DIY optimize

Add a new trick to your favorite tool: Magnetize it!

My new job has me doing a lot more in-house repairs than I have ever done before. As a result, I have been fleshing out my toolbox. This week I recommend to you my latest discovery. I think you will find it an "attractive" addition to your workbench.

My new job has me doing a lot more in-house repairs than I have ever done before. As a result, I have been fleshing out my toolbox. This week I recommend to you my latest discovery. I think you will find it an "attractive" addition to your workbench.

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I've always thought of myself as a user support tech, first and foremost. Deep down, my true calling is relating to people and helping them use technology to accomplish their goals. Lately though, I have been getting my hands dirty a lot more often.

We do a ton of our own repairs at my new job. We fix machines in-house that I would have sent out when I was working at my last gig. Our service center is certified, so we can use manufacturer direct parts to make sure we get our computers up and running again as quickly as possible. So while I have a long history with basic computer service, I am doing more complicated repairs now than I have ever done before. There is a big difference between upgrading a desktop hard drive and swapping the logic board in a notebook.

As my repairs have gotten more complicated, so has my toolbox. I may have gotten by with a simple multi-bit driver in the past, but working with finer and more specialized components requires more specialized tools. I have recently expanded my collection to include some nice precision screwdrivers. Not one of those cheap sets you can find at the dime store, either, but a collection of high-quality tools that are easy to turn and perfectly sized for working with the screws found in common electronics. My only complaint about my screwdrivers has been that they aren’t magnetized. The cheap driver I used to use has spoiled me by having magnetic bits. While that driver is too large and unwieldy to be of any use when working with laptop components, being able to affix screws to its tip and have the magnet hold them in place was a luxury I had gotten used to. Thankfully, I’ve learned that I can have my cake and eat it, too!

Another tech on our staff showed me that I could use a Tool Magnetizer to put a magnetic field on any steel tool I have, and I immediately knew I had to get a magnetizer of my own. There are a number of different types and form factors but Wiha made the one I have, and it will magnetize and demagnetize any steel tool that it can fit around.

One thing that’s great about magnetizing your own tools is that you can add only a slight field, so you can be sure the tool becomes no more magnetic than you need. You can also use the demagnetizer to completely remove any polarity from your tools when you’re working with really sensitive components. I’ve found that being able to add…(he says in a big booming voice) THE POWER OF MAGNETISM…to any tool I own has let me be more selective about the tools I carry. For example, I’ve finally been able to get rid of the cheap wire grasper I was holding on to, because now I can turn any one of my steel tools into a magnetic retriever.

All right, it won’t save the world or anything like that, but a tool magnetizer is an inexpensive wonder that helps me use my tools more effectively. Give one a try; you might find it does the same for you.

96 comments
mike_online
mike_online

apply the screw driver end on a magnet and you'll pick up any screw ! it's temporary, you'll have to do it again.

walkingcross
walkingcross

I use a soldering gun to magnetize or de-magnetize anything that will fit through it - since I already have the gun no need to spend more money. walkingcross@bright.net

RB1955
RB1955

I quickly ran out of horizontal surfaces to use in my "pile-ology" org scheme/s, so I realized that there were many vertical + unused surfaces close by. So I went to local big-box store and found heavy duty velcro with adhesive backing. Now I have routers, power strips, multiport usb strip, cable modems, and battery backup items mounted on vertical surfaces, AND I've mounted some of them UNDER horizontal surfaces (thereby increasing my storage spaces on the bottom of desk areas and shelves).

The Bird
The Bird

My understanding is that you shouldn't be using ANYTHING magnetic near volatile components such as the drives. Isn't there a technique (bulk eraser) using a magnet to DESTROY all the data? I was told to NEVER use any magnetized tools under the hood of a pc. I don't know about this being a very good idea to have in your box...

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

and do what with it :0 Further comments pre-edited.

smwagner33
smwagner33

I was under the impression that you weren't supposed to use magnetized tools when working on a computer

escull1
escull1

I built a magnet making tool using a magazine (not sur which one) Years ago that uses 10 nails with no heads or points. There is wire wound the nails and there are two swwitches.\: one to select magnetize or de-magnetize and a push button activate either of the possibilities. Works like a charm. All of this is mounted in a plastic case with an aluminum face plate to mount the switches. the cost for the tool cost about $6.00. Ed 7/11/09

ezrabm
ezrabm

Magnetize_ simple, no need to buy expensive equipment.. On the 'fridge- a simple round, strong permanent magnet ( cost 25cents)- take the screwdriver, hold it vertical pointing downwards, and stroke the steel part with the magnet. turning the screwdriver slightly until a full circuit has been made. Voila! Sufficient to hold the small screws. ezrab

JCitizen
JCitizen

Magnetic tools are a BIG no-no when working inside the cabinets or control enclosures of computer controlled equipment. We flat banned them from the plant. We used special mechanical grabbing heads on everything from sockets to screw drivers. I kept a three fingered 4' long flexible extended claw tool in my belt, that I drew like a sword quite often to retrieve parts, tools, and wiring, many a time. But magnets? OH! NO!

Jacky Howe
Jacky Howe

If you haven't access to a Magnet here is an alternative. Grab a length of insulated wire and a screwdriver. Strip back the insulation on each end about a 12 mm or 1/2 an inch. Wrap the insulated section around the shaft of the screwdriver half a dozen times. Ground one bare end of the wire to the Negative post on a 12V car battery and drag the other bared end of the wire across the Positive post a few times. ps. Don't forget to mark the post Worthwhile.

ted
ted

They would say, you fool. It takes only a very slight current to fry a chip. And what can a magnetic field do? Produce current. I know, lots of techs use the magnetic stuff to recover a dropped screw and don't suffer any adverse consequences. Then again, lots of people fly without consequences. But, it only takes one crash to kill you. A much better technique is to buy a pair of hemostats. They are the devices that doctors use to clamp off blood vessels. You can find them at any medical supply store. They come in a variety of lengths and design. (Curved, straight, etc.) And they are not magnetic, so there is not chip fry risk. So, work smart, not cool. Your chips will thank you.

jvezina
jvezina

I find myself quite annoyed that it is difficult to find any screwdrivers without that black metal tip. I literally have not been able to find ANY screwdriver without that black tip. It seems that whatever kind of metal it's made of will only retain magnetism for a very brief period (maybe minutes). Anyone else experience this? I'm thinking of getting one of those tiny ring magnets to slide over the shaft as a permanent solution.

rusty.tyson
rusty.tyson

Mr Jones: How fitting that you should publish this article on magnetizing your screwdriver on the anniversary of Nikola Tesla's birth. For the truly gifted, there is a way to build your own screwdriver / demagnetizer. All th' e-Best, Rusty

spaul940
spaul940

The easy way to magnetize a screwdriver is to drag it across a permanent magnet slowly. To make it more magnetized, repeat the movement. To demagnetize the screwdriver, just strike it quick and hard on a metal surface. One strike will get rid of most of the magnetism. Repeat for getting rid of more

mdtallon
mdtallon

About fifteen years ago I worked in an office that had problems with their displays getting screwed up. I noticed it happened at desks that were close to structural columns (< 2') on the outside wall of the building. Happened most on sunny days and didn't happen on north wall. Got the company to spring for two enviromental engineers to check it out as well as trying to hold the building responsible. Nothing ever came of it, company moved, but in the short term I kept equipment (and employees) away from the columns and that was that. People would get (understandably) freaked out by it! Still wonder sometimes what the explanation was!

josullivan
josullivan

I have always used magnetized tools even when I was told not to..they are a must!!

mousejn
mousejn

I had a former boss who used an old lamp cord. He split the wires and soldered 2 alligator clips to the ends. When he needed a toll magnetized, he would wrap one wire around tool, attach the alligator clips to small piece of aluminum foil from a gum or cigarette wrapper and plug it in. The foil would act a fuse and made some nice sparks. Sometimes the circuit breaker blow before the foil gave out, but a screwdriver magnetized this way had a much stronger magnetism than any commercial magnetizer. P.S. I don?t use this method. It always stuck me as a little over the top.

darpoke
darpoke

hysterical approach all the time when this subject comes up. Usually from those old enough to remember working with the technology back in the day for which this was actually a risk. Try running a search on Google for purchasing a degausser - one that will remove the data securely (read: thoroughly) will start at a few hundred pounds - the sites I just checked quickly won't even price the model on the page, you have to email for a quote on most of them - and is a large device. The one I saw drew 9A and 115V. That's what it takes to destroy data. Do you really think the screwdriver you passed through a $5 tool, or one you made at home for even less, is capable of comparable destruction, if any? My experience - and common sense - tell me not.

cknox
cknox

Bulk erasers worked on true floppies (8" and 5.25") but were not real effective on 3.5", a planing machine's magnetic chuck would do it, tho'. As for magnetic screwdrivers, I've used them for about 30 years -- the next computer I damage with one will be the first.

computechdan
computechdan

this method is very effective, but i would suggest wearing gloves or using pliers to hold the SMALL gauge wire. there is always a chance of it sticking to the battery, and will promptly burn a nice stripe into the fingers and yes i learned that the hard way

JCitizen
JCitizen

that they sell Klein on that web site, with those you might not need no stinking magnetic screwdrivers! Klein rules in my book! And I not a spammer, so don't even go there! I work for me - no one else.

The Bird
The Bird

That's how I was taught as well - nothing magnetic inside the case. I agree...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

will not cause damage. The generated current depends on three things: the strength of the magnetic field, the number of wires intercepted by that field, and the speed of interception. The current generated in a single wire by a single slow pass of a magnetic screwdriver is so infinitesmal as to be insignificant. You probably generated more current than that when you grounded yourself to the chassis.

delta301
delta301

Ted, I think you missed the point. How do you get a tiny latop screw started in tight spaces without droping it on electronic parts? Of course you cannot touch sensitive electronics with a metal object, magnitic or not. Don't use the screwdriver as a chisle or prybar, but as a screwdriver to replace or remove screws without dropping the screw on electronic equipment. I have tried taping a screw to the screwdriver, placed LocTight and putty on the screw heads with limited success. There is no problem using a magnetic screwdriver as a screwdriver on a computer, just watch where you place it between uses. And never use a metal screwdriver on plastic screws (ask any TV or radio repairman).

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But in their case, they are billed as magnetic. Got'em from Lowe's, right next to the screwdrivers without the black metal tip... ;)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But in their case, they are billed as magnetic. Got'em from Lowe's, right next to the screwdrivers without the black metal tip... ;)

proudSCONNIE
proudSCONNIE

Yes seriously dentist's tools. Have used them a ton on numerous sticky situations. Don't be afraid to ask your dentist -they just throw out the broken or rarely used tools anyways. You can also buy the online fairly cheap.

vatron
vatron

I am retired now but when I worked on laptops I found that many times the screws employed there were non magnetic. This magnetic discussion has really opened up a lot of what we used to say, "Much adoo about nothing." ;o)

scubajeff2
scubajeff2

Hey mdtallon, You would have to put in some testing equipment, but often steel buildings are not grounded properly and can channel electromagnetic radiation. This was no doubt causing some issues with your crt tubes, and maybe even constant degaussing. The question is- from where were they picking this up? shorted connection? nuclear lab on one of the floors was grounded to it? who knows. good to be out of there though. It is well documented how emr affects people and animals.

blair.howze
blair.howze

You all have a multitool on your belt, right? I am currently using a Leatherman Wave, but the Leatherman Supertool 2 looks better with locking internal blades. There are a plethora of makes/models out there now, so shop around.

beechC23
beechC23

When I was a teenager I wanted to magnetize a screwdriver. Basically did the same thing but using a model train transformer, as I also had an HO scale train layout. Much safer, only 12 volts and I could adjust the voltage as well.

dforcey
dforcey

In a former job, I had a magnetizer that sort of looked homemade, but was bought commercially and worked FAR better than ANY permanent magnet[izer] I've ever seen. It had a wooden base to which was attached a sheilded wire coil that formed a circular/ovaloid tube about 3" long. You plugged it into AC and held in a pushbutton to activate it (it had a warning to use it only for 5 or 10 seconds at a time). You held your tool against the inside of the tube to magnetize or drew it through the center of the tube to demagnetize (looked like you were divining some sort of magic). I'd REALLY like to find another like it if anyone knows what I'm talking about and has a source.

nick
nick

Everyone is so dead pan. Am I the only one sniggering at "magnetic tools", "large screws", "stroking your tool" etcetera

Jacky Howe
Jacky Howe

to hold the insulation not the wire. You also have to be reasonably quick dragging it across the post.

JCitizen
JCitizen

place a piece of unused shrink rap wire insulation over the end of the screwdriver and that will slip past the work head as you are driving - also insulates the driver if your near a hot circuit! It comes in all sizes so there is no screw or driver that it can't fit. Yes, sometimes, safety be damned, you have to work near hot circuits. Some situations are physically impossible not to.

JCitizen
JCitizen

in fasteners, so it wouldn't work anyway. My best luck was to buy quality tools. I just couldn't believe how much more productive I got when I threw my Craftsman technicians tools in the trash and switched to Klein, it made all the difference in the world! Who would suspect that the ability to grip a fastener was directly proportional to the way the bit head was ground. I wouldn't have thought it could possibly make that much difference, but it did! In almost all instances, no matter the type of fastener, all I had to do was place it on the tip of the instrument and start driving. In the rest, I just placed one finger next to the fastener, and that was all I needed to hold it in place. I even stopped using my gripper screw drivers for most work!

JCitizen
JCitizen

tool set also! I knew a guy who restored rare antique automobile accouterments, and he had almost every dental tool you could find at the clinic for making parts. Later on he even acquired an X-ray machine, but it was for aircraft testing.

JCitizen
JCitizen

none of the fasteners were ferrous, so the use of these tools would not have done any good at my work location, besides the fact that they were banned. Half that factory was sent to Mexico and the other half is building wind power blades for the energy industry, so US citizens will run into legacy equipment like I worked on less and less.

ken lillemo
ken lillemo

The forging process for the steel beams will magnetize them enough to cause problems near any imaging system that depends on charged particles. This includes ion discharge in plasma displays or electrons emitted by the guns in a CRT. Without further evidence the simple explanation is much more likely the problem.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Please provide links to such documentation.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I would think that would pop up a lot of links. I've use everything from small ones, to one long enough for helicopter blades! On most of them it was simple to configure for magnetizing also.

JCitizen
JCitizen

It will be taken care of immediately!! (I know noothhingg!)

JCitizen
JCitizen

XXXXXXXXXXX! :^0 (censored by the OP) :8}

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But we're all laughing now because you asked. ;)

JCitizen
JCitizen

You got me thinking on that one! I don't think I'd better comment, as my profile might get "edited" next! =) There is just no getting away from sniggering on this subject is there? (^ ~ ^)