Metal Shims: Understanding the Properties of Different Metals

There are countless different products and applications that require metal fabrication. One widely used part is metal shims. They can be made to various specifications, and when having custom manufacturing shims, one choice you’ll need to make is the material.
Understanding the properties of different metals will help with your choice. These are some of the common materials used for fabricating metal shims.


Aluminum is well known for having an excellent strength to weight ratio. This makes it a good choice when weight is a factor and you want to keep it to a minimum. Aluminum is highly formable, so it's easy to manufacture shims from it. It's also corrosion-resistant, which may be useful if your shims are going to be exposed to moisture.


Copper is very ductile, which makes it easy to form into different shaped shims. It's most common in electrical applications due to its high conductivity. Like aluminum, it's corrosion-resistant, making it good for outdoor use.


Bronze is another highly formable material, so it works well for custom shims. It's a copper alloy, so it shares its corrosion resistance. Additionally, it has good fatigue resistance.


Brass has a few properties that make it ideal for shims: it's corrosion-resistant, highly formable, and non-magnetic. These make it a common choice for electrical conductivity and technical applications.


Steel is one of the most widely used metals on the planet, with various types available. At The Shim Shack, we can offer shims in four different types of steel.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is highly versatile. It's strong, hard, and corrosion-resistant. The corrosion resistance comes from the addition of chromium. Stainless steel shim stock sheets can create some of the most durable shims on the market.

Spring Steel (1095)

All steel contains carbon in varying amounts. This is high-carbon steel, which makes it one of the strongest and hardest types of steel available. It is ideal for precision applications with tight tolerances.

Hot-Rolled Steel

When steel is hot-rolled, it becomes easier to form. It requires less processing, which generally makes it a cheap option. Hot rolled steel is ideal for applications where strength is key, but not the best when tight tolerances are important. The surface finish of hot-rolled steel is also generally quite bad, but this usually isn't a factor for shims.

Cold-Rolled Steel

Cold-rolled steel is similar to hot-rolled steel but is taken through further processing. This gives it a better surface finish and more precise tolerances. The surface is typically smooth, and often oily. It's ideal for applications where tolerances are important, or when the surface finish is a factor. It's more expensive, so if these characteristics aren't important, hot-rolled steel may be a better choice.

Choosing Materials for Metal Shims

When deciding what material to go with for your metal shims, think about your needs. Factors such as strength, formability, and accuracy will all help you determine the best material. At The Shim Shack, we can laser-cut parts such as shims and washers to meet your exact specifications. If you have any questions about what we offer, click here to contact us today.

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