Introduction: Easy Magnetic Locker Shelf

About: A lowly geologist who likes to build stuff.

My girls are sharing their cramped lockers with fellow students; and they needed a little extra shelving to use the space efficiently. The situations gets critical when winter rears its ugly head: heaps of boots, toques, mittens and snow pants need to fit. The shelving I designed is compact, totally adjustable and easily installed. I had all the materials on hand including the Rare Earth Magnets harvested from hard drives, the plank and the angle brackets leftover from an IKEA kitchen..

Step 1: Supplies

You may have some of these things lying around; I am willing to bet you have a computer or two gathering dust somewhere:

  1. 4 Rare Element Magnets (or 2 hard drives)
  2. 4 corner brackets (from an IKEA counter top) stainless or some other alloys will not work as well as thick cheap steel.
  3. An old plank, the wider the better (mine was 9 inches wide)
  4. Some stain and varnish
  5. Some old sand paper

Some tools you will need:

  1. Glue gun
  2. Vice
  3. Torx screwdriver set (to take hard drives apart)
  4. Flat head screwdriver
  5. Chop saw (or hand saw)

Step 2: Cut Plank

Measure your locker: there is no international standard. You don't want to bring it home to recut the shelf, so you may want to cheat the measurement short a tiny bit.

Measure the plank and chop it. My plank was a little narrow, so I added a half width. To marry the two pieces, I used a piece of scrap. Make sure to predrill the planks, see the picture to see how I ensured I didn't punch a hole through the top of the shelf. If the drill bit is too long, you can also wrap an elastic at the desired depth limit.

Step 3: Stain and Varnish

A quick sanding will help the stain and varnish to properly adhere to the wood. Follow the instructions for your stain and varnish. Apply liberally and come back over the wood with long strokes to ensure a smooth finish. Check the edges for drips. I used some spray varnish that I had on hand; this makes application very easy, but it is probably more expensive and less effective at protecting your wood.

Step 4: Harvest Magnets From Hard Drives

I am plagiarizing my own Cake Icing Tracer Projector here:

Warning, these magnets are VERY powerful and could pinch your fingers or break if you let them snap into each other. I removed about a dozen in an afternoon, and was paranoid that they would start self agglomerating on the table in front of me...

The average household should have 3 old computers gathering dust, if you don't then someone you know does. They are unlikely to be worth anything, so you can go ahead and recycle them: but first, pull out the hard drives and harvest the magnets. All you need is a set of torx screwdrivers (which look like a six pointed star), and maybe some Philips head drivers as well, depending on the brand of hard drive. Take off the cover by removing all the screws as well as a few that are likely hiding under stickers or labels. If the cover is not coming off then you likely missed one; rub the labels with the tip of the screwdriver until you find the divot where that last screw was hiding. Once you have the cover off you should find a metal bracket in one corner near the axle for the reader head (see the images). Remove any screws that may be holding the bracket in place and pry off the bracket. It will likely take a screwdriver to get it off because the magnets are very strong. Once you have removed the first magnet, you will see a second one looking back at you. Remove any screw and extract this one too; in fact the bottom one is usually more useful because its bracket is less protruding making it easier to use directly.

Step 5: Isolate the Magnets

I like to keep the backing on the magnets in case I need to mount them to something. In this case, you want to remove them from the backing to expose both sides.

Carefully place the backing into a vice, and attempt to pry the magnet with a flat head screw driver. Note that there are usually knobs on three sides of the magnets. Take a look to make sure you aren't needlessly pushing against one of these. It is possible to break the magnet; they are in fact quite brittle, so take your time and be careful. If you cannot free it this way, you can try to bend the backing away with a solid set of pliers (see the photos).

The magnets are rather hard to separate and can break if they are snapped together, so I usually stick them onto each other through a piece of cardboard.

Step 6: Wrap Magnets in Sandpaper and Install

My first intention was to simply stick the brackets to the magnet and the magnet to the locker walls; I was counting on the very strong lateral strength of the magnets to keep the shelf from slipping down. What I noticed however, is that due to smooth finish of the magnet, bracket and locker walls, they tended to slip down (more than expected). To resolve this, i decided to hot glue some sandpaper to each magnet, this has the added benefit of providing a tab to more easily pull the magnet off if required. I had also tried smearing the magnets in silicone caulking, but the result was crummy.

The installation is a breeze: simply put four magnets and four brackets at the same height in the locker and set the shelf on top (see the photo).

The shelves have been a great hit, the girls love them, and even their friend's dads have complimented me on the practicality and simple design.

Epilog Contest VII

Participated in the
Epilog Contest VII

Shelving Contest

Participated in the
Shelving Contest