Introduction: How to Pick Up Nails or Metal Filings / Swarf Without the Pain

You've just dropped a pack of nails, pins, tacks, screws, paper clips, ball bearings or other small metal objects on the floor. The obvious way to pick them up is by using a magnet - Simple! Now you've got to get them off the magnet - Not so simple if they're sharp.

I came up with this after dropping a pack of Very Sharp carpet tacks and puncturing myself several times getting them off the magnet and back in the box. It's so blindingly obvious I can't imagine why I've never used this method in the past.

You can also use this technique to collect swarf and steel filings (only ferrous metal, of course) and all those little sharp bits that collect on the workbench.

Step 1: What You Need

To pick up your nails or other widgets safely, all you need is a magnet - The type of magnet taken from an old hard drive is ideal for this. Otherwise, any reasonably strong magnet.

You'll also need a small thick plastic or cloth bag. Make sure the plastic or cloth is thick enough, otherwise sharp objects will pull through it. At a pinch, a piece of polythene sheet or cloth around 6 inches (150mm) square would do.

Step 2: How to Do It

1) Turn the bag inside-out and drop the magnet into it.

2) Move the bag/magnet over the nails so they stick to it.

3) Turn the bag the right way out and Voila!

By the miracle of topology, you now have the nails INSIDE the bag.
You can then pour them back into the container they came out of.

You can use the same technique to turn a left hand glove into a right hand one - or vice-versa. Useful if you've got a couple of punctured rubber gloves (marigolds).

Topology is the branch of mathematics which deals with the surfaces of things. Topologically speaking, the magnet in the bag is the same as the nails in the bag. The same mathematics also says a person is indistinguishable from a ring doughnut.