Introduction: Quick Trick: Unstick Stuck Magnets

You bought a stack of super-strong magnets. You took off one magnet to test it out, then, satisfied, tried to put it back on the stack. Instead, you sent a plastic divider flying across the room and now have two magnets stuck together. And boy, are they stuck together.

How will you get them apart?

Here’s one quick trick.

Full disclosure: I way underestimated the power of these magnets. When I tried to put a magnet back on the stack by hand, my fingers just weren’t capable of holding onto the loose magnet and stack of magnets without one flying out to greet the other. Indeed, I tried this twice, sending not one but two plastic dividers soaring. One of them almost hit me in the face. Whoops!

Edit: Thanks to user GreenAvenger for pointing out that thin magnets like these could shatter if struck with enough force. Be sure to wear safety glasses if you try this. And magnets like these can be very strong! Read his thoughts on magnet safety in the comments, or learn more on magnet seller K&J Magnetics' website.

Step 1: Put Magnet Stack in Vise

First, head for your vise. If you happen to have one made from wood, that will work best, because it's mostly non-magnetic. If not, a regular metal bench vise or machinist vise should work fine. In fact, even a wrench could do well.

Next, clamp the magnet stack into the vise just below the bottom layer of the top magnet.

Step 2: Slide Magnet Off

Next, use your fingers to slide the top magnet off the top of the stack. You should be able to use steady pressure to push that top magnet along until it's far enough away to be able to resist the magnet stack's pull.

Repeat until there are no longer any magnets stuck together without a divider between them.

Step 3: Replace Magnet

Place a plastic divider back onto the top of the magnet stack, loosen the vise, and lower the stack until the top divider is just above the top surface of the vise. Tighten the vise back down.

Next, take your loose magnet and flip it so that its polar orientation is the same as the one on the top of the stack. Generally, the north pole will have a red mark. The south pole will have no mark. The north and south sides should face each other. North and north will resist each other, as will south and south. If you try this with the same magnetic poles facing each other, the magnet stack will go flying, as shown in the above video.

Finally, slowly lower the loose magnet onto the top of the stack. The loose magnet will eventually pull itself back onto the stack. When that happens, you're done! Congrats.

Comments

author
Yonatan24 made it!(author)2016-07-10

Awesome! Did you make that wooden vise? :)

I've had thin magnets like these shatter when they stick together, but the broken sharp parts stick to the other parts of the magnet, so I don't think it's that dangerous. (But I still wear my safety goggles!)

On the other hand, my fingers have been pinched really badly from HDD, magnetron, and subwoofer speakers. They're way worse.

author
andrew_reuter made it!(author)2016-07-12

Thanks! I actually did not make the vise. My father-in-law did. It's a modified version of John Heisz's wooden drill press vise:

The difference is that the FIL's design uses angled rails instead of straight. See attached photo. It works great.

I am extremely fortunate to have an FIL like mine. He's a retired nuclear plant maintenance guy who seemingly knows at least a little bit about everything DIY. And because he has all that free time, he'll occasionally just make me something like that vise, usually as a copy of something he's working on for himself. It's ridiculous!

And thanks for your further thoughts on the magnets. Without research, I sure wouldn't have known that something like a hard drive magnet could be so powerful.

vise.jpg
author
DinoD12 made it!(author)2016-07-06

Common Sense is a flower that doesn't grow in every garden

author
GreenAvenger made it!(author)2016-07-01

Normally I am slightly annoyed by people going on and on with repetitive reminders of safety concerning various shop practices (I think a lot of it ought to be obvious) but in this case I think it is especially important to mention just how dangerous those super magnets you have are!!! I don't just mean to be cautious about super magnets in general (a good idea yes!) but I really mean that there are several things about the particular ones you show that make them especially dangerous!!!!! That is the fact that they are thin and no matter how big a super magnets is if it has one or two thin dimension(s) relative to the other one(s) that makes it especially prone to breaking, that is a bummer for sure but you also have really really wide magnets that are very thin in thickness and so I would be surprised if you have haven't already broken several and since they are so broad in surface area they still have a very very strong attractive force!!! Even with the plastic dividers! So when (not if) your magnets break they will create either tiny hyper velocity particles that are likely to blind you! So safety glasses are a must! Or the larger fragments will create razor sharp shards that could trap your hand in-between them and the stack (this even if wearing gloves) and even if wearing gloves they could both cut and crush their way right through them and your hand or fingers as they do so! If ever trapped with magnets like that do not attempt to separate them by force instead use a brass headed hammer to smash the broken fragments into slightly more manageable powder and then you can more safely extricate your poor mangled hand. So please keep a brass hammer available for that purpose!

Smaller super magnets are cool for older kids and adults but ones such as you have are so dangerous I almost think that you should have to sign a liability disclaimer and be forced to watch an extensive safety procedures film in order to be able to purchase them and you certainly should not make an Instructable showing them without special mention about the high risk they represent!

author
andrew_reuter made it!(author)2016-07-01

Thanks for the info! I edited the first slide of this tutorial to talk about safety. I haven't had any of the magnets break yet, but I could easily see them doing so.

When I was in shop class in school, we could never enter the shop without shop glasses. Same goes for the machine shop where I worked, actually. It makes a ton of sense to be wearing safety glasses at all times when making, repairing, etc. There are so many situations where things can unexpectedly go flying, whether that debris is a chunk of shattered magnet or a staple.

And it's not like the incident needs to be able to destroy your eye for safety glasses to be worth it. Even dirt and dust coming down from ceiling tiles could send you to the hospital, taking money out of the DIY budget.

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Bio: Wisconsinite Andy Reuter writes and shoots video about whatever DIY project is holding his attention at the time. For more, find him on Instagram (@andrew_reuter ... More »
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