Introduction: Magnetic Task Light, Reacher and Closure
New materials inspire new applications, and here I've used two - rare earth magnets and sugru - to perform three hacks: task lights, a magnetic reacher, and an apron closure. All are super easy, quick, and inexpensive (less than $1 each) adaptations of common items that make certain tasks easier, whether you have limited mobility or not.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
For all three projects, you'll need:
Rare earth magnets. I had a bunch of different sizes lying around from a 50 piece sampler pack from Lee Valley Tools. Cost: about $0.35 per magnet.
Sugru. This stuff is a handy formable silicone sold in small packets. Cost: about $1.50 per packet.
For the magnetic task lights, you'll need some LED keychain flashlights. Cost: about $0.40 per flashlight.
For the magnetic reacher, you'll need a stick of an appropriate length and a large flathead screw. I used the dried stem of a small walking stick cabbage, but I seriously doubt many people have these lying around in their airing cupboards! A dowel would be just fine.
For the magnetic apron closure, you'll need an apron (or some other piece of clothing you want held closed without having to tie a bow).
None of these hacks cost more than $1, because I only used 1 pack of sugru for all of them. In fact, I had half a packet left after making the closure, two task lights and the reacher, so I mended the plastic stand for my hot glue gun that I'd broken. Total build/mend time for everything: less than the sugru handling time of 30 minutes.
Step 2: Task Lights
Stick a small disk magnet to the LED flashlight, and mold a thin layer of sugru around it. Take care to avoid the screwheads so you can change the batteries if need be. If you have a particular tool in mind and a location, you can custom mold the sugru to it by first covering the surface with cling film and pressing it into the appropriate spot. Leave to cure overnight. That really is all there is to it. The pictures show two variations on the theme: one for general purpose - the video shows it placed on a power drill:
Step 3: Magnetic Reacher
A strong magnet at the end of a stick is a handy way to reach metal objects without bending or when the object is difficult to reach.I wasn't sure how strongly the sugru would stick, so I drove a large flathead screw into the end, stuck the magnet on top of the screw head, then used sugru to lock it in place (epoxy would work great, but wouldn't look as good). If you have a dowel, you might like to make a grippy handle on the other end with sugru.
The reacher can pick up quite heavy things (see pictures - a 1.25 kg weight was no problem). I wandered around my basement renovation picking up nails and other stuff, and got dozens before needing to empty it.
Step 4: Magnetic Apron Closure
Magnetic closures are used for all sorts of applications, not least in French lingerie. Here's a more prosaic use for them. Aprons traditionally tie at the back with a bow. Here, a strong magnet is used so that the user only has to bring the end of the tie to the side of the apron, and get it in approximately the right position. The magnets will do the rest. This hack is useful for anyone with limited dexterity. Here, my daughter is modelling it - she likes the magnets and thinks it will be "very useful for [her little brother]".
Cut the apron tie close to the side. Open a packet of sugru, and cover a magnet with a thin layer. Press into the tie, then fold over the end. Repeat on the short side. The stronger you want the magnetic closure to be, the thinner you should make the sugru (and vice-versa, of course).
Step 5: More?
Suggest a simple but useful adaptive tool using magnets and sugru (I still have plenty of both!) that I like enough to make, and I'll write up the build as a step and give you a 3-month pro membership.
Here's one my son came up with - a task light at the end of a stick - by combining a task light and the reacher. He thinks it would be useful to see what's under the table. Or as a big magic wand. He doesn't want a pro membership, though!
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