Introduction: Fast Attraction

Picture of Fast Attraction

Ooops, You Did It Again...knocking over a box of screws, nuts, needles or similar magnetic stuff and you need to get rid of the evidence in a hurry. In the past, you might have grabbed a strong magnet and found that it can be dreadfully annoying to clear the magnet afterwards - and the little bits of iron dust that will inevitably cover the magnet is next to impossible to remove completely.

That was yesterday (or last spring to yours truly). Enter the MagPick (&Release) that I have used quite a bit in the last year, including for stuff where I wouldn't normally care to use a magnet.

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

I did try several combos of plastic tubing and magnets, searching for something strong and reliable, but all the tubes I had in stock was either too small a diameter for a magnet of a suitable strength, or too large for what would be sensible and there was the little detail of sealing one end flat without getting a weak seal (it takes a bit of hammering every time it grabs a bolt or similar).

Pondering my options, it struck me that a syringe might be usable, so I tested the different magnets at hand, for best fit in the syringes and found a magnet that could move freely, without a huge clearance, in a 5ml syringe (11mm or 7/16" inner diameter, but it probably vary with what's available). Depending on what magnets you have at hand or can find in a shop, you may need a different size, but you have to check that out locally.

Regular syringes comes in two major types (plus a lot of specialized ones, which is unimportant here), Those with a rubber cap as the seal on the plunger and the slightly cheaper ones where the seal is an integral part of the (nylon) plunger. For this project, you either need the rubber capped type, or you can modify one with a nylon seal, if you want to save a (very) little or can't get hold of the other types.

Materials needed::

  • 1 Syringe (or get a couple, they are handy for a lot of things)
  • 1 cylindrical neodymium magnet (or a couple of flat disc types), as with syringes and chocolates, one is never enough!
  • A short piece of wire or similar, preferably the "rubber" covered variety - about 7..10cm (3..4")
  • Glue that can bond nylon (contact cement or some types of Cyanoacrylate-/Superglue)

Tools needed

  • Side cutter (preferably flush cutting), but can be substituted by large scissors or, if you think you have too many fingers a box-cutter will cure that.
  • A drill slightly larger than the size of your wire
  • Emery paper around 220..400 grit, a nail file or any similar fine cutting file
  • A lighter, or any small direct heat source that can melt and form nylon (like a hot-knife)

Optionally a small piece of PTFE covered baking paper or a painters (steel) spatula for forming melted nylon

Step 2: Modifying the Outside of the Syringe

Picture of Modifying the Outside of the Syringe

The business end of a syringe, where a hypodermic needle is usually mounted, needs to be shortened and melted closed, as flat as possible and completely sealed. Do remove the plunger before continuing with that!

I realized that I should have cut further down the nib, to get a little more than half of what you see in the second pic (orange), as it was a bit of work, trying to move the excess melted nylon around.

In the last pic (blue), you see the end result. Regrettably, I have but two arms, both busy trying to get the end result, so I haven't got pics of the process, but it's simple: Heat the remaining part of the nib, but be careful not to set it aflame (blow it out if that happens), and use whatever you have at hand to move the nylon around to close the end and make it flat (slightly conical really) as the rest of the "flat" part of the syringe - I used the body of the lighter (carefully) to rearrange the "lava pit", but anything that the melted nylon won't bind to will do. The piece of baking paper mentioned, laid out on a flat surface, will aid in flattening, although I didn't use it, as it played out well enough.

Whatever method you use, don't get melted nylon on your digits or any bare skin. It will have a tendency to cling on and you might get a nasty burn!

Step 3: Attaching the Magnet

Picture of Attaching the Magnet

Mounting the magnet to the plunger is a quick job, if you have the rubber capped variety. Just pop off the cap and put it in your material bin for a future project.

If you have the kind where the seal is an integral part of the plunger, you need to reduce the diameter of the seal, to allow the plunger to move freely with no friction.

That done away with, grind the end of the plunger and the magnet on the mating surfaces, to remove grease and roughen up the material for a better bond.

When you glue the magnet to the plunger, be careful to get them aligned/centered, even more so, if the magnet is a tight fit, in the barrel of the syringe,

Make sure the glue is totally set before you test it out!

Step 4: Mounting a "Retractor" Loop

Picture of Mounting a "Retractor" Loop

When the glue has set,.. To make it easy to use single handed, you need to add a loop for lifting the plunger.

I used a bit of wire covered in a rubbery "isolation" layer. This kind of wire is mostly used for plant care. Anything else goes - plastic or leather could be used as well.

Drill a hole, slightly wider than the wire diameter, right under the flat side that you push on the syringe. The plunger has got a cross shaped stem and drilling through the ~1mm nylon is not a big deal, you can twist the drill through it with your bare hands (I did - it was quicker than to go fetch the proper tool).

Thread the wire through the hole and make a loop sized for the finger you intend to use and twist the ends. Cut the wire and bend any sharp ends inwards towards the center of the stem.

If you chose a different material, you may need glue or a knot to make it happen.

Step 5: You're Done... Well Almost

Picture of You're Done... Well Almost

This was the end of this project until I realized that it wasn't behaving extremely well without a collar. I had thought that I could perhaps get away without it, but whatever you grab will have a very strong tendency to travel along the outside of the barrel, when you retract the magnet.

Took me some time to find suitable material for this, but I still had fun with it - Oh how revealing it was to grab such amounts of nasty from a single sweep over my work desk.

Step 6: Add a Collar

Picture of Add a Collar

I had a go with thin PET plastic from some sales packing material, but it was too thin and couldn't stand the force.

After rummaging through my collected treasures (which my S.O. disrespectful call "crap"), I ended up with some plastic from a ring binder cover, it was 0.8mm thick and had just the right amount of stiffness for the purpose.

I drew and cut a disc close to 30mm in diameter and with the inside hole slightly less than the outer diameter of the syringe (as it's hard to make the hole smaller), and used emery paper wound around a pen slightly, to widen it to fit tightly on the syringe.Finally, i heated the edges (very carefully) to polish them, although it was just for visuals.

I had expected to glue the collar to the syringe, but as it was such a tight fit, i kept it un-glued, to find the best position and it's still not glued. Should it become too loose at some point, contact cement, a splash of RTV silicone or even a bit of hot melt glue can be added.

After having used the MagPick(TM) for a host of jobs - from seeking runaway nuts, to sorting boxes with small compartments full of screws and such, where room is needed for an intermediate screw size and similar, I really treasure this more and more each time I use it.

Avoid bleeding fingertips from sharp pointed screws and do it way faster than with your bare hands - most compartments can have their content moved to another in a few milliseconds (give or take) - with bare hands, it would take a lot longer, and include loud expressions of the third kind ;)

Step 7: Aaand Enjoy

Picture of Aaand Enjoy

So... Here's your new (Omni-)fix - Just Say Yes!

If you reached this point, thanks, your company is much appreciated and while this may still seem obscure to you, its efficiency has surprised me on several occasions and I'm sure it has yet more applications than what I've discovered so far.

And it's so darned cheap to make - perhaps make more than one. Most of your creative friends might find it useful and we all love a gift that shows us that somebody cares about us :)

Possible improvements:

A method for "Retract on Squeeze", like I've seen on some "bee sting suckers" would alleviate finger fatigue if used extensively, paired with a light spring return, is the most helpful improvement I can think of.

Visually... Use a thin walled brass tube, with a flat bottom plate braced on, all polished to shine like gold - mahogany plunger for that steam punk atmosphere perhaps.

Other things... You tell me.

If, correction, when you make one, please post a pic of it, I'd love to see in which direction you are gonna take it and what you are going to use it for.


Rajaa Kahel (author)2017-02-06

Useful trick!

nqtronix made it! (author)2016-04-05

So, a few weeks have passed and I've finally received my magnets along with the "secret" ingredient, a 1€ desoldering pump!

I removed the top and closed the hole with a 5 pence coin by hammering it in. It's a snug, glueeless fit. The spring was relocated from the chamber to the end and shorted by arounf 1/4 of the origional length. The metal bin in the middle was replaced with a little screw, the magnets are just stagged ontop. The tape ensures the stack is centered. At first I removed the rubber ring to speed up the release mechanism, but it turs out it was so fast that components were shot away in all directions.

I've tested itwith small SMD components and screws and both work just fine. It's very handy to have around!

Hope you like that, Omnivent, and thanks for that great inspiration.


Omnivent (author)nqtronix2016-05-13

Hi nqtronix,

First of all, sorry for the late reply. Unfortunately I don't get email-alerts when comments are posted anymore, although it's set to do so - not sure what's broken as I just checked the settings which was what they should be :-/

Nice work there and thanks for posting a different take on it - I'm sure it will give others ideas for yet to be seen variants :)

My first thought was that the desolder tool would be too fast, even with the rubber O-ring, but thinking again, I realized that I always mod those tools (a couple of well placed air vents to counter the pressure building up above the plunger) making them much faster retracting. Without vents, it'll probably work.

I'd think that the crevices around the coin will fill up with "magnetic dust" and dependent on the sealing, may eventually creep in to the magnets, which is why I wanted an even surface. If you see any such dust within, you could run some (epoxy/super?) glue around the edge to seal it.

Nice thinking of re-purposing another tool and thanks again for adding to the way it could be made - I used mine as late as yesterday for sorting a lot of screws and washers and each time I use it, I save time - can't imagine life without it ;)

I've made bits for the next iteration (made from PVC conduit tube), but I'm having trouble locating PVC glue (all the local and some not-so-local stores doesn't even know what it is) and buying it online is not an option, as that more than doubles the price. I've tried whatever solvents I had and even tried hot air welding, but so far, no cigar - probably have to find another material, or go directly to brass.

Hope you're enjoying the weather :)

nqtronix (author)2016-02-09

Brilliant idea!

I'm going to make my own variant, parts are already ordered. Hopefully 10 10x1mm neodymium magnets will be enough ;)


Omnivent (author)nqtronix2016-02-09


It should be more than enough (assuming that the 10mm is the diameter) The magnet I used is encapsulated in plastic and contains either 2 or 3 flat magnets of around 8mm in diameter and around 1mm thick. I don't know the "N" of it (as in e.g. N35 or N55), as they're used for implants (with another magnet under the skin) - you can see where I sanded the adjustment threads.

With all 10 of the magnets, it may be too hard to retract the plunger (depending on how much you picked up), to experiment a little before adding glue at all. It can be hard to center after adding super glue in between the magnets, so better just let a couple attract, center and let a single drop of (the liquid type) super glue be drawn into the crevice between them - this will be all the bond needed.

The idea of making a (slightly larger) brass model has grown on me - so next time I go see my metal pusher, I'll be sure to have that in mind and perhaps I'll make a model for it from PVC conduit pipe.

Oh, and I shot a video of it in use, blurry unfortunately, so I'll have to do another - and then make it a .gif-animation.

Have a nice day :)

ThomasK19 (author)2016-02-05

That looks like a neat versatile tool you want to have around your tinkering place. Thanks for sharing! I guess the collar will give me some head ache. Maybe some PET bottle can be shaped and hot glued.

Omnivent (author)ThomasK192016-02-06


Anything that isn't magnetic would do, brass, aluminum, wood etc. as long as it's rigid enough to stop the "catch" from riding up past it.

About This Instructable




More by Omnivent:+/- 0..15V Power Supply - Part 1Kelvin MixerSpiral Winder Tool
Add instructable to: