How to Build a Solenoid

Build a basic solenoid that you can use to push or pull a magnetized rod, charge a magnet or generate electricity. The solenoid can be used to magnetize your screwdrivers to keep screws from getting away. The solenoid can even act as a generator. Whatever you do with your solenoid, make sure that you do it carefully.

    Cover a toilet paper tube with liquid electrical tape.

    Take a 4-inch piece of 22-gauge wire and reserve that so that it sticks out of the work you are about to do. Take the rest of the 22-gauge wire and wind it around the toilet paper tube so that it overlaps the 4-inch piece that you will have sticking out. Use a piece of tape to keep the end of the wire attached to the end of the tube. Make sure that the subsequent times you wrap the wire around the toilet paper tube leave the wire neatly parallel to the previous wire that you wrap around the toilet paper tube.

    Do not wind the wire too tight or the tube may start to collapse. Wrap the wire around the tube, also known as turnings, until it has gone around 300 times. Make sure that the turnings are all next to each other in the order that they are wound from one side of the tube to the other. Tape the end of the wire on the toilet paper tube at the opposite site of the 4-inch wire sticking off the end of the tube. Leave four inches at this end of the tube sticking out past the tape as well.

    Strip the ends of the two wires. Do this by scraping the coating off of the wires at the end, using the edge of a pair of scissors, until the ends show their copper. It may be easier for you to sand the ends to strip off the coating. Screw one of the stripped ends onto a light dimmer lead. Strip the ends of an extension cord (while not plugged into the wall). Make sure that one of the leads is attached to the other lead on the dimmer. Add the other lead from the extension cord to the other lead on the dimmer. Solder all leads and cover the exposed conductive surfaces with liquid electrical tape.

    To charge a magnet, such as a screwdriver tip, place the tool into the toilet paper tube and start to turn up the electricity, monitoring the toilet paper tube and wire for temperature changes. Leave the screwdriver in there for 30 seconds (unless the wires start to heat up). The screwdriver is magnetized.

    To use the solenoid as a simple generator, use the coil alone (without the light dimmer or the extension cord) and hook the generator to an ammeter to see how much energy is being generated when you move a strong rare-earth magnet.


    • Get an infrared thermometer and use it to continuously monitor the 22-gauge wires for heat buildup. If heat begins to build up while the wires have electricity running through them (more than two degrees), cut the power since it becomes a potential source of electrical fire. Do not touch any of the electrical wires or have water anywhere near this device. Unplug this device when not in use and keep it under lock and key since misuse is dangerous. Do not touch any bare metal or conductive object that is electrically "hot" and has current going through it. Electricity is very dangerous and carries an element of risk with it. Remember that the electricity coming from the wall is enough to do life-threatening harm.

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