Cutting Shims to Correct Soft Foot During A Shaft Alignment

Here’s a thought-provoking question for you my fellow shaft aligners: is cutting shims to correct soft foot overkill? That concern was addressed last week during a shaft alignment training class where we aligned a nice little water pump.

Water Pump Shaft AlignmentThe motor had one of the stamped out bases that are always fun to work with. We followed our process and during the obvious soft foot step, two feet needed additional shims–the front left and the back right feet were loose making the motor rock back and forth diagonally. This is what most folks in the industry call ‘rocking soft foot.’ Shims were added accordingly to both feet to fill the gaps and they torqued the motor back down. The final soft foot check initially showed no additional corrections needed to be made.

Cutting to the chase, while correcting the horizontal misalignment live and torquing down the motor, there was a lot of unintended movement that had to be controlled. After remeasuring, the alignment was somewhat successful but not completely acceptable. These are unmistakable signs of soft foot.

Soft foot troubleshooting began again. This time the final soft foot check revealed some additional movement at the same two feet as before. How can that be? During the final soft foot check, just one foot is loosened at a time with the other feet tight. Finding an angled foot is a little easier. The right rear foot lifted a couple mils and was corrected with a three mil shim. The front left foot was more severe. The front left foot took a whole five mil shim (the entire shim slid under the foot) and another five mil shim had to be cut to make sure just the angled portion was filled.

This is when one of the guys commented that this might be overkill. Cutting shims just didn’t seem necessary.

Well, the motor was much better behaved the second go around and the alignment was successful. We like eliminating and/or managing unintended movement. It makes for much less frustration. My partner in alignment agreed.

So what do you folks do for angled soft foot? Do you mind cutting shims? If so, how many? Any boundaries you don’t cross? Let me know.

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About the Author

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Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence is a Reliability Engineer at Merck in Elkton, VA. A former trainer at VibrAlign, Patrick is now a guest contributor with occasional ponderings on realigning his part of America.
  1. naaz

    Our clint not allowed cuting or half shim . Then how can I remove angler softfooting?

  2. A discussion over on LinkedIn had a link to these pictures–check out the shims.

  3. Mike Keohane

    I have absolutely no experience with these but what about the soft shoe shims that claim to correct angular soft foot? In theory, it seems like a much easier solution to me.

    • I don’t have any experience with them, either. I understand how they’re supposed to work just never seen them out in the wild.

  4. I feel it depends upon the size of the shim whether I cut more than one shim. We aligned a couple 1500 Hp motors that used 8″x 8″ shims. To correct for angled foot we installed 2 shims. One was app 3/4 full size and the second 1/2 a full sized one. We never use a shim smaller than 1/2 the original size.

    Gary B

    • Hi, Gary. Thanks for the tip! Hope that hurricane misses you down there.

  5. Tim Taylor

    I second what Stan said – will cut a shim when needed to correct angle foot, but not more than one per foot.

  6. Good post, Patrick! I always cut a shim when needed. But I try to never cut more than one shim per foot.

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