Make a Simple Electromagnet

Ever have a project that needed a certain kind of magnet, yet you didn't have what you needed? Maybe you wanted to be able to switch the magnet on and then off, but lack the knowledge on how to create such a wonderful thing? Now (after following my steps) you'll know how to make a basic one.

I needed to create an electromagnet for a project, so I decided to document the steps to show how to create your very own electromagnet.

Warning: The more current you place through the wire, the more heat it will give off and could start a fire if it becomes too hot. The wires will be hot after putting current through them. You can use thicker wires to allow more current. Recommended wire type is copper.

1. Phone Line (or small insulated copper wires such as magnet wire)
2. Wire Stripper
3. Scissors
4. Pliers
5. D Batteries (power source)
6. Tape or glue
7. Ferrous metal object such as a pipe or nail
8. Small ferrous object to test with (small screw, nail, etc.)
9. Time on your hands

Step 1: Simon Says: Strip!!!

1. Strip the phone lines of their outside sheathing. Don't cut into the interior wires. As you move along, you'll need to use the pliers to push the sheathing off. If you can, try to strip at least two to three feet (that's all you'll need to make this simple magnet).

2. Bare the ends of the wires (If you had to cut the wires, bind the bare ends together to create a long wire and place tape over the bare spots). Now take one end and place it up next to the metal object you wish to make into a magnet.

3. Either glue or tape it into position to prevent it from unraveling.

4. Now start wrapping your wire around the metal object as shown in the video below.

Step 2: Finish It Up

1. After you've wrapped the wire around several times (Only wrap wire in one direction, otherwise your magnet will be weaker due to the fields fighting against each other) you can tape, glue, or tie a small knot at the end.

Note: Don't wrap the entire metal pipe. The part that has wire will not attract ferrous objects. You need to leave metal showing to use as a magnet.

Now you're all set to test out your new electromagnet.

2. Set up the battery so that it sits on one of the bare wires and hold the other end of the wire in your hand (Don't touch the copper. It'll become hot). Now touch the wire that you're holding to the top of the battery and place your test object near the metal pipe. You may not feel the fields (depending on how much power you're putting through the wires and how many times you wrapped the object), but if you place the test object near the pipe, it should be attracted to it.

Video below....

Step 3: Making It Stronger and Adding a Handle

See video below:
To make your electromagnet stronger, after you tie the knot (or tape/glue) the end into place, pull the wire alongside the wrapped wire to the starting point and start wrapping the wire around on top of the already wrapped wires. Make sure you go in one direction as you wrap. You can do this as many times as you want, but remember the farther away you get from the center (the metal pipe), the weaker the fields will become.

Note: The magnet's fields won't become weaker, just the coils' fields.

To make a handle:
1. Pull both wires towards the back away from the metal magnet
2. Wrap the wires with electrical tape to keep them from sliding around.
3. Place a piece of foam pipe insulation around the wires. Trim as needed to make a snug fit.
4. Wrap the foam insulation with electrical tape to keep it in place and help prevent heat from leaking out.

Note: Either use a small current if using the electromagnet for long periods or use the magnet for short periods of time if using a good amount of current. Coils = Resistance which give off heat.

There you go, you're all done.



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    76 Discussions


    10 years ago on Step 3

    I have read your instructions on making an Electro Magnet, but wanted one very strong; so I used a 3/8 X 6 inch bolt. I wrapped it 8 or 10 times with 18 AWG Magnet Wire. It doesn't work with a D-Cell or a 9-volt battery, so I hooked it to a car battery, which made the strong magnet that I need. however, the wire and bolt got very hot, very quickly. If I can get this working, it will be used in a very rapid, steady "on-off" situation. What must I do to accomplish my goal?

    9 replies
    Sourav Gangulyross man

    Reply 2 years ago

    If I cover the whole thing with electric tape ,will it affect the magnetic field or electromagnetic waves ...


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Better late than never Charli :).

    To get a strong electromagnet, you will be basing your build off of what kind of current (amps) you can get, and the number of turns.

    The more current you get, the more crowded the wire is for the current to pass through, so it will become hot. To reduce the amount of heat building up, you will want to use thicker wires.

    If that's not possible, then perhaps a resistor connected in series would help reduce the current to a level that doesn't heat the wires. You will limit the strength of the magnet by doing this. A lower current can be compensated for with even more turns.

    Magnetic force = I * N where as I is current and N is amount of turns.

    This is somewhat simplified and english is not my native language. I hope this might help you, or anyone else out there reading this.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    by doing that it may make it even hotter as you have all the resistance from the resitor plus the wire would make it hotter


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Nightcrawl== the equation "magnetic force = I * N" is helpful, but what unit of measurement is relevant? for example, is the force measured in Pounds/ square inch?

    The reason I ask is that I need to create a magnet with approximately 50 pounds of pulling power. This magnet needs to be switched on/off quickly and repeatedly, most likely with a "squeeze" trigger. Can you possibly give me the necessary specs to create this kind of magnet? Thank you very much for your help, and anyone else's suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

    ross man

    6 years ago on Introduction

    i have tried countless times to make a electromagnet to put under a grinder to pick up the little grinds but a epic faliure hits every time


    8 years ago on Introduction

    it is a waste of tym
    i didn't understood a bit


    8 years ago on Introduction

    how do you make a stronger electromagnet so you could put one in a glove with a switch?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I wrapped a strand of the ethernet cord around a iron nail and attached the leads to a D battery. The wire got really hot but I couldnt get any magnetic pull on the second iron nail i had right next to it


    11 years ago on Introduction

    HINT: To stop the coil from overheating, you could wrap a layer of electrical tape over each layer of wire you add :)

    3 replies

    That would weaken the magnetic force created on the piece of metal and would take up a lot of extra space. And that would trap the heat for only so long before it would escape. If you wanted to put together a real electromagnet (not one that was done in a hurry), you cold use small DC fans inside of a plastic handle to draw the heat away...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    No, it would NOT. The flux depends on the total number of turns*current. Tape simply adds some volume to the coil but will not weaken the flux generated. No offence but some of your suggestions could hurt people which is uncalled for considering you can wind a megnet which can life 100's of pounds (yes hundreds) using a single D-cell flashlight battery! how's that for major, and safe!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You seem to talk alot about magic things you can do because you've "been an Electronics engineer for 25 years" but you haven't actually given any suggestions at all. Please do explain how you could "wind a megnet " that can "life 100's of pounds". If you do not have a helpful suggestion, then kindly STFU. I found this instructable to be quite interesting and helpful.