Magnet Sweeper




Introduction: Magnet Sweeper

About: We are a supplier of neodymium, rare earth magnets. We also love to conduct experiments with our magnets and build unique projects with them! We have several engineers on staff who are always thinking of new...

Ever drop a bunch of nails or screws? Tired of picking them up with your hands? Use some magnets!

Step 1: Parts List

  • Lumber
  • Plastic wheels
  • Bolts (axles)
  • Washers
  • Broom handle
  • Aluminum/plastic sheet
  • Neodymium Magnets

Optional: We also added a steel backer to the bottom of the sweeper. This helped us configure the magnets!

Step 2: Cut Lumber to Size

First, cut your lumber to size. We used a 2 x 6 stud, cut down to 14". We choose this size so we could get two long rows of magnets.

Step 3: Drill Axle Holes

Next, center drill two blind holes on either end of the wood for your axles. Pick a drill bit just under the size of your bolt, so you can make threads into the wood.

Once the holes are drilled, use the bolts and a socket wrench or impact driver to screw the bolt into the hole, creating threads.

Step 4: Make Aluminum (or Plastic) Cover

We knew we needed a removable/hinged cover for the magnets. A cover protects the magnets from damage, but more importantly it creates a way to remove the attracted materials easily. Without a cover, we'd have to remove each nail or screw one by one. That's not something we want to do with rusty junk picked up with a magnetic sweeper!

We used a scrap piece of aluminum sheet metal, bent to fit our sweeper. We screwed the aluminum cover on each end to create a movable hinge.

Step 5: Angle Drill the Handle Hole

Lastly, we drilled a 2 x 4 on an angle, for the broom handle to screw into. Drilling it on an angle gave it an ergonomic feel.

Step 6: Assembly!

Finally, assemble all of the parts.

We attached a thin steel sheet to the bottom of the wood, allowing us to just stick magnets right to it. This made it easier to test out various magnets. Countersunk magnets can be a better, permanent option.

Step 7: What Size Magnets to Use?

We used some strong, 2" x 1" x 1/4" block magnets.

You could use smaller magnets, but they won’t reach across the same distance with as much force as larger magnets do. If you decrease the magnet size, you’d also want to decrease the gap between the magnets and the ground. The magnets in our sweeper are about 2” off of the ground. That may not seem like much distance, but our sweeper has trouble picking up tiny steel balls from 2" away!

The strength also depends on the size of the object and the amount of ferrous material in that object. You’ll see more pull force to a large, thick steel washer than to a small staple!

In the video linked here, we show different magnets and how much weight they can hold.

Step 8: Which Magnets to Use...

Here is a chart of various magnets we tested. You could also use a mounting magnet screwed to a handle, like in the picture!

Step 9: Technical Info...

Besides distance, are there other factors that can help maximize the force from the sweeper? We tested a few different configurations of the magnets to see what worked best.

  1. Configuration One: Alternating poles
    1. Alternating the poles like this can increase the force to a steel plate but it doesn't do well reaching across a gap. Why is this? If we consider the field lines of a magnet a “magnetic circuit”, this can help us see why configuration one doesn’t perform well at all. The magnet circuit “shorts” itself. The fields flow from one magnet to the next and don’t extend very far at all. An alternating setup can provide more pull force close to the magnets, but at the cost of weaker attraction at larger gaps.

  2. Configuration Two: One row NORTH, one row SOUTH
    1. The second configuration placed one row of magnets with their north poles facing the ground and the second row with their south poles facing the ground. This created a strong field in the middle of the rows as the field flows from one row field to the next.

      This still is a "short circuit," but it reaches out a lot farther. While the following, "Configuration 3," was better for picking up some objects, this setup worked quite well on our sweeper.

  3. Configuration Three: All NORTH
    1. Finally, the last configuration had each magnet with the same pole
      facing the ground, shown with all north facing down here. This worked very well, and had good reach.

      One challenge with this setup can be assembly. The magnets, side-by-side to one another, repel each other in this configuration.

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    22 Discussions



    Our town burned down twice in the gold rush era, leaving all kinds of 'treasure'. I use one of these the pick up the square head nails and metal left behind. It is amazing how productive the soil is. Each time it rains there is more. I find so many pottery pieces that I am tempted to make a mosaic out of them. I have amassed an impressive collection of square head nails and metal. It's fun to use. I'm sure the neighbors think I'm nuts out there 'vacuuming' the dirt with my magnet stick!

    Very handy to have! Bet it could pick up those needles I drop that seem to disappear :)

    6 replies

    It doesn’t get away for long as, without fail, I eventually find it with my bare foot... ouch!

    If only there were magnets for Legos, too...

    If it's close enough to the ground we have used something similar in surgery for locate dropped needles....


    4 months ago

    Thanks for the great job. I need to make one of these. My home has been a construction site for years--lots of metal in yard and driveways. By the way, any ideas on how to implement the electromagnet tip by Thorondor95?

    1 reply

    You'd have to make a simple circuit with a power source, switch and an electromagnet.

    Awesome! Let me introduce the magnet watch! (you can buy it ,maybe in Taobao)

    when you with this watch,you can put some small screw on it. Don't worry about losing something!



    Thanks for the magnet lesson! Totally going to build one of these for the basement and one for the garage.

    This is simple yet effective. Thumbs up.

    Did you use $150 worth of magnets?! Or am I misreading something on the magnet page.

    1 reply

    We did use some pretty pricey magnets...cause we have them :). But, that's why we also tested out smaller, cheaper magnets to show that they can still work as well.

    Very cool! I like the last part that talks a little about the science of magnents.

    If you used electromagnets, you could switch off the attraction and dump your payload into the trash.