Magnetic Task Light, Reacher and Closure




Introduction: Magnetic Task Light, Reacher and Closure

About: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture

New materials inspire new applications, and here I've used two - rare earth magnets and sugru - to perform three hacks: task lights, a magnetic reacher, and an apron closure. All are super easy, quick, and inexpensive (less than $1 each) adaptations of common items that make certain tasks easier, whether you have limited mobility or not.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

For all three projects, you'll need:

Rare earth magnets. I had a bunch of different sizes lying around from a 50 piece sampler pack from Lee Valley Tools. Cost: about $0.35 per magnet.
Sugru. This stuff is a handy formable silicone sold in small packets. Cost: about $1.50 per packet.


For the magnetic task lights, you'll need some LED keychain flashlights. Cost: about $0.40 per flashlight.
For the magnetic reacher, you'll need a stick of an appropriate length and a large flathead screw. I used the dried stem of a small walking stick cabbage, but I seriously doubt many people have these lying around in their airing cupboards! A dowel would be just fine.
For the magnetic apron closure, you'll need an apron (or some other piece of clothing you want held closed without having to tie a bow).

None of these hacks cost more than $1, because I only used 1 pack of sugru for all of them. In fact, I had half a packet left after making the closure, two task lights and the reacher, so I mended the plastic stand for my hot glue gun that I'd broken. Total build/mend time for everything: less than the sugru handling time of 30 minutes.

Step 2: Task Lights

Occasionally, you'll have a need for some additional light, and it could be while using just about any tool. Here's a way of making magnetic task lights that cost very little (about $1 each) and really do the job, and save you having to grip a flashlight in your teeth.

Stick a small disk magnet to the LED flashlight, and mold a thin layer of sugru around it. Take care to avoid the screwheads so you can change the batteries if need be. If you have a particular tool in mind and a location, you can custom mold the sugru to it by first covering the surface with cling film and pressing it into the appropriate spot. Leave to cure overnight. That really is all there is to it. The pictures show two variations on the theme: one for general purpose - the video shows it placed on a power drill:

And this one is the one molded for use on a screwdriver:

Step 3: Magnetic Reacher

A strong magnet at the end of a stick is a handy way to reach metal objects without bending or when the object is difficult to reach.I wasn't sure how strongly the sugru would stick, so I drove a large flathead screw into the end, stuck the magnet on top of the screw head, then used sugru to lock it in place (epoxy would work great, but wouldn't look as good). If you have a dowel, you might like to make a grippy handle on the other end with sugru.

The reacher can pick up quite heavy things (see pictures - a 1.25 kg weight was no problem). I wandered around my basement renovation picking up nails and other stuff, and got dozens before needing to empty it.

Step 4: Magnetic Apron Closure

Magnetic closures are used for all sorts of applications, not least in French lingerie. Here's a more prosaic use for them. Aprons traditionally tie at the back with a bow. Here, a strong magnet is used so that the user only has to bring the end of the tie to the side of the apron, and get it in approximately the right position. The magnets will do the rest. This hack is useful for anyone with limited dexterity. Here, my daughter is modelling it - she likes the magnets and thinks it will be "very useful for [her little brother]".

Cut the apron tie close to the side. Open a packet of sugru, and cover a magnet with a thin layer. Press into the tie, then fold over the end. Repeat on the short side. The stronger you want the magnetic closure to be, the thinner you should make the sugru (and vice-versa, of course). 

Step 5: More?

Suggest a simple but useful adaptive tool using magnets and sugru (I still have plenty of both!) that I like enough to make, and I'll write up the build as a step and give you a 3-month pro membership.

Here's one my son came up with - a task light at the end of a stick - by combining a task light and the reacher. He thinks it would be useful to see what's under the table. Or as a big magic wand. He doesn't want a pro membership, though!

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    7 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Good work !

    You can make a Light Sensor version, like the ones below:

    ----------------"May the good belong to all the people in the world.

    May the rulers go by the path of justice.

    May the best of men and their source always prove to be a blessing.

    May all the world rejoice in happiness.

    May rain come in time and plentifulness be on Earth.

    May this world be free from suffering and the noble ones be free from fears"

    ---- Vedic blessing


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent ideas!
    I'm especially fond of the apron closure - they're difficult to tie even for someone with full range of motion and dexterity.


    9 years ago on Step 5

    Nice ideas- I'm glad someone finally explained what Sugru actually is! I've never seen it here in Australia, but now I have an idea.

    I especially like the apron fastener for little kids- and your son's ideas!

    Not sure what the difference between rare Earth and normal magnets is, tho.

    Your kids would probably enjoy a "Fishing Game" with a magnet "hook" stuck onto a string tied to a short stick as rod, and fish made from thick paper or card with a couple of staples to make them stick to the magnet. You can just put the fish on the floor or make a pretend "pool" of coloured paper.

    If you write words on the back of the fish, it's a great way for them to learn the words. You can laminate the fish and sick on words if you want to use the game a lot. My reading students love this game.

    The kids can make their own fish designs, or print off fish pictures. I have some designs you can download at


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the idea, we'll try out your fish designs - we already have the stick!
    Rare earth magnets are just stronger than regular ferrite magnets - impressively so, they can be difficult to separate.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Ah, thanks for the explanation. Are they hard to find/expensive? I just use the cheap little button magnets from craft stores, but yours sound like fun!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Cheap and easy to find on DealExtreme, just search for "magnets". Rare earth, RE, neodymium and NIB are all the same thing.