Introduction: Free-standing Artist Figure With Rare Earth Magnets

This Instructable describes how to insert powerful rare-earth magnets into an artists figure which will then stick to any magnetic surface.

A quick note about rare-earth magnets: If you have never worked with these magnets before then it’s important to note that they are very strong and will attract well to nearly any ferrous metal. They can be very dangerous, even fatal, if swallowed. I dont think they look particularly delicious, but take care that you keep them away from hungry pets / children.

Also, if you wear a mechanical or automatic watch take it off before working with rare-earth magnets. These magnets are strong and if they come close enough to your watch they will magnetize the springs inside and cause your it to run fast. Time moves fast enough as it is so save yourself the hassle and take off your watch.


  • Wooden Artists Figure -
  • Rare-Earth Magnets -
    • Available in the hardware section at almost any big-box home improvement store. I used something like these
      • The magnets should not be wider than the hands and feet of your artists figure.
    • Adhesive -
      • I used epoxy, but E6000 or gorilla glue would also work.


    • Drill
    • Brad point drill bit with stop collar
      • Brad point bits may also be called dowelling bits or lip and spur bits.
      • Note that the size of the drill bit must correspond to the diameter of the rare-earth magnets. I used 5/16" bit & magnets
    • Vice grips or pliers
    • Vice (or some other way to safely secure the figure while drilling)
    • Pencil
    • Calipers (optional)
    • PPE (Safety goggles, etc )

    Step 1: Prepare Your Figure

    Remove the figure from the packaging and unscrew it from the base. The figure should unscrew easily from the threaded metal rod.

    Once the figure is free, use your vice grips or pliers to unscrew the metal rod from the base.

    You will now have the figure, the base and a metal rod as three individual parts.

    Step 2: Set Your Drill Depth

    The magnets' packaging should provide the size, but if not you can measure the width of a magnet with the calipers, or simply stick it to the end of you brad point drill bit (see photos for more detail).

    Once you have the right sized drill bit, you will need to set the drill depth for the holes. Simply place one of your magnets against the drill bit so that it's flush with the end (ignore the point for now). Once the depth is correctly set, tighten the set-screw on the collar to lock the depth.

    Drill a test hole in in some scrap wood to check the depth before drilling your figure. The magnets should stick out a tiny little bit so they can make contact with magnetic surfaces.

    *Remember, it's better to have a hole thats too shallow than too deep. You can always drill more if you have to, but you cannot un-drill.

    Step 3: Find and Mark the Right Spot for Your Holes

    Now its time to find the right spots to drill your holes.

    Hold the drill bit up to the figures hands and feet to make sure that the hole will be in a spot thick enough so the point of the drill bit wont pierce the back of the figures hands and feet.

    Mark the center points for your holes.

    Step 4: Drill the Holes in the Figure.

    Place the hand/foot into a padded vice and tighten until secure.

    *You dont want to put the wooden figure directly in contact with the metal of the vice or it will leave dents. If you dont have pads for your vice, use some scrap cardboard or cloth.

    If you dont have a vice, you can use pliers to hold the figures while drilling. DO NOT hold the workpiece by hand while drilling unless you want holes in your fingers.

    Place the point of your drill bit directly onto the spot you marked in the previous step. Drill your hole as squarely as possible.

    When completed you can place a magnet in the hole to check the fit. If you set your depth collar correctly and drilled squarely then the magnet should be flush with the wood, or stick out a tiny bit so they can make contact with magnetic surfaces.

    If the magnet fits snugly thats great. If a magnet is so snug that it gets stuck during the test run just use another magnet or two to pull it out.

    Repeat for each hand/foot.

    Step 5: Glue Your Magnets in Place.

    A quick note about the polarity of rare earth magnets before gluing:

    At this point you've been handling these magnets long enough to notice that they are very strong, and more important, they are incredibly polarized. It's important to take note of that polarity and insert the magnets so that the exposed face of each is either N or S on all. This may not affect the figure's ability to stand on a ferromagnetic surface, but will affect its ability to be connected to the optional base in the next step.

    The easiest way to align the poles is to take the stack of magnets, insert the bottom magnet into the hole, then slide (dont lift) the stack of magnets away.

    Put a dab of adhesive in the hole, then insert your magnet. Clamp to ensure a strong bond. Allow the adhesive to set according to the instructions provided with the adhesive you choose.

    Be careful not to use too much glue that it squirts out the side of the hole when you insert your magnet.

    Step 6: Optional - Drill Holes Into the Base.

    Do this only if you want to use the included base.

    Good news is the center point of the base will already be known. This is an obvious drill point. I have tried two different patterns (see photos). I find that the base with the X pattern is sturdier and allows for a better range of motion. Start with whatever pattern you want, then add additional magnets as desired.

    Remember to note the polarity from the previous step. If the polarity is not aligned correctly then the magnetic base will repel the figure that it is meant to attract. Be careful before gluing!

    Step 7: Have Fun With Your Magnetic Figure!

    You're done, time to get creative! Make your figure hang from a metal shelf, do handstands, or scale your refrigerator...

    Yes, I like to cut faces out of magazines to tape on the heads. That really freaks out people who come over :)


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