how to magnetize a screwdriver

How to Magnetize a Screwdriver

Knowing how to magnetize a screwdriver or any other tool can come in handy in numerous situations. Magnetized screwdrivers are convenient, as they allow you to aim more accurately or reach for small metallic parts that fell into some tricky places.

However, magnetized screwdrivers can also be a pain inside a toolbox. They attract metallic dust, small parts and make any work inside small metallic casings nearly impossible. So, it pays to know how to magnetize a screwdriver and how to demagnetize one too.

This article teaches you how to magnetize a screwdriver and covers several methods of tool magnetization. Read through our article to learn more on the subject. 

Important materials and tools for the job

Depending on the method, you'll need several different materials and tools to magnetize your screwdriver. Here's what you'll need:

  • A screwdriver (which will be magnetized)
  • Clean cloth or a rag
  • 16-22 AWG copper wire (3ft or longer)
  • Wire strippers
  • A 9V battery
  • Some tape
  • Neodymium or another rare-earth magnet (with a pull force of ¼ pound to 1 pound)

Note that this is a comprehensive materials list for all the methods we'll describe in this article. You won't require all the tools listed here, just the ones corresponding to your choosing's magnetization method. If you don't have a screwdriver then you can also have a look at our little screwdriver set reviews

How to magnetize a screwdriver

Magnetizing a tool can be done via three different methods: by induction, by using a rare-earth magnet, or by using a magnetizing/demagnetizing tool.

Using a magnetizing/demagnetizing tool is pretty straightforward and requires very little explanation, which is usually provided with the tool itself. For this article's purpose, we'll cover induction (battery) and magnetic polarization methods (by hand).

How to magnetize a screwdriver using a magnet

The main idea behind the process is to use an external magnetic field to realign magnetic domains inside the steel. Sliding a magnet from the handle to the tip aligns the magnetic regions inside the steel to the magnet's magnetic field. In layman's terms, the screwdriver is transferring some of its magnetism to the screwdriver.

Before you start using the magnet, it's essential to clean your hand tool.

Step 1: Clean the screwdriver

It's best if you clean the screwdriver, or any other tool, before magnetizing it. Stuff like dirt, grime, grease, and oils can impede the magnetization process, resulting in a weaker magnetization.

Use the clean rag or a workshop cloth to remove and impurities from your tool. You can dampen the rag, if necessary, as long as you thoroughly wipe the tool with a dry cloth afterward. Hardened grime, grease, and oils can be stubborn to remove, so you can use paint thinner to remove them more efficiently.

You can use this time to clean the magnet, if necessary, by wiping it thoroughly with a clean cloth. Make sure that you remove any metallic particles the magnet might've attracted to its surface.

Step 2: Slide the magnet

Take the screwdriver in one hand, rare-earth magnet into the other, and slide the magnet from the tip to the handle. If you're magnetizing a large screwdriver, magnetize the half that's closest to the tip. The magnet's magnetic field will attract and realign the magnetic regions inside your screwdriver's metallic material.

It's essential that you repeat the motion in the same direction and not the other way around. Start at the handle, and slide towards the tip. Then remove the magnet from the screwdriver, place it at the handle again, and repeat the process.

Sliding a magnet in the opposite direction, from tip to the handle, will undo any magnetization efforts you've made.

Step 3: Don't forget to rotate

You must rotate the screwdriver by a ¼ turn for every couple of passes. Slide a magnet from the handle to the tip a few times, rotate by a ¼ turn, then slide the magnet again. Repeat that for a couple of turns.

Rotating the screwdriver every couple of repetitions ensures the equal alignment of magnetic domains inside the steel. Rotating ¼ turn for every ten passes ensures the best efficiency.

Step 4: Test the screwdriver

After a few turns and a few dozen passes, test the screwdriver by picking up a screw magnetically. If the screwdriver can't pick up a screw, repeat the process. Eventually, if nothing else helps, using a stronger magnet usually resolves the issue.

test screwdriver

How to magnetize a screwdriver using a battery

The idea is the same as with the previous method. However, in this case, the electric current generates a magnetic field and does all the handy work for you. Here's what you need to do:

Step 1: Clean the screwdriver

Clean the screwdriver as described in the previous method. Use a damp cloth if necessary, and apply paint thinner to remove any hardened grime or grease.

Step 2: Preparation

The induction method implies the use of electric current, in this case, sourced from a 9V battery, to magnetize a screwdriver. This means you'll have to strip approx. ½" of insulation from both ends of your wire.

To generate a strong electromagnetic field, you must coil the wire around your screwdriver shaft ten to twenty times. If the shaft is short, you can double back for a second layer, as long as you don't reverse the direction of the loop.

Keep in mind that doubling the loop will result in stronger magnetization, so you can use that to your advantage. Once you coiled the wire around your screwdriver, you can tape it in place for good measure to ensure it won't slip off.

Step 3: Magnetize a screwdriver

Attach the wire ends to the battery terminals for approximately 30-60 seconds, allowing the electric current to flow through the coils. If you're using a 6V battery, you can leave the coil connected for a few seconds more. We don't recommend using anything more powerful than a 9V battery.

The electric current flowing through the coils will generate a magnetic field that will magnetize the screwdriver.

Step 4: Test the screwdriver

After you disconnect the battery, try picking up the screw using your screwdriver. If the screwdriver loses its magnetism, wrap a few more loops of wire, and reconnect it to the battery for another 30-60 seconds.

Repeat the process until you've achieved the desired result.

Side notes

  • Powerful rare-earth magnets can pinch your fingers hard enough to draw blood, so handle them with care. Protective gloves are your friends, so rely on them for some protection.
  • Do not use non-insulated wire to coil and magnetize your screwdriver, as it will short instead of producing a magnetic field. It can cause electric shock and pose a fire hazard.
  • You can expect your magnetic tools to demagnetize over time. Dropping them or tapping them on hard surfaces causes the steel's magnetic domains to derange, demagnetizing them faster.

Conclusion

This was an easy-to-follow guide on how to magnetize your screwdriver, and as you can see – it's not that hard. All you need is a couple of minutes with some tools and a screwdriver to magnetize. You can expect your screwdriver to remain magnetized for months to follow. If you want to demagnetize your tool, just reverse engineer the process or tap it against a hard surface.

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