a file as necessary to make the fit between the edge of the flat and the front of the shovel fairly close.

Step 3: Cut and Weld Shorter Mounting Pieces

The second flat from the angle iron became raw material for mounting pieces 4 1/2 inches long. I wanted them long enough to spread out the stress from use of the shovel in hopes that will keep the plastic from cracking around the mounting holes in the future. I marked and ground away the paint where the mounting pieces were to be welded so the welds would be better. I fitted and clamped one mounting piece. Then I welded it on another bench away from the plastic shovel. I let the weld cool so the heat would not melt or damage the plastic shovel. Then I fitted and clamped the next mounting piece, welded it on another bench, and let it cool. I did this until all four mounting pieces were welded in place. (See the photo in the Introduction. The center two mounting pieces needed to be a little thinner on one end to fit between the ribs in the plastic shovel. I sliced off a corner on each with the cutting wheel.) 

Step 4: Making Holes in Bed Frame Steel

The steel used in bed frames is very hard. Making holes in it with a twist drill is very, very slow. Some suggest using a carbide tip drill and plenty of cutting oil. That did not help me.

I decided to make holes by plug welding with a high amperage setting on a 230 volt stick welder using a 1/8 inch welding rod. (See the second photo.) 120 amps would be a reasonable setting for normal welding with a 1/8 inch rod. I set my welder to about 175 amps. (See the left amperage scale for the "High" range readings. The wheel kit on this welder is from a previous Instructable I did.)

Plug welding involves using the tap method rather than the scratch method to strike an arc where you want the hole to be. A little practice is necessary, but the idea is to push through the molten metal in the weld puddle to make a hole, and do so without sticking the rod. This results in a hole the diameter of the welding rod. I wanted to attach my wear strip with 1/4 inch bolts, so I used plug welding to poke around the edge of the original hole and enlarge it. I used a grinding wheel to remove any rounded ridges from the molten metal. (Plug welding is handy if you need to mount an electrical outlet box on a steel beam. Strike an arc and push through the box so a molten pool forms in the surface of the beam. Then back the arc out so the hardened metal overlaps the outer surface of the outlet box's surface.)

Step 5: Drill Mounting Holes in the Plastic

Position the wear strip on the plastic shovel. Drill a 1/4 inch mounting hole. See the next step.

Step 6: Make Strain Relief Washers

I used some flat stock from the angle iron to make strain relief washers for the backside of the plastic shovel. Each is about 2 1/2 inches long. 

Because the plug weld method of making holes is not completely precise the holes in the mounting pieces for the two left bolts and washers shown here were a little too far forward and I had to position the strain relief washers horizontally instead of vertically as I would have preferred. 

Go back to the previous step and drill a hole for another bolt. Add a strain relief washer and bolt. Secure the nut. Repeat this process until four bolts and four strain relief washers have secured the four mounting pieces.

My bolts are too short for a lockwasher or a locking nut. The plastic compresses a tiny amount. If the nuts loosen, I will tack weld the nuts onto the screw threads to lock them in place.

Step 7: Use

Fortunately, the concrete on our driveway is not very cold. The chunky ice/snow mix breaks off without much difficulty. Still, if the leading edge of my snow shovel were plastic, it would not be equal to the task. But, my new steel wear strip is strong enough to break the crusted ice-snow away from the concrete. Previously, I would have needed to break the ice-snow away from the concrete with a very narrow square shovel for turning soil in a garden. And, my snow shovel will last a very long time.



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    19 Discussions

    Hi Phil. Making holes with a welding rod seems to add unwanted slugs to the steel surface. Why not using a carbon electrode for making holes?

    1 reply

    nice, I red through it once as I have been thinking of reedging my plastic shovels!

    Did you grind the edge of the shovel like a chisel? If you didn't that would be helpful.

    nice, heavy, but nice!

    4 replies

    Thank you. I did not grind the edge to make a "V" edge. I figured use over time will add a sharp edge. Without a sharpened edge the shovel still works very well. If there is a problem, I am getting more scraping from the bolt heads and the front edges of a couple of square washers than I expected. But, that, too, will wear into place over time. I need to be careful not to let the handle dip too low.

    I think if you use large pan head type bolts and mount them with the heads down to the pavment, and use crown nuts with lock nuts up top , it would be nicer. (easier. less mechanical scraping on the pavement). But that is just a guess.

    nice repair work regardless.

    If you are thinking of carriage bolts, they will require a square hole. Just getting the bolts back as far as possible from the edge reduces how much they might scrape on the pavement in use. Yes, the shovel is a little heavier. A narrower wear strip means less steel and less weight.

    Nope, pan heads versus button heads . Pan heads are a flater profile head on a screw shaft. Many times they are used in say electrical panels to hold the cover/door on the panel. It allows for more metal over the faccia of the box kinda like having a built in washer. Here in the states the screw in a 1900 box(4 inch steel square electrical box) are generally button heads. Light fixtures (strip lighting) are also many times secured closed with pan heads. I hope you are doing better then me cause I am freezing my butt off today and I am in NYC area. bbrrrr

    Hi, Phil. I wasn't questioning your word about the hardness of the steel. I am truly interested in knowing what type of bed frames they were. I could use a cheap source of really hard steel, if I can find them. That kind of stuff is really handy to have. I apologize if I came off like a troll.

    4 replies

    Our local Goodwill sells bed-frames really cheap! They get so many turned in, because it seems every time someone buys a new mattress set, it comes w/ a new frame ... so what to do w/ the old one?! I went there one day to do just that ... turn in my old one ... and there was a huge pile lying back in the corner, like a bed-frame graveyard, or something. Check out your local Goodwill, boatingman! :)

    I went to a Goodwill outlet today. They had four bed frames. The signs overhead said bed frames may be marked with a price. If not, pricing is per pound. I could not find a price on any of the bed frames, so I expect they go for about $ 1.39 per pound. I picked one up and guessed at the weight. If my guess was the least bit close, I would rather buy new steel, or watch the curbs on garbage day. (Before anyone accuses me of stealing, I would ask the home owner if I may have a bed frame set out on garbage day.)

    Thank you for the hint about Goodwill as a source for bed frames. (I looked at your web page. We have two daughters and two grandchildren in Knoxville. We go there several times a year.)

    Thank you. Forgive me if I sounded reactive.

    I think I have had three bed frames, all since about 2010. Two of them were found in neighborhood dumpsters. One was given to me by someone who had no further use for it, and it had been given to her earlier by her grandparents. I do not know anything about who made the bed frames. The first one was used in this Instructable without any drilling, only cutting with an abrasive wheel on an angle head grinder. I really cannot say how hard the steel in that bed frame was. When I made this project (linked earlier) I discovered bed frame steel can be quite hard and slow to drill. I even stopped and sharpened my drill. My sister-in-law saw the garden tool rack and I had to make another for her, but I fashioned a work-around to avoid drilling holes. The steel for the shovel wear strip project came from leftovers after making the second garden tool rack. It was some of this same steel I used in a drilling test with a carbide tipped masonry bit and oil.

    Bed frame steel is not required for this project. We were pretty much snowed in. I had been thinking about a steel wear strip for a while, and decided to do it so removing the ice crusted snow would be easier. That meant I needed to make do with what I had on hand. Any part in this project that needs to be drilled could be made from mild steel bar stock. But I did not have any and made do with the bed frame steel.

    I used some bed frame angle iron in rebuilding a utility trailer. I used some for side rails, and for a ramp to load my motorcycle. I found them to actually be fairly easy to drill through with just my cheap twist drill bits.

    I have also found in working with old bed frames, the steel was very hard and could not be cut with a hacksaw blade or easily drilled. It may be that as with everything else, they make things with cheaper material these days and the steel in newer beds is not as strong.

    1 reply

    I'll confirm that every bed frame I've ever come across was harder than mild steel. I always cut with a grinder, and drill with a lot of pressure and lubricant to save burning out the drill bit.

    1 reply

    Thank you for confirming my experience. I realize not everyone will have a 230 volt stick welder for making a hole by plug welding. But, I wanted to present it as a way to make a hole in hard materials.

    What kind of bed frame are you talking about? I've drilled hundreds of holes in all kinds of bed frames with no problem. All that I've ever seen are made from mild steel. The makers don't want a high carbon steel as it is more brittle and could snap under the stress put on beds.

    1 reply

    It was given to me as a cast-off. I had to drill a series of holes in bed frame steel for this Instructable and it took all day. I "googled" drilling in bed frame steel and found a number of people puzzling over how to do it. They were experiencing very hard steel in their bed frame stock. One of them suggested the carbide tip drill and oil. Good for you if you have softer material easier to drill. That has not been my experience at all.