How to make a powerful DC electromagnet

Written by sue stepp
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How to make a powerful DC electromagnet
Make a powerful DC electromagnet easily and quickly. (spools with a wire image by Victor M. from

Making an electromagnet is easy and cheap. Most elementary, middle school and high school science class teachers show students the basic technique for making electromagnets using wire, a nail and a battery. Students look with amazement as the quickly constructed electromagnet lifts lightweight metal objects like paper clips, safety pins and stick pins. You can make a powerful DC electromagnet, 80 times stronger than the ones made in a classroom, quickly, cheaply and easily.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 8-inch steel spike
  • 1 spool coated copper wire, 14 gauge
  • 6-volt lantern battery
  • Steel test objects

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  1. 1

    Put your fingers on the wire 20 inches from the end. Wrap the wire around the top of the steel spike starting where your fingers are on the wire. Make smooth, even coils all the way to the bottom of the spike.

  2. 2

    Wrap the wire back up to the top of the spike over the first layer of wire. Make smooth, even coils up the spike. Then wrap the wire back down the spike, making a third layer of coiled wire around the spike. Cut the wire from the spool, leaving a 20-inch piece of wire at the bottom of the spike.

  3. 3

    Connect the top copper wire to the negative terminal, and the bottom wire to the positive terminal on the battery. Make sure you have a good connection.

  4. 4

    Test the electromagnet. Try picking up various steel objects, to test the strength of the electromagnet. When the electromagnet isn't in use, disconnect the lead wire from the top and bottom of the battery.

Tips and warnings

  • #1
  • If you use a stronger battery, the electromagnet is stronger. Adding a stronger battery voltage and more coiled wire layers to the spike increases the electromagnet's power, but the wire heats up to a dangerous level. If the wire gauge thickness is thin, the wire generates more heat.
  • #2
  • If you add an on/off switch to the magnet, turning the magnet on and off is quicker and easier. Attach an on/off switch by connecting the top 20-inch wire to one of the terminals on the on/off switch, and attaching a 5- inch wire from the second terminal on the on/off switch to the negative terminal on the battery.
  • This electromagnet picks up metal object up to 2.27 Kilogram, so be careful when picking up heavy steel objects with your electromagnet.

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