How to make a homemade electromagnet

Written by jerry garner
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How to make a homemade electromagnet
Screwdriver (JDAC, Creative Commons License)

The existence of electromagnets serves as a testament to the ability of electric current to change the properties of metal objects. Electromagnets are used in a variety of industrial applications, such as magnetic cranes used at salvage yards. It is also possible to make a small-scale electromagnet for use at home or as a science fair project. This guide will tell you how to transform a screwdriver into a handheld electromagnet, which will better grip metal screws.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • 9 volt battery
  • 3 feet of copper wire
  • Wire strippers

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  1. 1

    Prepare to wrap the wire around the screwdriver. Use any gauge of copper wire that is easy to manage. Measure a 6-inch length of the wire and hold this past the screwdriver so that it is not wrapped around it.

  2. 2

    Coil the rest of the wire around the metal part of the screwdriver. There is no need to wrap the wiring around the insulated handle. Continue wrapping the wire around the metal portion until it is completely covered by a relatively thick layer of wire. Stop wrapping when you have the last 6 inches of wire left.

  3. 3

    Prepare the ends of the wire for connection with the source of electricity. Use a pair of wire strippers to remove the insulation at the end of each of the 6 inch lengths of wire coming out of the bundle. Removing 1 inch of insulation is sufficient to connect the wiring to the power source.

  4. 4

    Connect the wires to a power source, which is a 9 volt battery for this project. This battery is large and square with two spring terminals on top. Connect one wire to the positive terminal and the other wire to the negative terminal.

  5. 5

    Wait at least one hour before disconnecting the wires from the battery. As the electric current travels through the wire and around the screwdriver, it creates a magnetic field that changes the polarity of the metal. The longer the electric current flows around the screwdriver, the stronger its electromagnetic field will be and the longer it will last.

  6. 6

    Remove the wires from the 9 volt battery and unravel the wire from around the screwdriver. The screwdriver has been transformed into an electromagnet, and is capable of picking up screws and other small metal objects. The electromagnetic effects will weaken over time, but can be recharged with the same wire and magnet you used the first time.

Tips and warnings

  • Magnet wire, available from some electronics and hobby stories, is best for this application.
  • Never use a car or motorcycle battery for a homemade electromagnet project. You will most likely hurt yourself and could potentially start a fire.

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