Introduction: Giant Magnet

OK, what could be more fun than a giant toothbrush and an empty giant cardboard box? A giant magnet, of course.

Learn how to build a giant horseshoe magnet that actually works!

This project is great for kids to learn about science and to use it in their science fair projects. Another great weekend project to do with the kids...

I had made this when my daughter was in first grade when she asked for some magnets to play with. If you spoil your kids rotten, no ordinary magnet will do. Be prepared to get yelled at by mom who will say "Why did you make it so big?"

Step 1: Drawn to You

This was actually done about three years ago so I guess I was too early for the magnet contest and had to recreate the steps from memory...

This is a creative project so use your eye to gauge the right proportions. You can make the magnet as big as your kid can handle or a smaller sized one to be safely wielded by small ones.

Use some 1x3 wood stock. I had some pine scraps around so the giant magnets were sized to use up the spare wood I had lying around. Furring strips can be used but they need more patching and sanding to get a nice finish.

Lay out the wood by first cutting two equal lengths about a foot long that will be the "legs" of the magnet. Put a scrap piece as a spacer between the two legs and cut out a piece that will be the top of the magnet which is the length of the three pieces of wood across.

Draw a quarter of a circle at the two ends of the top piece. Round off the top piece at the two ends using a coping saw or a jigsaw to cut along the curve. Use these waste pieces to fit and glue in the middle of the magnet to round out the shape of the "horseshoe".

Join the legs to the top piece using any variety of carpentry techniques. I used pocket screws and a pocket hole jig to join mine. You can also do biscuits, dowels, mortise and tenon, lap joints... The joint needs to be mechanically reinforced because glue alone is not strong enough to withstand a kid using this magnet as a giant wishbone. To make this an "in-de-structable" you can join the pieces by sandwiching it between some hardboard or thin plywood cut to match the shape of the top piece and bridging the joints.

Purchase some compact bar magnets to embed in the ends of the giant magnet. You can stack a few together to increase the magnetic strength. Trace the outline of the magnet on the end. The flat or wider part of the magnet should be the bottom of the magnet. Cut out the wood so that the real magnets can be glued and inlayed into the wood end. Use epoxy or a polyurethane glue to attach the real magnets. Test the magnets to determine that they are opposing poles to simulate a real magnet and inlay them accordingly. This is a good excuse to make more than one giant magnet to test them so that they will attract or repel each other.

Use wood filler to smooth out the joints. Round out all of the edges. Sand, prime and paint with a glossy red. The leftover paint you can use to build a giant toothbrush or something. Use aluminum duct sealing tape to tape up the silver "metallic" ends of the magnet.

Step 2: Attracting Attention...

Well, this is it. Use your giant magnets in the name of science, for good and not for evil. Your kids will also name the pair of magnets like Fred and Ted or Caitlin and Alexandra or ...

Please note that these are not toys. Depending on what real magnets you use, they can unexpectedly get pulled to a metal chair or desk causing injury to the user or someone in the path between the giant magnet and the attracted object. They can also be heavy as a finished product.

P.S. They also make great gifts for teachers. I made and donated a set because the class had so much fun experimenting with giant magnets. Kid tested - kid-proof.