Meet The Material: Shims

Article Posted By: Jae Warren

of The Home Depot

Image of shims and wood glue

Image via The Orchard Oriole

Shim is a Kentish word of unknown origin first used to describe the piece of iron attached to a plow for parting soil. Shims as we know them, in one form or another, have probably been around as long as man has been making and building things that needed to be shimmed up.

Somewhere along the way we moved from shimming cracks and gaps and Macgyvering shaky situations with these small slips of wood to a whole new level of DIY intrigue. We’ve found some fascinating ways people have used shims to create fun crafts.

What is a shim?  Shims are thin, tapered pieces of wood created from leftover cuts of timber. Shims can also be made from stone, metal or even paper — depending on the application. They are used primarily to fill small gaps or spaces between objects or to align or level things in general.

What are some of the cool properties of shims?  Since the shim is essentially a wedge, it’s also a type of simple machine, like the screw, lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane and screw.

How are shims used? If you’ve ever installed doors and windows you know that it is nearly impossible to get them plumb and level without the use of shims. They’re also great for fixing creaky floors and stairs or stabilizing wobbly appliances, tables and bookcases, too.

What can you use shims for?  DIY wall décor, crafty planters, wreaths and difficult balancing acts are but a small sliver of the ideas you could possibly use shims for. Follow along and you might see some things you’d like to try.

Image of a window box planter made with wood shims

Image via Centsational Girl

A once plain little Home Depot window box planter was given a one-of-a-kind wood shim makeover by one of our favorite DIY bloggers, Centsational Girl. You can follow her quick step-by-step instructions for her wood shim window box planter on her blog, and plant the seeds for your own unique creation.

Image of a headboard made with wood shims

Image via House 2 Home

An unimaginably beautiful DIY headboard made with ordinary wooden shims can elevate the decor of your bedroom to new heights. Check out the wood shim headboard above we spotted on House 2 Home. “[T]he look is a weird combination of modern … and warm and woodsy … you could really go any direction with something like this,” writes House 2 Home. Indeed.

As their popularity continues to rise, starburst wreaths and mirrors seem to be popping up everywhere. Few that we’ve seen, however, have been quite as ingenious as these shining examples made with shims we spotted on Tattered & Inked and The Home Depot Fall Style Guide.

Image of a sukkah made with wood shims

Image via Sukkah City

The sukkah is a hut erected for one week each fall to commemorate the shelters Israelites lived in during their exodus from Egypt. During the holiday of Sukkot it is customary for some Jewish families to dine, entertain, and sleep in sukkahs.

For the Sukkah City international design competition participants were challenge to re-imagine the ancient sukkah for a contemporary urban site. In the simple shim, the design team Tinder Tinker found the perfect material to express the ideas of transience and permanence in architecture that are symbolic of the sukkah tradition.

Bonus Fact! Computer programmers make handy use of shims, too. When the API (application program interface) for software applications change, programmers will often write a shim to maintain backward compatibility, allowing the different versions to communicate effectively.

Meet the Material is a series designed to introduce you to some of the everyday goods sold at The Home Depot. Is there a material you’d like to know more about? Just let us know in the comments!