Introduction: Three Handy Workbench Tools From HDD Magnets

The first time I took apart a hard drive I was amazed by the super strong magnets inside. They were mounted on steel plates with holes already drilled in them, just waiting to be re-purposed. Here's a few ways I've used these magnets on my workbench.

Step 1: A Simple Light Duty Magnetic Clamp

All hard drives have two strong magnets with a pivoting coil sandwiched between them. These magnets come in various styles. For a bench clamp, I selected a set of magnets that pivoted on a slot and groove. This allows the magnet to accept a wider variety of material sizes without slipping. I mounted one magnet to the edge of the workbench with screws. The other magnet could then be slotted over it and used to clamp items firmly. It can hold circuit boards, larger spring clamps, measuring devices and other small items.

Step 2: A DIY Helping Hand

The magnetic clamp is really handy as a helping hand. I attached an alligator clip to either end of a twelve inch piece of heavy copper wire. When the wire is folded in half and clamped in the magnets it can be used to hold a circuit board, pair of wires or other items while their being soldered. For heavier work I use two alligator clips mounted on lengths of bamboo skewer as it is stiff and can be easily cut to any length needed.

Step 3: A Magnetic Tool Holder

I selected another set of magnets for the other side of the bench. This set didn't slot together, but one side had 'ears' that stuck out the side. I mounted this one to the front corner edge of my bench. It's very handy for holding tools, keeping wires out of the way or hanging my drill motor.

Step 4: A Screw and Hardware Holder

I mounted the flat magnet to the top of my workbench in the corner near the tool holder. This is handy as a bench dog and it's also a handy way to keep screws in one place when I'm taking something apart.

There are many more uses for dead hard drives and their magnets and I'll be covering a few more over the next few days. Go grab a dead computer and have some fun!

Comments

author
MikB (author)2015-08-01

Use number 4: Put it inside a paper bag/envelope,and use it to sweep for lost screws/bolts, or to pick up ferrous dust (e.g. castoff from using steel wire wool).

Bonus points for getting the magnet OUT of the bag without all the trash ending up stuck to the magnet.

author
Caspar (author)MikB2015-08-05

Don't use a bag, they tear. Try a disposable plastic cup or similar.

author
MikB (author)Caspar2015-08-06

Never had one tear, I suppose it depends what size of metal junk you're picking up!

author
Caspar (author)2015-08-05

btw3: I have an oven for setting Araldite. Magnets are great to hold bits in place, but I heard the rare earth magnets lose it above 80 deg C.

author
alcurb (author)2015-07-28

I use my HDD magnets at work all the time. I often need to take the backs off large screen LCD TVs by removing a zillion screws then when it's time to close up the TV, to put all those screws back. No room for error like dropping one or two screws on the floor and losing them forever. (I think little invisible creatures scurry and steal the screws and other tiny hardware that fall on the floor to add them to the space ship they're building to escape the planet before Earth is destroyed by Apophis) <gasp>...ehem...Enters the HDD magnet! All I got to do is drop the screw in the general vicinity of the magnet and the screw gets magically pulled in mid flight right towards the magnet's powerful magnetic field, like space debris being pulled into the gravity well of a black hole, minus the spaghettification of course <cough> never to lose the screws again. [I gotta stop watching syfy so much.]

author
bgledhill (author)alcurb2015-07-31

It could be cats taking those screws. Some cats are actually aliens here to study us..... =) JK, Of course. But, think about it..... we have one now and had one in the past. They are not always very cat like.. Our current one came to us as a tiny kitten and never has quite known how to be a cat. This is my and my daughter's explanation. When she disappears for a week or so, she has gone back for a tune up. But the joke is on her alien cohorts....we are far from an average American family. ... LOL.. JK JK JK, really. Thanks for your above reply. Love me some instructables!! Getting husband to raid old hard drives as we type.

author
Caspar (author)bgledhill2015-08-05

"Silly", I thought. But who am I to judge.

author
Caspar (author)2015-08-05

I use lots of strong magnets like these. I have a nail near the shadowboard to hang spare magnets on. And a magnet on my drill press to hold the chuck and a few drills I use often. So versatile, but magnetic tools can be a pain.

btw: now I need a demagnetiser (or for those in the USA, a demagnetizer). I made one decades ago from a big transformer primary winding (no E's or I's), with an electric heater element load to limit the current to 5Amps or so.

Put the tool in the middle, hold tight, turn on the juice, pull the tool out, turn off power immediately to avoid cooking the coil....

btw2: to separate the magnet from the backing steel, soak it in acetone for a week then wedge a razor blade in to lift the magnet. Put the whole thing (with razor) back in the acetone and repeat a few days later.

author
JohnS156 (author)2015-08-05

Taped one to the end of a long paint stick to retrieve socket I dropped down into my engine compartment

author
waltbosz (author)2015-08-05

If anyone is wondering, these magnets are more than strong enough to hang a hammer.

author
13blue (author)2015-08-03

Jean-yus! Thanks for sharing. You just upped my garage workspace game!

author
smcmasters1 (author)2015-08-01

I also see a fantastic bottle opener out of almost all of those pieces.

author
Phil_S (author)2015-07-30

Amazingly powerful and useful. I too have loads of these around.

I use them for finding the nails in studwork (drywalls) and hence the studs; guiding cables in studwork (needs a steel chain like the basin plughole chains - I know, they're brass, but you get the idea); discrete security reedswitch actuators. The larger ones are almost impossible to get apart. I stick one on the end of a screwdriver to keep the screw in place in tricky places. Testing screws for brass/steel/ decent stainless (the cheap stuff is magnetic). The cheapskate UK coins which used to be worth their weight in copper, nickel, silver are now plated steel. Only worth washers now, a new meaning to penny washers.

I have two concerns about these. They are made with "rare earth" elements which are not called rare earths for nothing. Sooner or later, these really useful elements are going to end up in landfill sites - then what? The other concern is more personal. I am lucky/unlucky enough to have an implanted cardiac device which keeps me going. Powerful magnets turn the device off (part of the routine testing), so these magnets and me keep a healthy distance apart.

Regarding the credit cards, the magnetic strip is not used much now with chip and pin, but occasionally they get swiped - but such a powerful field can affect plenty of other devices, electronic compasses, anything with Hall effect sensors, vehicle braking electronics.

I still wonder at the sheer power of this invisible force

author
vross1 (author)Phil_S2015-07-31

Sorry, but despite the name, rare earth elements are quite common, with only one particular element, a radioactive one, being rare. Cerium is the 25th most common element in the world, roughly as abundant as copper. They are not rare, they are merely not usually found in high concentrations.

author
Phil_S (author)vross12015-07-31

You put your finger on it - rare equates to low concentrations. Low concentratrations also mean that a huge amount of energy and earth moving goes into extracting these elements. It's a bit like aluminium extraction. You start with localised bauxite deposits, put huge amounts of electrical energy into refining, turn it into drinks cans, then it ends up distributed at low concentrations in landfill sites. Over time, a common element takes on a rarity value. Another thing that worries me is LED production - a guy gets the Nobel Prize for the blue LED then most of the production ends up as Christmas decorations. I think we have a duty to protect these sometimes lifesaving elements, not commercially exploit for a quick buck. The only other solutions are going to be asteroid mining, assuming we still have the means of doing it.

author
RanT1 (author)Phil_S2015-07-31

"Sooner or later, these really useful elements are going to end up in landfill sites - then what?"

A lot of them already have, but the "e-waste" and "e-cycling" programs are greatly reducing that, because the magnets are prime targets for the people dismantling old electronics.

Who probably hate me, because I always strip the magnets before throwing the rest of the drive in the recycling bin ;-)

author
Chuck Stephens (author)RanT12015-07-31

I work closely with a local e-waste recycler. The majority of hard drives he receives are shredded or else a hole is burned through the case with a torch to damage the inner disk. The magnets are rarely removed or reused at the 'professional' level. Protection of the client's data trumps recycling.

author
vross1 (author)2015-07-31

A couple things to consider would be that ferrite tools left in contact
with magnets for long periods will tend to become magnetized themselves,
or items being worked on that may be magnetically sensitive in a
negative way could be effected if one got too close to them. As long as
one keeps those factors in mind, after weighing whether such issues
could be a problem depending on the individuals application, it is a
pretty nifty idea, and one I will probably use to at least some extent.

author
uncle frogy (author)2015-07-30

I love to re-purpose magnets. I took a piece of left over flooring and mounted some HD magnets on it and fastened it to the wall over my cutting board in the kitchen and now keep my knives there handy and not bouncing around in a drawer getting dull.

. I also put a magnet inside an Altoids box to catch screws from disassembles the cool thing about the HD magnets is that they are so strong that I can stick the box right on the work it will stay in place.

uncle frogy

author
tuanlong (author)2015-07-30

Thank for share.

author
GeorgeM30 (author)2015-07-30

author
Azze01 (author)2015-07-30

neat idea, really. The only concern I would have with such powerful magnets mounted on the edge of the workbench at pocket level, is the functionality of my bank cards in my wallet. Knowing my luck, I'm pretty sure I would end up in front of an AT&T with a dead card after leaning against the workbench

author
jvector (author)2015-07-30

I've also used thes in my house as convenient magnetic door closers on cupboard doors ( for DiY meter cupboard, boiler cupboard etc.) a UK 2p coin is made of magnetic material and makes a useful complementary target epoxied to one side and the magnet screwed to thew other.

I also took some of the base magnets off their steel backing plates ( bent the steel plates away with a pair of Mole grips) and attached them to a kitchen cupboard side as a hanger for small veg knives.

author
bklyn92 (author)2015-07-30

Pretty cool huh. I have been doing the same thing for a while. Good idea to screw the to something. I didnt think of that.

author
rosemaryknits (author)2015-07-30

what great ideas!

I have one of these magnets and I use it to hold a composition notebook to my fridge. It holds the entire notebook to the fridge. I can't get over this lol

Thanks for the great workshop ideas!

author
tbt10f (author)2015-07-30

I love HD magnets :D One note though, some drives do not have a pair of magnets for the head, only one, and some drives have more than two magnets! Hard drives are like a box of chocolates.

author
sandra225 (author)2015-07-30

Useful info!! Thanks!

author
Kona-chan (author)2015-07-29

nice! we have one of those in my natural physics classroom, we couldnt figure out what it was but I'll let my teacher know and tell him to take a look at this :)

author
mwm2929 (author)2015-07-28

I had stacks of these in my workshop! Thanks for the great idea!

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Bio: I build cool things from trash and recycled materials. I like noise and sound circuits. I live with my wife, a chihuahua named Monkey and ... More »
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