Magnetically Latching Multi-tool Holster




Introduction: Magnetically Latching Multi-tool Holster

I always have a multi-tool on my belt at work. Problem is, after a year or so the Velcro closing tab loses its "stickiness". My solution is to use the powerful magnets from an old hard drive to replace the Velcro on the flap. With the flap closed the magnet sticks securely through the holster to the metal multi-tool within.

Items needed:
Your old non-sticky multi-tool pouch
A dead or obsolete hard drive
Small piece (less than 3" square) of tough fabric like denim, canvas, or heavy cotton

Flathead screwdriver
Appropriate Phillips or Torx drivers for opening hard drive
Vice grips, pliers, and/or bench vice
Razor knife
Sewing machine or hand sewing equipment

Safety: Mind the scissors and needles, don't poke a screwdriver through your hand, careful using the razor knife. The magnets retrieved from hard drives can be very powerful. They can snap your fingers, destroy CRT monitors, erase precious data on your hard drives, memory cards, and credit cards. If you don't have the right tools or skill set to attempt this project, please don't.

Step 1: Hard Drive Opening

Here we dissect a hard drive to remove its powerful rare earth magnets. This is an old 1 Gb hard drive donated by my buddy in the IT department at work. I trip over old hard drives at work, you may need to be more creative. Try your IT department at work, go to the repair center at you local computer retailer, dumpster dive, just try and get one for FREE. No reason to spend even $5 on a hard drive your just going to destroy.

Step 2: Locate Cover Screws

Poke around with your razor knife or screwdriver and peel back the stickers covering the lid screws. They may all be covered, like this drive, or only one or two may be hidden. They may be Phillips or Torx screws. Loosen and unscrew them all.

Here are a few other hard drive related Instructables you may find helpful

Step 3: Pry Off Cover

The nice thing about a dead hard drive is that you don't need any finesse because it's never going back together. Jam your flathead screwdriver in any convenient opening and firmly peel back the cover. This is the step when you find that last hidden screw under a sticker labeled "warranty void if seal is broken." Heck, if you pry hard enough you might not even need to take out the last screw or two.

Step 4: Retrieve Magnets

Your drive should look similar to this, the magnets surround the base of the arm that reaches across the drive platters. Remove the magnet securing screw(s), then use your flathead screwdriver to overcome the magnetic force holding them together and pull out the upper and lower magnet plates. Again, no points for finesse, if that little arm is getting in the way, get a bigger screwdriver and snap it to bits.

You may have gotten unlucky and opened a drive (usually only a very old drive would have this) that uses a stepper motor, it will have no magnets and instead use a little spur gear to move the arm. Throw away and return to step 1.

Step 5: Remove Magnets From Backing Plates

The goal in this step is to bend the backing plate the magnets are glued to. Whether you use two vice grips as pictured, one end in a vice and one plier, or a channel lock and vice grip, is up to you and your tool chest.

Do NOT heat the magnet to loosen the glue, as heating magnets to the temp required to loosen glue causes them to lose there magnetism. Do NOT try and chisel them off, the magnets are brittle and will crumble to bits (sticky bits, all over your screwdriver).

The only other method that worked for me was to pinch the base horizontally in a vice with the magnet face up. Using a large pair of channel locks layed flat to grip the outside edges of the magnet I rotated in a circular motion.

If you have well glued thin magnets, they may break, if the pieces are big enough the project may still work. If not, go find a different brand junk drive and start over.

Step 6: Prepare Your Old Tool Holster

Cut off the old no-good Velcro on both the flap and pouch part.

Step 7: Cut Magnet Cover Fabric

Cut a piece of fabric that matches the contour of the flap, and allows enough length in all directions to surround your magnet(s). I used some cotton duck scrap because of availability, I would imagine denim would work well too. Anything thin and tough. Thin fabric allows the magnet to get close and exert as much force as possible on the tool, and tough so the magnet won't tear through as you open the flap.

Step 8: Partially Sew on Magnet Cover Cloth

Because the magnet we are using is very strong, we need to complete as much sewing as possible without it present. It will just stick to your needles, grab your scissors, and stick to your sewing machine. I sewed everything but the bottom opening. Tight stitches that over run the edges with backstitching. Sewing is my weak point, so I do multiple passes to strengthen the seams.

Step 9: Insert Magnet(s) and Sew Close

Try out your magnet on the multi-tool with your partially sewn patch. Different hard drives have different strength magnets, the first pouch I built just needed one, this one I stuck both magnets together. Your magnets, your holster, your preference.

Once you slide in the magnets sew the lower part closed. If I was at all patient this may have worked better hand sewing. But, I used the machine, it jammed once, so I won't be getting any technique awards. I found setting the needle position dial off-center allowed me to keep the presser foot away from the magnet. Remember to gently pull the whole holster as you stitch to overcome the magnet sticking to the needle plate. I am using a "jeans needle," seems to hold up on thicker fabrics like this.

I have taught myself to sew by doing things like this, so if anyone has any tips please post. Sewing is definitely not my strongest ability.

Step 10: Enjoy Magnety Goodness

Put in your multi-tool, attach to your belt, and enjoy the powerful and silent opening and closing action of your modified holster. I find when I am working that I use it to hold things I am frequently using on a particular project. Instead of sticking the mini screwdriver in my mouth, it snaps nicely on the pouch.

This is my entry for the Instructables/Etsy Sew Useful contest, if you would like to purchase this holster, my Etsy listing is here. I am sure (actually I am hoping) you would much rather make your own.

Some caveats and warnings. I work around computers, televisions/CRT's, and other sensitive electronics. To my knowledge I have not gaussed any monitors or accidentally erased any hard drives, but I am sure it could happen. I find myself occasionally sticking to car doors and computer racks. I would NOT wear this if I was working around metal shavings, they would stick to the outside of the pouch and probably stick in my fingers the next time I opened the holster. But, if you work in a place like that, you probably already figured that out.

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    13 years ago on Introduction

    Skip the holster part, make a loop on your belt for a rare earth magnet and stick the letherman directly to the magnet


    15 years ago on Introduction

    not bad, especially since i have solid piece of metal called a leatherman Wave :P. So, just need to stich a rare earth metal to the inside of a piece of canvas pouch, and just stick the thing on the other side, Since my leatherman pounch is still holding one (super thick leather) i might hold out on this for now.


    15 years ago on Introduction

    Most, but not all, drives come with a pair of rare-earth magnets. To up the strength of a magnet/concentrate the field, it may help to place a piece of ferrous metal on the non-business side of it. A variation on this instructable - one that I've used - is to sew such a magnet into the waistband of your jeans (or whatever you wear when carrying your multi-tool or analogue). One drive magnet should do to hold most any LeatherMan, SAK, or bicycle multi-tool, etc.. And you don't really need the pouch/holster anymore; the tool is immediately available - just slide it off of the waistband - and easily, blindly replaced - just let go of it within an inch of the magnet and it gets sorted out... You can put the other magnet of the pair into a different pair of pants, of course, or put it some other purpose.


    15 years ago on Introduction

    nice- did something similar a few weeks ago, basicaly stiched a HDD magnet to the inside of a canves belt, holds my leatherman perfectly, and i'll never lose that screwdriver again either! lol well done


    15 years ago on Introduction

    you forgot one step... putting the hard drive back together and sending it to the companie for repair, lol. nice project but it isnt good for people that go in the woods with a compass because a magnet will disturb the compass. thanks for the idea.


    15 years ago on Introduction

    At first I didn't get that the magnet was going to be attracted to the tool inside the pouch, rather than a piece of metal or something to replace the 'other' side of the Velcro. But now I get it! What a clever idea. I might be lame, though, and just try a fridge magnet. :-)


    Reply 15 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, I did a little edit to the intro so hopefully the goal is a little clearer from the start. I don't think a fridge magnet will be strong enough. You could try, just don't sew it in all the way in until your satisfied. Don't miss out on the fun of tearing apart a hard drive, the magnets are very impressive.