How to Magnetize Metal

Three Methods:Rubbing the Metal with a Strong MagnetStriking the Metal with a HammerMaking an Electromagnet

Magnetism occurs when negative and positive particles in an object line up in a specific manner, causing an attraction or repulsion with nearby particles. As long as a metal has some iron in it, you can magnetize it using another magnetic metal or an electromagnet.[1] While you need a strong magnet to make another metal magnetic, the magnetism produce will probably not be very strong; it will be sufficient to pick up a paperclip or a screw. The strength of the magnet depends upon the iron content.

Method 1
Rubbing the Metal with a Strong Magnet

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    Gather the necessary materials. To magnetize metal with this method, you just need a strong magnet and a piece of metal with known iron content. Metals without iron will not become magnetic.
    • A strong magnet, such as neodymium, can easily be purchased online.
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    Identify the North pole of the magnet. Every magnet has two poles, a North and a South pole. The North pole is the negative side, while the South pole is the positive side. Some magnets have the poles labeled directly on them.[2]
    • If your magnet is not labeled you can use a pole identifier magnet. This is a magnet that has the poles labeled on it. Place the identifier near your magnet and see which side attaches. Opposite sides attract, so if the magnet attaches to the South pole of the identifier magnet, that side is the North pole.
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    Rub the North pole from the middle of the metal to the end. With firm pressure, quickly run the magnet across the piece of metal. The act of rubbing the magnet across the metal helps the iron atoms align in one direction. Repeatedly stroking the metal gives the atoms more opportunity to line up.[3]
    • Repeat the stroke towards the negative pole at least ten times. Ten strokes is just a good number to start with. You can do more or less as long as the metal works to your satisfaction as a magnet.
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    Test the magnetism. Tap the metal against a pile of paperclips or try to stick it to your fridge. If the paperclips stick or it stays on the fridge, the metal has been sufficiently magnetized. If the metal does not become magnetized, keep rubbing the magnet in the same direction across the metal.
    • If you are magnetizing a screwdriver, put it next to a screw to see if it holds it.
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    Continue rubbing the magnet against object to increase the magnetism. Make sure you rub the magnet in the same direction every time. After ten strokes, check the magnetism again. Repeat until the magnet is strong enough to pick up the paperclips. If you rub in the opposite direction with the North pole this will actually demagnetize the metal.[4]
    • If the metal still does not maintain magnetization, it might not have a high enough iron content. Try this method again with a metal that has a higher iron content.

Method 2
Striking the Metal with a Hammer

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    Gather the necessary materials. To magnetize a metal using a hammer, you will need a compass, a hammer, and a piece of metal with some iron. These items can easily be purchased at a local hardware store.
    • A metal alloy that doesn’t have iron in it is less likely to be magnetic. Pure gold, silver, copper, etc. cannot be magnetized with this method.
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    Identify north with the compass. A compass works because of the magnetic poles of the Earth. There is a small magnetized needle in the compass that always faces north due to the poles. Place your compass flat on the table and let the needle swing until it stops moving. The direction the needle points towards is north.[5]
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    Position the piece of metal facing north.[6] Place the piece of metal on a table and orient it so that it is pointing in the same direction as the needle of the compass (north). The piece of metal needs to be facing north so that the iron atoms will align along the magnetic pole of the Earth.[7]
    • Secure the piece of metal to the tabletop using tape or a clamp such as a vice.
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    Hit the end of the metal with the hammer. With the metal securely in place, strike the bottom end (end facing south) of the piece with the hammer.[8] Striking the metal allows the iron atoms to move around and align themselves in the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field.
    • Hit the end multiple times to increase the magnetism of the metal.
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    Test the magnetism of the metal. Place the piece of metal on top of some paperclips and see if they stick. If the paperclips stick, the metal has been magnetized. If the paperclips don’t stick, try striking the end of the metal a few more times.
    • If you find this method doesn’t work, the amount of iron in the piece of metal might be too small. Try it with another piece of metal that you know has more iron in it.

Method 3
Making an Electromagnet

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    Gather the necessary materials. To make an electromagnet, you will need insulated copper wire, a piece of metal with known iron content, a 12-volt battery (or other DC power supply), wire strippers/cutters, and electrical tape.[9]
    • The insulated copper wire needs to be thin enough to easily wrap around the metal and long enough to wrap a few dozen times.
    • Make sure the metal has no magnetization before beginning.
    • Using an AC power source will also work, but is not recommended because it is high voltage and there is potential for an electric shock.[10]
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    Wrap the insulated wire around the piece of metal. Take the wire and leaving a tail of about an inch, tightly wrap the wire around the metal a few dozen times.[11] The more times you wrap the coil, the stronger the magnet will be. Leave a tail at the other end of the wire as well.
    • At this point, you should have two wires dangling off either end of the metal, with the wire coiled tightly around it.
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    Strip the ends of the copper wire. Using the wire strippers, strip off at least ¼ inch up to ½ inch from both ends of the wire. The copper needs to be exposed so that it can come into contact with the power source and provide electricity to the system.
    • Take care not to cut through the wire when stripping it.
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    Connect the wires to the battery. Take one bare end of wire and wrap it around the negative terminal of the battery. Using electrical tape, secure it in place and make sure the metal of the wire is touching the wire of the terminal. With the other wire, wrap and secure it around the positive terminal of the battery.[12]
    • It doesn’t matter which wire is connected to which terminal as long as both are securely attached to separate ones.
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    Test the magnetism. When the battery is properly connected it will provide an electrical current that causes the iron atoms to aligned creating magnetic poles.[13] This leads to the metal becoming magnetized. Tap the metal against some paperclips and see if it can pick them up.
    • Some metals will remain magnetized when the battery is removed, while others, such as “soft iron” require the electric current for the magnetization.

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