How to make a temporary magnetic screwdriver (and other tools):
1) Your tool of choice
2) A strong magnet (preferably neodymium, a rare earth metal)
I highly recommend against the tinier square magnets, I’ve personally found they tend to break and chip much easier than the cylindrical/sphere shapes. For most average sized screwdrivers/tools I would recommend either:
Applied Magnets Grade N42, Strong 2″OD x1″ID x1/4″ NdFeB – $10.94
These two magnets are both inexpensive and either are suitable for what we’re trying to accomplish.
How to magnetize your tools
1) Take your magnet and stroke along the length of tool in one direction only, 5-8 times. You don’t want to stroke back and forth because you are trying to align the positive and negative poles of your tool. If you are moving the magnet back and forth, you are in essence undoing what you just did (that’s not entirely accurate, but it’s a close enough explanation for our purposes).
2) That’s it, you’re done.
1) Attach your magnet to your tool while using it and remove it when finished. This method is likely to leave your tool slightly magnetic but not nearly as much using the previous method.
How to demagnetize your tools
As silly as it may seem, dropping your tool from a height of two-three feet a couple times will demagnetize it. This works because the vibration induced into the tool causes the electrons to become disjointed and randomized (read: not aligned anymore and no longer magnetic).
The other two methods to remove magnetism are NOT recommended.
1) Heat the ferromagnetic material beyond its Currie point (the temperature at which magnetism will no longer occur).
2) By inducing an AC (Alternating Current) through your tool many times and reducing the current as you go, will also remove the magnetic properties.
Why to leave your tools magnetic
The main concern with leaving tools magnetic is if you are using them on/near computers or other electronics. Let’s start by saying your magnetic tools are safe near modern computers. The only time you might have to worry is if you are still using floppy disks (seriously though, I hope you aren’t still using floppy disks).
Spinning hard drives actually contain an extremely powerful magnet inside of the case that is responsible for writing the data itself onto your drive. The cases themselves that enclose your hard drives are also designed to reduce electromagnetic interference. In fact, it actually takes a ridiculously powerful degausser in order to destroy the data on a hard drive. For a fun detour on how hard it actually is to completely destroy a hard drive, check out Zoz’s Defcon 23 video “And That’s How I Lost My Other Eye…Explorations in Data Destruction”.
Below is a list of tools I own and have personally made magnetic
- The Enormous Set of 135 Bits by Tekton. I use it for computer and phone repairs because it contains a crapload of specialized bits like the pentalobe screws for Apple devices.
- The Klein Tools Cushion-Grip Screwdriver Set, 8-Piece is a nice set to have on hand for various projects, but if you don’t tend to use a set that often or wanna save the space, go with the next item instead.
- The 11-in-1 Screwdriver/Nut Driver with Cushion Grip has got to be one of my absolute favorite tools. Whatever the situation, this tool has pretty much got you covered.
- Klein Tools Journeyman Heavy-Duty Side-Cutting Long-Nose Pliers, 8-Inch The reason I magnetized these is because I always end up holding something I can’t quite get a good grip on and instead of it sliding out of the pliers, the nut/bolt/etc mostly just clasps to the side of them if I lose the grip.
I don’t have any particular preference for Klein Tools (I like whatever gets the job done most effectively and efficiently) but those are the ones I’ve magnetized that get the most use. The picture below is of the tools I just mentioned along with some of my other electrical tools.
All of the tools I listed above have 4-1/2 or 5 stars for their average reviews. I wouldn’t recommend something I don’t personally use and those tools are not the kind of cheap crap you often find in Home Depot or Lowes (I think they actually might carry them now, but they’re typically way more expensive than online). The rubberized grip on the tools also prevents electric shock (something I learned to avoid as often as possible from my days of being an electrician). One last note for the tools section, don’t magnetize your tools if you’re doing electrical work. It is a BAD idea. Not so much because of the magnetism itself, but because of things unexpectedly snapping to your tools.
To end on a fun note; magnets are ridiculously fun to play with besides their normal uses, especially the strong ones. That being said, the following magnets WILL break your fingers/hands and/or arms if handled improperly. The magnets I mentioned in the beginning of the article are the only ones you need to magnetize your tools and are very cheap when compared to these stronger magnets. I’m excited, let’s continue!
Magnets that will break your fingers:
2) CMS Magnetics Grade N42 3″x 1-3/4″x 1/2″ Ring – $52.75
4) CMS Magnetic Grade N45 3″x 1″ Disc – $89.76
Magnets that will break your hands:
1) Applied Magnets Grade N50 3″x 2″x 1″ – $162.50
2) CMS Magnetics Grade N45 3.5″ODx 1/4″IDx 1″ – $215.99
Magnets that will break your arms:
These are quite expensive (especially the last one) so have a little fun and try to guess how much they are before you click them to find out.
1) CMS Magnetics Grade N42 Super Strong 6″ x 1″ Disc Magnet