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You’re holding in your hand the last screw you need to finish your latest project when… you drop it in the dirt.  You can spend the next hour searching for it, or you can pull out a magnet and find it lickety-split.

You don’t have to buy this particular model — any strong magnet with a handle will do the job.

These also work great for picking up screws and such, especially if they have a release handle like this one does.  You just rake it around in the pile to pick up metal objects, then hold it over the bin and — as astronaut Robert Crippen said when asked how the Space Shuttle’s escape mechanism worked in a press conferance before STS-1 — you “just pull the little handle.”

We suggest caution when using particularly strong mangets by hand to pick up metal objects; You can get your finger pinched between the magnet and junk pretty easily.

This one sells for about $20, but we’re sure you can find something similar around locally.

Workshop Magnet [Axminster Power Tool Centre (UK)]

Update: Reader Kai offers a great suggestion for accomplishing the same thing on the cheap.  Put a speaker magnet in a sock, then hold it over the bin and take the magnet out of the sock.  Nice!


5 Responses to Finds: A Workshop Magnet

  1. pat couzens says:

    I accomplished much the same thing with an old speaker magnet in a sock, pick up the screws put it over the container and take the magnet out of the sock. There ya go.

  2. Kai says:

    The “release handle” looks like a nice touch, but I’ve had great successes with speaker magnets (as mentioned above) or, even better, with magnets from computer hard drives.
    Next time your hard drive is making the ‘clunk of death’, take to it with a torx bit and there will be to incredibly powerful rare-earth magnets inside it. Older hard drives generally use larger magnets, so if you can find some full-height 5.25″ monsters at a surplus store somewhere, they’ll generally be worth the price of admission just for the magnets.

  3. Myself says:

    If you opt for a magnet without a release lever, you’d do well to wrap it in plastic before using it. It’s easy enough to pluck the larger fasteners and debris off, but the shavings and magnetic dust that accumulates on a magnet form a special kind of annoying crud. It’s too tenacious to remove with your fingers, but if you go screw-hunting in light-colored carpet, you’ll leave behind a smear of gray metal gunk. Being able to invert your pre-emptively placed plastic and capture the whole mess is not only effective, it’s curiously satisfying as you look the little dipoles in the eye and say “I planned for this!”.

    If some particles sneak past your plastic, or if you have a mishap while removing it, adhesive tape is a fine way to clean up the magnet. But why waste the tape if you don’t have to?

  4. David says:

    The release level does look like a nice feature to have, but i use the Hard drive magnets myself. i drop them in a disposable glove and just flip it inside out to discard the metal scrap picked up.

  5. Fletcher says:

    I have to throw in another vote for speaker magnets and hard drive magnets. Add shop rag and you’ve accomplished pretty much the same thing for free.

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