Introduction: 3D Magnetic Field Viewer

Picture of 3D Magnetic Field Viewer

My job takes me to various research labs to install powerful magnetic systems and to train techs how to use them. This time I needed a magnetic field viewer to show lines of force. This instructable will show how to construct such a device using steel wool fibers and mineral oil. I built this while I was staying at my hotel.

Step 1: Get Your Supplies

Picture of Get Your Supplies

I went to Walmart and got the following items and brought them back to my Hotel.

1. Fine steel wool.
2. Bottle of Mineral Oil in plastic bottle.

Step 2: Cut the Steel Wool

Picture of Cut the Steel Wool

Use the scissors to cut the steel wool into small short pieces. About a tablespoon of cut steel wool should be enough. Spread out sheets of newspaper on your work surface and try not to get clippings all over the place.

Step 3: Place in Bottle of Oil.

Picture of Place in Bottle of Oil.

Place the cut steel wool in the bottle of mineral oil. Clean the top of the bottle with a paper towel so you will get a good seal. Squeeze the sides of the bottle as you put on the cap to burp out the air. Shake to disperse the fibers.

Important note: Clean up any mess, and dispose excess fibers in your trash immediately. Place it in a plastic bag so it doesn't spread all over. The longer your mess sits around, the more likely you will spread it.

Step 4: Test the Viewer

Picture of Test the Viewer

Place a magnet against the bottle. The viewer will show the lines of force.


Logan506 (author)2008-09-02

Its Cool... But I Dont Belive You Made It In A Apartment... Sorry I Think Someone aTold You This And You Want Cred.

JayaK18 (author)Logan5062017-01-23

Hoy logan56 found your comment , why you think he is not capable , after all some one has to discover things , why not him, your comment was foolish one

Rotten194 (author)Logan5062009-04-02

Why Do You Feel The Need To Talk Without Any Semblance Of aGrammar. And its a relatively simple concept. Put a magnetic material near a magnet and it will line up to its magnetic field, provided there isn't to much friction. How to reduce friction? Suspend the material in water/fluid with low density and low viscosity. Just because you're eight doesn't mean we all are.

LeonaK3 (author)Rotten1942016-03-03

SomEone got up on the trainwreck side of the bed todAy.

acneman (author)Rotten1942009-04-16

Whats a grammar?

Rotten194 (author)acneman2009-04-17

I was being sarcastic about his ability to not put A's in front of random words. -____-

sapola57 (author)Rotten1942009-12-03

well if you had taken about half a second to realize that A is right next to the shift button and his next letter was CAPITAL T. he obviously accidentally hit both. so thanks for being a total jackass and making a big scene out of the fact that you don't have a life besides commenting on the grammar on a comment on Instructables. nice.

merseyless (author)sapola572009-12-23

troll detected, don't make fun of the grammernazi's.

orksecurity (author)merseyless2010-01-07

More importantly, don't feed trolls by responding to them.

SpiroExDeus (author)orksecurity2010-02-25

... Carefully counts the people who ignored the "be nice" rule.

At least I haven't made any nasty, snide, critical or sarcastic comments...

no... wait...

Oh drat....

SimonSaid (author)SpiroExDeus2012-01-15

Well played sir, well played.

rab236 (author)merseyless2010-03-31

 Ahem... grammarnazis with an a and without an apostrophe.

merseyless (author)rab2362010-05-25

you win

Shentianqi (author)Rotten1942010-02-06

hahah nice:)

Strider3019 (author)Logan5062012-04-09

I once destroyed a Terminator T-800 with some mothballs and 'ammonia' solution I mixed up in a motel room. It had a kitchen. So, yeah: believable.

TDWay (author)Logan5062011-11-26

You are correct in that assumption "that He didn't make it in an apartment", go back and re-read it again, it was in his Hotel Room that he made this.

Cool great idea, althou I'm not sure how I can use this knowledge, I will keep it in mind, seeing as I am a weekend prospector it may come in handy some day.

Thanks for sharing. TDWay

kelseymh (author)Logan5062008-10-29

Not everyone on this site is a teenager. Some of us have been working for five, ten, twenty, forty years.

bobiebob (author)kelseymh2011-01-30

wrong, the first "internet" was a fact in 1969, called ARPANET created by ARPA. the internet as known today was there already in 1984, but was taken in use by the public in the 90's.

no offence though ;)

kelseymh (author)bobiebob2011-01-30

What exactly is your more than two years late point? I can't figure out how your comment is connected to the preceding discussion. (author)kelseymh2009-02-06

i do hope you not stereotyping teenagers, we get enough ageism as it is

Thank you. Im so tired of guys at radioshack kicking me out when im tryin to find a few op-amps because they think im a shoplifter. they never leave me alone in an isle, and if i take to long, they tell me to get out. I dont like being treated like a delinquent just because of my age.

Just ask them to help you find what you are after.

That way they will know what you are up to and may even be inspired to tidy up or restock the electronic components section!

Well, im the kind of person who shops there. i dont know if i need it until i see it ;)

kelseymh (author)mr.space2009-02-06

Did you read the depressingly stereotypical posting from Logan506 to which I responded? If someone doesn't want to be treated like a stereotype (you, for instance), they shouldn't present themselves as a stereotype (again, as you do not).

masterochicken (author)kelseymh2009-06-18

I honestly don't think Logan506 seems like a teenager though. He seems more like an 8-year-old, or a really really stupid adult.

garrettg (author)Logan5062009-11-22

Why do we care if it was in an apartment or not?

botronics (author)Logan5062008-09-16

It was made at the Hampton Inn in Turkey Creek, Tennessee to show Techs at Oakridge National Labs. Why don't you believe i couldn't have make it ? Its easy! Make one and post it.

fishcatcher (author)botronics2009-02-11

can i us water on the inside dont have mineral oil or where can i make some from rocks? got 0 monie cause i was bad

surfreak (author)fishcatcher2009-07-31

I don't think water would work as well for the suspension (polarity and density/viscosity), but I could be wrong. Not too expensive to test, though, so go for it. It would probably work if you shook up the bottle, then quickly exposed it to a field, but I've a feeling the particles (steel wool) will fall out of solution more quickly with water than oil. Mineral oil is a byproduct of gas production (or, rather, a product made from crude oil). So no luck with the rocks. Sorry, mate.

Goodhart (author)Logan5062008-09-16

The bottle looks suspiciously like a Listerine bottle....what makes you say you don't think it could be made in an Apt. ?

botronics (author)Goodhart2008-09-16

Its a bottle of mineral oil from the Walmart across the street from the Hotel. One of those big Super Walmart stores. So are the scissors and the steelwool.

Goodhart (author)botronics2008-09-16

Gotcha :-)

maximzodal (author)2014-04-18

Just found this and it's a terrific project! Wish I had had this when I was teaching. Any problem with the particles becoming permanently magnetized?

botronics (author)maximzodal2014-04-22


kelseymh (author)2012-10-15

In fact, his statement shows that the Internet (in the form of a wide area network of networks) has been around for 43 years (2012-1969 = 43).

And I would ask you exactly the same question? Are you planning to participate in this now three year old discussion, for which the last contribution was made twenty months before yours?

CitizenScientist (author)2012-01-15

Great project, I am a physics teacher and this will make a great project for my students. Ideally I would like to make this in a container that has a hole in the center in which The students could slip a magnet and see the field on all sides around the magnet, instead of just one side. I will have to do some wandering about Walmart and see if I can see a bottle like this.

Thanks for the great project!

Beware the potential mess. Seals against flexible sheets are tricky. Try a Klein bottle or distillation condensers, maybe? A decent scientific glass shop could easily fabricate a tube through a flask'. Great 'ible. Great idea to extend the concept.

You could cut out holes for pvc pipe and then seal around the edges with silicone. That should easily accomodate a bar magnet.

Thats an interesting idea. I've seen some rubber stoppers at our local brew store that have a 3/8 hole in them. You could slip a small test tube through the hole. Another idea would be to find a test tube just the right size to fit a plastic bottle. Add a couple of o rings to help seal it in place. There are also baby bottles that are open in the middle to act as a "handle". I think its called a gripper baby bottles.

artesia (author)CitizenScientist2012-01-15

You should be able to buy glass bottles with holes in them at places like Michael's, Hobby Lobby, etc. =]

mr fat (author)2012-03-17

This is the best instructable EVER! Thank you for showing it to us all.

CatTrampoline (author)2012-01-15

Outstanding job! This would have been great for my high school and college physics classes, since neither school had much budget. I'll make one for my son when he takes college physics next year and send the link to his former science teachers.

I am sorry there are some "You did not invent magnetism" TROLLS harassing you over this posting. Please be assured that most people appreciate the information.

lilshelbybear (author)2012-01-15

Can you use a glass container or does it need to be plastic?

botronics (author)lilshelbybear2012-01-15

Glass is fine, but breakable. It will make an awful mess if it breaks.

ilpug (author)2012-01-15

We did this in science class but we used iron powder instead and it didn't work too well. I think the shredded steel wool is much better.

botronics (author)ilpug2012-01-15

You need long fibers so they can twist and align in the field like little compasses. Iron powder may rotate, but you won't notice it.

Tkdwn (author)2012-01-15

Nice job! Love it!

pie R []ed (author)2012-01-15

I applaud your ingenuity, and kludging ability! Wonderful instructable!

ANDY! (author)2012-01-15

Real cool idea. just wondering if you lit the wool and made...rust, would it still be magnetic?

ssomealea (author)2011-11-26

Why does it works? could someone tell me , so that i can use this experiments to do in my science fair.

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to tinker and experiment with electronics, robotics, programming, and photography. Along with my latest interest in Steampunk.
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