Introduction: Easy Way to Get Metal Filings for Ferrofluid

Picture of Easy Way to Get Metal Filings for Ferrofluid

After some searching on here, it seems a lot of people get metal filings using acetone and old tapes. Others "can" go into a shop and ask for filings, but chances are they aren't that fine to begin with and might be "dirty". I'll show you how to do it yourself with a chunk of iron, steel, basically any chunk of metal that you have that is magnetic.

Also, I apologize for the poor pictures as all I have is a web cam that's probably around the 0.7mp mark. I did have a 2mp digital olympus digital camera, but it decided to stop working. If anyone would be willing to give me a old digital camera or something (2mp seems like old tech to people these days but it works for me >_<).

Step 1: Gather Your Killing, Err Regular Tools

Picture of Gather Your Killing, Err Regular Tools

Well, I'm sure this could be done with a file, but dremeling would result in much finer and more filings.

What you need to start:

1xStone cut off disk
1xScrap of metal you want to use
1xContainer to collect the filings
1xMagnet to play with it afterwords

And perhaps some eyewear so you don't get nast things in your eys. Also, I happen to have one of these "rainbow vac" vacumm cleaners/air filter. For those who don't know what this thing is, it is basically a "water" vacumm that uses water instead of regualr paper or bagless cups to collect the dust/dirt. It is also designed to run without the hose to filter the air. So in short words, it's a 2300 watt vacumm (not kidding, says right on the spec sheet) and I sat infront of it while doing this. You will find it hand to have a vacumm or something as there is a lot of dust/fumes and isn't too good for your cloths/lungs and or eyes.

Step 2: Get at It, and Please Don't Cut Your Finger Off, Even If It Is Tempting

Picture of Get at It, and Please Don't Cut Your Finger Off, Even If It Is Tempting

What you want to do is re-arrange yourself so that the wheel is spinning forwards (away from you) and the sparks/filings will go into the container if you hold it over top of it. Don't hold it 10 inches above the container, but rather, an inch or less, but whatever you are comforable with. If you hold it higher up, the filings will go all over and make a mess. So what you want to do, is instead of moving the dremel along the axis the wheel is turning, like you were going to cut it in half, go up and down, don't push too hard either. Continue this till you have a load of shavings in your container. It may take some time too depending on your metal of choice. I was interuppted when I was doing it, and hence I don't have very much in the cylindrical tube show in the beggining picture.

Step 3: Play With It, Make Ferrofluid

Picture of Play With It, Make Ferrofluid

Take your large container and use a funnel, or as I did, a measuring cup, pour it into the funnel into your container of choice, or just play around with it in the container you collected it in. But I chose to put it in a seperate container as there was a lot of rust dust in the container I colllected it in and didn't want to be stiring it up. Enjoy


busterbuster18724 (author)2012-01-22

how much would they be ? email me and i might buy them

Andrew546 (author)2007-02-22

Think I could make money selling this stuff? xD Thats a 1 gallon bag filled with iron fillings that i collected in about five minutes from the dry wash behind my house. And there's plenty more where that came from. That thing in the upper left corner is the big ol' magnet I used to collect it with. Supposedly it came from some sort of radar equipment or something like that. Second image shows my size 12 shoe next to the magnet in the bag, covered in iron. And all around me on the ground is the iron.

Punkguyta (author)Andrew5462007-02-22

What the hell?!?! What is a dry wash? This is insane, you could make thermite with that eh

Andrew546 (author)Punkguyta2007-02-23

A wash (AKA arroyo) is like a creek that runs only seasonally. In my case, this thing only has water in it 0-3 times a year. At all other times it a bone dry bed of sand with iron particles everywhere. Its only purpose it to drain water during flash floods.

Wikipedia knows all

Now I just need to get my hands on an etch-a-sketch or two and some magnesium ribbon.... :-p

Punkguyta (author)Andrew5462007-02-23

Speaking of which, I actually started dremeling this iron off chunks of metal for that purpose, I wasn't planning on making ferrofluid, that would just be a waste. Do you think aluminum off a ladder would work? Cuz I got a old ladder that one of the metal feet fell off I'm sure no one would miss.

Andrew546 (author)Punkguyta2007-02-23

I mentioned etch-a-sketches because they use a very fine aluminum powder, but i suppose a ladder might work. Just seems a little time consuming. If only aluminum powder was as plentiful and easy to collect in my backyard as iron. *sigh*

jocket (author)Andrew5462011-10-29

If you have a Dremel or electric sander, then attack that ladder with it and soon you'll have a pile of aluminum powder. I use a belt sander with 80 grit
sandpaper and in 10 or 20 minutes I've got a big pile of aluminum on the newspaper I put under it to catch the powder.

Punkguyta (author)Andrew5462007-02-23

I'm sure if it were magnetic, there would be "lots" to collect, but unfortunatly it isn't and even if it were, how would you know or even seperate the iron from aluminum. The world is full of "ifs" *shakes head*. How much are etch a sketches? Then again, I prolly shouldn't buy one because I would end up playing with it and never taking it apart :-). The reason I asked about the ladder is because I'm not sure if that would be pure enough aluminum.

moep (author)Punkguyta2007-07-29

Yes, a ladder would likely be pure aluminum... so would a street sign or a screen door... but you're going to want something finer than filings for a proper reaction... it really should be a powder, and I imagine an etch-a-sketch is perfect for that.... Come to think of it, I never really realized that's what's in an etch-a-sketch, but it makes perfect sense now... Isn't aluminum powder controlled in some way? Do they still use pure aluminum in etch-a-sketches?

trialex (author)Punkguyta2007-02-27

Why are you bothering with Aluminium?

Andrew546 (author)trialex2007-03-05

Thermite. It's a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum that makes molten iron and a nice fireworks show when lit on fire. In industry, its used for such purposes as welding train tracks together.

creid (author)Punkguyta2009-07-15

Be extremely careful when you do this. Thermite is much hotter and much more dangerous than you think. You can order fine aluminum powder off of ebay as well as the iron oxide powder. If you're trying not to spend money find an old piece of iron, scrape the surface rust, wet it and set it out. should give you enough eventually. For aluminum powder a cheap harbor freight portable bandsaw (or use someones) with a fine blade and just cut away. A metalworking hobbyist reportedly accidentally created thermite with a bad outcome. People with my hobby watch out for that. Make sure it is aluminum. If it has a HARD surface it is either magnesium or a heat treated "aged" al alloy.

austin (author)Punkguyta2007-02-23

thermite is not made out of only iron its iron oxide. But with a few steps like rusting you could make ferrous oxide

hedgesci (author)Andrew5462011-10-11

hey andrew, if you have that much iron in your dry wash, i would look for gold in it. ya never know

What is a "dry wash"

bears0 (author)Andrew5462009-10-30

 hey can you send me a bag please
email back and i can give you my address

Moogle (author)2007-02-23

I collected a large amount of filings from a friend who was using a dremel to cut coils of steel wire to make chainmail. You can also clean the filings by doing pretty much what Andrew did and putting a magnet in a plastic bag, waving it over the pile to pick up the iron bits and dumping the rest, then invert the bag, pull off the magnet, and repeat a few times. I was dumb and used vegetable oil for my ferrogoo. Mineral oil should work better I'd think. Lately everyone's being lame and buying their rings for chainmail online. :/

FrenchCrawler (author)Moogle2007-02-23

I bought a chainmaille shirt (and coif) off of eBay like a year ago for $85 including S/H. My brother decided that he wanted to make one for himself this year and started making the coils on the metal rods and cutting them off with my dremel. He, of course, gave up once he realized just how long it was going to take him. I had started making a "machine" to quickly coil the wire for him, but never finished it cause he quit before I could. It would have also been faster if he let gravity cut the rings off the rod for him. This is more or less how far he got....

bears0 (author)FrenchCrawler2009-10-30

 what do you man by letting gravity do the cutting

beehard44 (author)bears02010-03-23

lol uranium knife swinging down at the rings........

Punkguyta (author)Moogle2007-02-23

Wonder if canola oil would work

Weissensteinburg (author)2007-02-22

Just to point out with your doesnt make a whole big difference, but when it comes to megapixels, its not the size that matters, but how they're used (the Image sensor). For instance, Nikon's D2H is 4mp, but alot better than the 10.2mp D200. And thats your photography lesson of the day :D

Well I knew that much man, however, this is a webcam and any digital camera would take better and sharper pictuers than this.

reedz (author)Punkguyta2009-04-04

tee-hee... my cell-phone has a 2 mega-pixel camera in it.

Punkguyta (author)reedz2009-04-09

Whenever I decide to re-write this instructable, it'll be done with 5mp pictures, and macros, mmmmmm macros. I bet your phone's lens don't let you do macros

bears0 (author)Punkguyta2009-10-30

 my brothers camera has super macro
its a canon powershot A470

Punkguyta (author)bears02009-10-31

 the ironic thing is, I have a 5.2mp camera now, I should really update this instructable.

beehard44 (author)Punkguyta2010-03-19

well, do it

Punkguyta (author)beehard442010-03-20

 Ok, I will! I also have a newer, better dremel.

ToastyTofu (author)2007-03-09

i love how everyone failed to remember beach sand.... you do understand that white beach sand contains a fair amount of iron?

what we want is much more pure than beach sand also the only way to make beach sand into pure iron would be to melt off all the "glass" so all you got left is the iron which would take more heat time effort and a beach nearby

bears0 (author)master-of-chaos2009-10-30

 or you could use a mortar and pestle to crush it off

at least thats on guy did in his instructible

j626no (author)master-of-chaos2009-03-18

or...put a magnet in a plastic bag, run through the sand, flip the are left with a bag full of iron powder and a clean magnet.

lol, ive got like 10lb of sand which i brought back from San Diego, i'm too lazy to get the metal out of it!

The instructable on how to "mine" magnetic particles from sand is here:

Gjdj3 (author)ToastyTofu2008-07-10

I almost did an instructable on this and how to make one of those magnetic face guys! Then my brother lost the sand. :-(.

brainspater (author)2007-12-26

that is cool but it dose it have a use?

Punkguyta (author)brainspater2007-12-26

Yesm, but I'm not the one to ask.

joshuaism (author)2007-11-29

Personally I think the easiest way to get what y'all are trying to make is to go buy it. It's cheap. About 5 bucks for a pound of it. Just go to your local pottery supply and ask for the black iron oxide. Finely ground to the nanometer size, dry bagged and pure. Also some clarification on some matters. One cannot take larger clumps of molecules add some acetone, let the acetone dry out and be left with smaller clumps of molecules. The only way to get smaller clumps of molecules is to grind them, like with a ball grinder. Magnetite is Fe3O4, which is combination of FeO the first oxidation state of iron, known as ferrous oxide, or rust. It varies in color from yellow to orange to red, depending on how much water is molecularly bound to the FeO molecules. The black iron oxide Fe2O3 is known as ferric oxide. This is the stuff you want and is harder to get from the earth as it only oxidizes in an anaerobic atmosphere, i.e. underground, underwater, or in a fire.

westfw (author)2007-02-23

The problem is that for ferrofluid, you don't want "filings." You want particals so small that they'll remain suspended in the carrier fluid indefinately. (the technical term is "colloidal.") Magnetic tape yields very fine particles, I suppose. magnetic ink is probably somewhat coarser, so it's not quite as good (?) Ideally, you create the particles chemically within a fluid, so they never get a chance to aggregate into larger particles...

Jezza Bear (author)westfw2007-02-24

That is an interesting point about colloids. So if I get this right, we are talking a very, very fine iron particle and hence why the tpe is used. As we are all "hobbyists" what is the best median to place it in, a light oil?

westfw (author)Jezza Bear2007-02-24

The particles are actually magnetic iron oxide (Fe2O3, I think), rather than iron. (I don't see why iron wouldn't work, but very fine particles of iron are subject to becoming non-magnetic "rust".) I think the more viscous fluids used in the amateur experiments help make up for the bigger particles; you want something viscous enough to suspend the particles for significant time, yet "runny" enough to act like a liquid.

master-of-chaos (author)westfw2007-04-12

no fe2o3 is rust its iron that is magnetic

Jezza Bear (author)westfw2007-02-25

Interesting, something that was mentioned in a recent New Scientist article. It appears then as it is ferric oxide then there is definitely a need to use a crystalline form hence allowing uniform particle where is my stash of hematite :-)

Punkguyta (author)Jezza Bear2007-02-24

Mineral or canola oil will do. I used canola oil and it works fine

deviceone (author)westfw2007-02-23

any chance one could disolve these larger particles using a weak(ish) acid or something not-so-volitile and then distill the liquid to get smaller particles, or will that make too much of a crystaline structure in the end?

Punkguyta (author)deviceone2007-02-23

I'm thinking theres a possibility it might work, but I'm guessing you would yes, get too fine of a powder and it would from some kind of crystaline. I'm not entirely sure what kind of acid you would use either. While a fine powder would probably be pretty neat, like magnetic toner ink :-) . But the finer it is, the more chances of contaminates that could ruin how it works.

westfw (author)Punkguyta2007-02-23

The definition of a colloid is more or less that the solid is NOT soluble in the liquid in question, but nevertheless does not settle out. Gels (ie gelatine, wallpaper paste, "white sauce", etc) are a type of colloid that achieves this by sortof having parts of their molecules bond to water molecules, but for something like magnetic iron oxide, which makes a hydrophobic colloid, you have to have very tiny particles. There's a real ferrofluid synthesis here aqueous ferrofluid prep that shows some of the extremes you need to go to. I'm pretty sure that most of the ferrofluid experiments posted here don't make "real" ferrofluids, but just magnetic pastes with SOME similar fluid-like properties. I don't know if the differences are dramatic or just nit-picking, though. Someone has pointed out that commercial ferrofluid is coming down in price to nearly reasonable levels...

westfw (author)westfw2007-02-23

In high school, I wrote a chemistry paper on colloids. Can you tell? It was a bit of a shame that college chemistry pretty much sucked...

Punkguyta (author)westfw2007-02-23

Ya, although imformative, I don't plan to make ferrofluid, but rather thermite.

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