Unusual Uses for Magnets




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Intro: Unusual Uses for Magnets

I love magnets!

There are many practical uses for magnets that we see everyday, but there are so many more ways to use magnets that the maker nerd in all of us will appreciate. Though there are a few types of magnets on the market, for almost every application I prefer neodymium magnets (also known as rare-earth magnets) as they are the best choice - They are small, very powerful, and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

From the workshop to the kitchen, there's plenty of unusual uses for magnets. Let's explore!

Step 1: Hammer Helper

If you've ever used a hammer you've probably kept a few nails in your mouth to keep yourself productive. While this is an effective method, it can be cumbersome if you've got a few types of nails in use. Modify your hammer to do double duty and carry some nails with a small magnet!

Wood handled hammers are perfect for including a small magnet in the flat bottom. I found a drill pit with a matching diameter to the magnet I wanted to use.

Secure the hammer so the location for the magnet is facing upwards, then drill into the bottom of the handle as deep as required to contain your magnet.

Add a small dab of epoxy into the cavity and then insert the magnet until fully seated. Allow the epoxy to cure and you're good to go!

Step 2: Magnetize Screwdrivers

Staying in the workshop: magnets also work great to polarize your screwdrivers, allowing you to pick up a screw with the tip of the screwdriver. This is especially helpful to keep a screw seated on the end of the driver as you start screwing it into the opening - the time when most screws can fall off the end of the driver.

To magnetize screwdrivers stroke the magnet along the shaft of the screwdriver from handle to tip a few times. That's all that's needed to polarize the screwdriver and allow it to be magnetized.

To remove the magnetic properties just stroke the magnet in the reverse direction and the screwdriver will be demagnetized.

Step 3: Nail + Screw Finder

Maybe you're working outside and drop a nail or screw, finding it in the dirt or grass can be a laborious task. Whether finding fasteners, earrings, or cleaning up steel shavings, a small magnet on a stick will make your life a lot easier.

I made this handy pick-up tool by just gluing a strong magnet on the end of a dowel. There's plenty of ways to make this a more robust tool for you needs, like adding wheels to the dowel which would allow you to roll it around on the ground at a consistent height. What other ways can you think to make this tool better?

Step 4: Stud Finder

Though residential homes have wood studs, a magnet can help you find the stud locations by being attracted to the the drywall screws. In older homes where there's lath and plaster, a magnet can help you locate the nails where the lath is attached to the studs.

By lightly tapping on a wall you can roughly locate where the studs aren't by listening for a hollow sound. Continue tapping until you locate a dense thud sound, there should be a stud in this general location. Use your magnet to hone in on the exact stud location by moving the magnet around the wall until it becomes attracted to the drywall screw or lath nail.

Conventional construction has studs located 16" apart, so once you find one stud you can measure out 16" and use your magnet to locate more studs.

Step 5: Keep Supplies Close By

Crafty makers void warranties and fix all their own stuff. Keep your screws and other bits organized when you're doing your next disassembly with a magnetized dish.

Almost any dish can work for this, but I used a stainless steel container. Since some types of stainless steel aren't magnetic magnetic, I used a strong adhesive (E6000) to bond my large diameter flat magnet to the underside of the dish.

Allow the adhesive plenty of time to cure (I left mine overnight), then your dish is ready to be used.

Whether holding sewing needles for your textiles, or screws for your repair job, a magnetic dish will make your live easier and more organized!

Step 6: Visual Shopping List

I'm a visual person, I'm also a creature of habit and usually get the same staples at the grocery store. Combining these two traits lead me to making a visual grocery list, a quick way to remind myself what I need at the store at a glance, and without opening up the fridge.

When I'm in the fridge and use the last of the milk, I just slide the milk magnet over to the grocery list. Now I know that I'm out of milk and need to grab some next time I'm out.

This easy visual style can be used for all kinds of applications outside of the kitchen. All you need is a sheet magnet and a printer to make your own.

Step 7: Magnetic Silly Putty

Magnetic Silly Putty is super easy to make, and displays some curious properties when a strong magnet is placed nearby. Making your own is easy, you just need some silly putty, a little black iron oxide powder, and a powerful rare earth magnet.

Magnetic silly putty is a great teaching tool, as well as a fun science toy for kids of all ages.

Step 8: Ferromagnetic Fluid

Magnetic putty isn't the only science toy to make with magnets, there's also ferromagnetic fluid! This simple project uses the same black iron oxide powder suspended in a water solution and all contained in a small jar. The jar is then sealed up to keep the contents from spilling out.

When a magnet is introduced to the side of the jar you will be able to see the magnetic fields action on the iron oxide powder inside the jar. Remove the magnet and watch the powder drop to the bottom of the jar.

This simple project is fun to play with and visually demonstrates how a magnetic works.

Step 9: Emergency Keys

Hide your keys somewhere safe in case you get locked out.

Some keys are brass, and not magnetic. An easy way to use this trick with brass keys is to use key rings, which are steel. Place a key ring onto your key, then use a small neodymium magnet to hide the key somewhere inconspicuous, like under a table or inside a drawer.

Step 10: Magnetic Fidget Spinner

The fidget spinner fad is still in full effect, with all kinds of new ways to modify and customize your favorite toy. There's an unwritten competition among spinner to see who's can go the fastest. While air compressors seem like the easiest way to achieve maximum RPM, brainy Instructables member tanner_tech shows us a new spin on accelerating with his Electromagnetic Fidget Spinner Accelerator.

From the Instructable:

The magnets on the fidget spinner are mounted so that all the magnets have their north pole facing outwards. The electromagnet is wired so that the side that is closest to the spinner will have a north polarity when it is powered. As the magnet on one side of the spinner passes the electromagnet it will trigger the reed switch, activating the electromagnet [and] that arm of the spinner will be pushed away from the electromagnet.

Step 11: Craving More?

Can't get enough magnets? Me neither! That's why I made a collection of magnetic projects I've made over the years. They are sure to get your creative juices flowing, and I hope you find them attractive :)

Do you have your own unusual use for a magnet? I want to see it!

Share a picture of your usual use for magnets in the comments below and get a freePro Membership to Instructables!

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160 Discussions


26 days ago on Step 11

See this sewing machine> Got it back in 1979. For at least the last 30 years, possibly more, that magnetic strip has graced it.

1 reply

4 weeks ago

I had a problem in need of a solution with regard to a kitchen cabinet. The cabinet was near a double door, which has a curtain rod over it. Because of the rod, the cabinet door had to end just below it, to open. That ment the upper section had to be covered by a panel and the area would be inaccessible.

To solve the problem, I made the panel removable and suspended it with rare earth magnets,


Question 4 weeks ago on Step 7

I would think that use iron filings from a grinder or even a file to mix with silly putty, that would save about $11 from buying iron oxide on Amazon? Just a thought. Very cute to see the silly putty "eating" up a string of magnets. A bit scary.


1 year ago

I find rocks with iron in them in remote areas and in some creekbeds in the far north of Ontario simply using strong rare earth magnets on the end of a fibreglass walking stick or skipole. Many of these rocks are actually meteorites and have sold them to collectors. Sometimes when cleaning out eaves-troughs I often run rare earth magnets through the debris to find what I call stardust. Metal dust floating into our atmosphere and ending up in our eaves-troughs. Fun to think about. Where else could it come from?

2 replies

Reply 4 weeks ago

Made this "Poor Man's Metal Detector" using a rare earth magnet with nearly 100lbs pull (I thought it was funny). In the picture, it's standing on its own atop my table saw.

Magnet stick.jpg

Reply 1 year ago

Could be micrometeorites in the eaves....check out Project Stardust on FB:



4 weeks ago on Step 11

Are You looking for an used car to buy? If you suspect that It's body has been repaired, take a little magnet with a piece of felt glued on one of It's faces in order to not damage the paint ....place the magnet over the metal panels and It will stuck on the metal....sliding It over the body, if It releases It's "magnetic grip", then in that place is a lot (more than 5...6 mmm of bondo) under the paint.....filling a hugue bump, and masked by the paint job!

1 reply

Reply 4 weeks ago

Yup, been doing that since my gramps showed me the trick 45 years ago. TIP: He placed the magnet in a handkerchief and tied it off with a bit of tape.This way you could just wipe it over the vehicle body - especially the rocker panels...


4 weeks ago

25 years ago I bought a couple 'rare earth' magnets that were about 1"L x 1/2"W x 1/4" thick at an electronic surplus store. When I showed them to my coworkers they were amazed at how powerful they were. You could toss these things at a steel cabinet from 12' feet away and they "snapped" on with such force it was scary. You absolutely could not remove them without sliding them off the edge. Well I found that when placing one on each side of my hand they held together through my hand so well that it was very difficult to remove them.

I showed the trick to everyone in the shop. When I finally removed them an hour later I found hundreds of red speckles in the pores on the front of my hand. These suckers were actually pulling the iron out of my blood through my skin !!!


4 weeks ago

Well now wasn’t that a fascinating article! I’m so glad I spent my time wisely today by reading these awesome tips. I feel so enlightened now and I’m in a state of complete euphoria!


9 months ago

I use magnets as a tie clip. It works great, and if you do it right, then your tie just clings to your chest, and no one knows why.

1 reply
Jane Ward

9 months ago

I have just found the elusive wall studs - thank you. Our house is owner built, so there is no regular gap. Towel rails going up.


9 months ago

Japan's steel industry made SUBSTANDARD Steel for the US..

The end result when the kitchen stove needed a new close spring set the Substandard Steel lost its spring in less then a year as did the next set..

The original set lasted seven years..

I tried to rewire the High Temperature Lock servo.. But it was too slow !

The simple magnetic fix for Substandard Spring Steel was two transverse magnetized bar magnets that keeps the oven door closed, click and see the 3d pic to see the whole image..

Yes it has a small gap, however the thermal seal holds the cooking fumes in the oven and to Hades with Japanese Substandard Spring Steel...


9 months ago

Well here is a very attractive magnetic ible



There have to be older individuals who have glasses that can hang on your shirt...

Simply slide a transverse flat bar magnet and heatshrink into place making sure the both sides of the glasses have the same magnet polarity outside...

Which makes it easy to hang on both sides..

Now Never again have your eye wear fall in the bowl when you reach to flush !