Introduction: DIY Levitation of a Magnetic Top

Picture of DIY Levitation of a Magnetic Top

This is my 1st attempt to produce an instructable, I'm going to explain you how to build a system to levitate a magnetic top. It seems there is a commercial toy like that and now you'll be able to made it on your own. I've avoided inserting theory inside this instructable, just remember the system is based on magnetism and angular momentum (see also bibliography at the end). The system is sensitive to dimensions and weights and I've wasted a lot of time to reproduce it, so if you want to build it up try to follow my hints, probably you can get the same results with a different model but prepare yourself to be patient.

Step 1: Tools You Need

Picture of Tools You Need

a) a cutter
b) a drill bit diameter 5.5mm (7/32")
c) a small saw
d) a marking pen (or a pen/pencil)

Tools that can help you but you don't need them
e) a compass
f) a dremel drill
g) a small scale for small weights (max 50g, 0.1g precision)

Step 2: Materials You Need

Picture of Materials You Need

Except for the neodymium magnet I've tried to use materials that you can find in a good hardware store, they are usually very cheap. What you need are::
a) a neodymium magnet. I've found mine at but I think there are many web stores that can provide it. What I've used is the R-27-16-05-N, pay attention the magnet should have the following dims & weight:
 - diam: 26.75mm / 16mm or 1"3/64 / 5/8"  (ext diam / int. diam the magnet is a toroid)
 - tickness: 5mm or 13/64"
 - weight: 14g
b) a magnet for the base. That is a bigger toroidal magnet made of ferrite, I've recovered it from a broken loudspeaker. You have to remove some screws from the loudspeaker and then you to have to separate the polar expansions from the magnet, they are glued together. Do not hit or force the magnet, you can break it easily. The best thing to do is to warm up the expansions (with a blowtorch or a propane torch for istance) and then force them with a screwdriver.
 - diam: 115mm / 57mm or 4"17/32 /  2"15/64 (ext diam / int. diam the magnet is a toroid)
 - tickness: 15mm or 19/32"
  - weight: 600g
c) a cork cap
d) a plastic screw
   - diam. 6mm or 15/64"
   - length 64mm 2"33/64"
e) copper and plastic washers. The external diameter of the washers should be smaller than the external diameter of the neodymium magnet. The weight should be variable between 0.5g to 2g
f) glue for paper, it is usually sold in sticks
g) tape
h) a cardboard box (the one I've used is a shoebox)
i) 10 or more DVD's sleeves
j) a couple of wooden shims (small wedges) and/or some sheets of paper
k) sandpaper

Step 3: Build the Magnetic Top

Picture of Build the Magnetic Top

a) with the cutter cut a slice of cork from the cap. The slice should be 5mm (13/64 ") thicker;
b) put the neodymium magnet on the cork slice, with the pen trace the internal circle of the magnet on the slice;
c) drill the center of the cork slice with the 5.5mm drill bit. You can do it by hand, the cork is very soft;
d) cut the slice on the line tracked at point b);

e) glue the lateral surface of the slice and then insert it inside the neodymium magnet;
f) shorten the plastic screw (remove both top and tail of the screw with the saw). The final length should be 30mm;
g) reduce the weigth of the screw to 0.7g (use the sandpaper and the saw for that), now youhave all the components;
h) put the screw inside the hole previously made. Finally you have the magnetic top.
i) As I told you in the intro the weight is crucial. At the end of the previous steps the weight of the top should be 15g (more or less). That weight is smaller than you need, for this reason you need to glue one or more washers to the magnetic top. The right number of washers and their weight is well explained in the "Levitation step"

Step 4: The Magnetic Trap: Researching the Starting Point

Picture of The Magnetic Trap: Researching the Starting Point

Now you have all you need to start the experiment.

First of all you have to face the surfaces of the magnetic base and top on the right way:
a) put the base on a leveled table;
b) take the the top in your hand keeping it from the shaft;
c) try to push the top into the center hole of the base. If the top is continuosly rejected you have to invert the base. You should feel a little rejection at the begining but if you apply pressure the top will be attracted inside the base, that is the right direction.

Second, the levitation effect is stable only within a small volume, called magnetic trap , over the magnetic base.  You can't start spinning the top in that region but you have to start from a lower position called starting point . To find that point:
d) build a couple of small towers using 3 or 4 DVD's sleeves each. The towers should be 40mm high;
e) put the cardboard box on the top of the towers and create a small bridge;
f) slide the magnetic base under the bridge (more or les in the middle);
g) keep the top in your hand (as you've done in point b)) and put it inside the box, try to push the tip of the top to the box base;
h) now you need to find the center of the magnetic base. Probably the top is sliding in every direction but after some attempts (move it around the base of the box) it should be gently attracted from below and it should be stable. You've found the starting point . If you're not able to find that state try to change the bridge's height adding or removing some sleeves. For a fine tuning of the height use some folded paper sheets instead of the sleeves.

Step 5: Levitation

Picture of Levitation

This should be the final step, and you need to stay calm and patient. In this step you'll move the spinning top to the magnetic trap .

Starting from the position found in the previous step you need to spin the top. So try to spin it now. 4 things can happen:
1) the top always tend to stay on the groudn of the box. It is impossible to spin it. The reason is the top is too close to the magnetic base. Raise the bridge acting on the DVD's sleeves (or use the paper sheets for a fine tuning);
2) the top always jumps away and you don't feel the small attraction from below. The bridge is too high, reduce the height of the bridge;
3) you have a mixed behaviour of 1) and 2). In that case you're are in the right way, keep trying until the top spins stably;
4) the top spins stably.

Great now you're able to spin the top for at least some seconds. During that time you have to gently raise the cardboard box to move the top inside the magnetic trap .
3 things can happen:
1) while rising the box the top is gently lifted up but suddenly it falls down. The top is too heavy. Reduce its weight by removing one or more washers;
2) while rising the box the top is lifted up and it jumps away. You need to:
   - add some weight to the top using the washers or small pieces of tape (fine tuning)
   - tilt the magnetic base using the wooden chips. The magnetic base must be raised on the side where the top is jumped away;
3) after cycling on point 1) and 2) for two or three times you should be able to levitate the top. When you're close to that state the tuning is very fine and you must use small pieces of tape for changing the weight of the top and small shifts of the wooden chips (remember they have a triangular shape so shifting them below the magnet base you can achieve whatever tilt of the base)

Step 6: Bibliography and Videos

[3] d


JulesGraduation (author)2017-05-29

Can I use this setup to levitate object that does not have to rotate? I would like to make a floating object with these two magnets for supermagnete. the object will weigh somewhere around 1,5kg

Bottom part

Top part

Will this be possible? I found an art project online that did what I would like to do.

SerhiiB1 (author)2016-08-02

Maybe someone will be interested in:

DIY levitation device with two transistors and hall effect sensor

osoto47 (author)2015-09-25

im making this for my science fair and im looking for background research

tarpius (author)2015-02-28

can we use ordinary magnet for the spining top?

zuliani71 (author)tarpius2015-03-04

I don't think ordinary magnets will work. Neodymium mangnet is the best choice because it's light and at the same time it comes with a very strong magnetic field.

PirateLabs (author)2014-12-05

Very well done and well explained. Excellent job here. Now, anyone can make a device like the Levitron. Totally cool.


zuliani71 (author)PirateLabs2014-12-11

Thank you.

rithvikseth11 (author)2014-11-30

where can i get a neodymium magnet ?? is it available onl9?? pls help me with the link ?

zuliani71 (author)rithvikseth112014-12-11

I found mine at which is the Italian web site of a german company

rithvikseth11 (author)2014-11-30

where can i get a neodymium magnet ?? is it available onl9?? pls help me with the link ?

allsparkunleashed (author)2013-06-12

i am just a beginner..i have a doubt..
will it work if i rotate the base magnet (the one below using motor or smthing) and leave the small (levitating magnet) stationary.. will the small magnet levitate??

no the small magnet works just like a normal spinning top exept that it has the force of the magnet holding it up

the spinning gives it its stability

hatena8107 (author)2013-08-17

How long does it levitate for?

zuliani71 (author)hatena81072013-09-24

the longest fly was about a couple of minutes long.

zuliani71 (author)2013-01-13

Thanks to you too. Bye bye

smithraj (author)2013-01-13

Very very nice this instructables video.. Thanks a lot my friend...

logic2 (author)2012-04-07

i want to make it

TimmyMiller (author)2011-10-17

no offense

TimmyMiller (author)2011-10-17

uhhhhhhhh.(brain blows up)

Dr Qui (author)2011-02-21

Fantastic Instructable.

I must start looking for bits and pieces to build one of these.

zuliani71 (author)Dr Qui2011-07-28

I'm happy you like it, belive me its incredible when you see the top flying

zuliani71 (author)Dr Qui2011-02-22

Hi I'm happy you like it. The key parts are the magnetic base and the magnetic ring for the top. Be aware of weights and dimensions and good job.


Eflash 50 (author)2011-02-13


zuliani71 (author)Eflash 502011-02-13


kelseymh (author)2011-01-10

I had not read through this whole Instructable last night when I posted my first comment. This is really quite nice, and you do a great job of integrating the mechanics of the build with some of the underlying magnetic physics. Very nice!

There are some odd language constructions, but they appear to me rather similar to some of the Italian/English translation issues my experimental collaborators occasionally have.

zuliani71 (author)kelseymh2011-01-10

now teh fist page picture and the video from you-tube are embedded inside the instructable. Let me know your opinion. Bye David

kelseymh (author)zuliani712011-01-10

Great work! It looks like the video covers the whole building and tuning process, which makes it a great complement to the written Instructable. And it makes it very clear just how "fiddly" the process actually is.

zuliani71 (author)kelseymh2011-01-15


I'm improving the instructable. I've made a new shorter you tube video (less boring).
Unfortunately I'm not able to add it anymore to the instructable. I don't know why. when I push the "embedded video" button (in the edit menu) it appears an empty space where to paste the code coming from the you tube video, but when I push the "Ok" button nothing happen.

If I use firefox a "javascript:void(0)" mesaage appears in the bottom left window,
if I use Internet Explorer "Errore nella visualizzazione della pagina"

Can you help me

kelseymh (author)zuliani712011-01-15

Hmmmm....are you actually pasting the code into the pop-up box?

The "javascript:void(0)" you see in your browser frame is normal; that's because the OK button is not a hyperlink, but rather a JavaScript action.

The site has been doing some software updates over the past couple of days. It's possible that they touched the code which handles the video embedding and broke it.

If you are still seeing this problem, would you mind posting a bug report?

zuliani71 (author)kelseymh2011-01-15

Yes I pasted the code into the pop-up box, like I did the first time when everything went well. Up to now I've made some tests:
a) removed the old code from the instructable (actually is just a frame with the "flash" tag inside) and added the new code. As I told this doesn't work.
b) I left the "original instructable step" with inside the old video (which is working) and I added a new step with the new video. Same problem as a)
c) I've repeated step a) and b) after rebooting my PC. Same results.
d) I've made step a) but from my laptop and now it works. As I can see there are some different windows update still pending on my laptop. Currently, instead, my PC is fully updated.

zuliani71 (author)kelseymh2011-01-10

Thanks I'm very happy you appreciate my work. What about the text? Can you help me to correct the worst sentences? I see there is a "contests section" on instructables. Do you think I can subscribe at some of them?

kelseymh (author)zuliani712011-01-10

I sent you a "private message" (at the top of any Instructables page, you should see a link that says "Inbox (1)", right next to "You"). I don't think that correcting someone's grammar is usually appropriate for public discussion, unless they're being deliberately stupid :-)

For the contests, you should click on that link, and see what sorts of contests are currently running. The only one active right now is for homemade soup; I don't think this qualifies :-)

If you are interested in writing up other projects that you create, you should keep an eye on the list of contests, and also look at the discussion forums for announcements of upcoming contests, so that you can plan for them.

Good luck, and welcome to Instructables!

zuliani71 (author)kelseymh2011-01-11

Ok, I'll check the your private message as soon as possible. Thanks again for the support. Bye David

zuliani71 (author)kelseymh2011-01-10

kelseymh I'll be happy if you could help me in improving the text. I'll wait your comments. Currently I'm seeking a good picture for the first page.

Bye and thanks

kelseymh (author)zuliani712011-01-10

I sent you a message with my suggestions for changing the language. I did not try to do a complete "edit" of your work, I just focused on specific phrases which sounded weird in English, but which I think were probably quite sensible Italian (your use of "libra" for "scale" was one :-).

kelseymh (author)2011-01-09

For your Introductory step, it would be good if you included a picture of your final, completed project, preferably in action. The Intro picture is what get used as a "thumbnail" on the "Recent Instructables" page. Without a picture, your I'ble is going to get very few views.

In your final step, where you want to have a video, it would be better if you created an account on YouTube, or Vimeo, or one of the other video-streaming sites. Upload your video file there, then use that site's "embed code" to attach the video. Instructables doesn't have the bandwidth to support streaming video directly.

Kiteman (author)kelseymh2011-01-10


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