Last month Calculated Industries announced its new “pry bar” and leveling tool, the AirShim. This little inflatable bag is designed to support up to 300 lbs. and span gaps from 3/32” to 2 ½”. A hand pump fills the bag while a push-button valve deflates it, allowing the user to regulate the bag’s thickness as needed.
It’s called a shim, but it functions more like a prybar. Unlike prybars, however, this handy tool doesn’t leave a mark on the material because it’s made of a proprietary synthetic material that stays slightly pliable as it’s inflated. One of the nicest features about the AirShim is that it fits snuggly into a tool pouch and doesn’t add any noticeable weight. When working on top of a ladder, this is a particularly useful. I used the AirShim recently to set several large casement windows on a remodeling project. In this application I found the inflatable bag to be impressively accurate and easy to use.
When setting windows I always start with ¼-in. shims beneath the sill to leave room for low-expanding spray foam, and then I add shims as needed to level the window. Leveling larger windows this way can be fussy because the weight of the window makes it challenging to micro-adjust and often requires a prybar to relieve the weight as I add the shims.
With the AirShim I simply set the window and had a helper inside place the shim under the low side of the sill. As one of us read the level, the other stood inside and inflated or deflated the bag as needed. Inflating in small increments was easy to control with a squeeze of the hand. I expected the bag to kick the window out of plane with the wall as it was inflated, but the bag stayed flat and true so this never happened. Deflating the bag incrementally was easy as well as it required pushing a small button to release the air, also incrementally, lowering the window. Once the window was level, we nailed it off from the exterior to keep it in the desired position, then added shims as needed, then deflated the bag.
Along with setting windows I plan on using this inflatable bag to set cabinets as well, but there are many other ways I can see this tool being used – framers, remodeling contractors, trim carpenters, plumbers - anyone else who owns a level and a prybar, and who uses shims will find this a useful addition to their tool arsenal.
Photos by Chris Ermides