Magnets are the woodworking tool you didn’t know you needed.
Tool organization, shop jigs, furniture — the applications you can find for magnets are endless. And not just in a gimmicky way.
No joke, I keep a couple magnets attached to my apron at all times.
But what for, you ask?
Well, I’m going to give you 10 ways you can use magnets in the shop — from the obvious to the plain old weird.
Just be warned: not all magnets are created equal.
I’m not talking about the “Live, Laugh, Love” fridge magnet that sort of appeared one day and no one’s taken the initiative to throw it in the trash.
I’m talking about neodymium magnets — A.K.A rare earth magnets.
Let me explain.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What are Neodymium Magnets?
- Attaching Neodymium Magnets
- 10 Ways to Use Magnets in the Shop
WHAT ARE NEODYMIUM MAGNETS?
Neodymium magnets — often called rare earth magnets — are the strongest type of permanent magnet commercially available.
That’s right. Unless you work for the government or SPECTRE (what’s the difference?), you won’t find anything more powerful.
They’re made from an alloy of the rare earth minerals neodymium, iron, and boron.
Even tiny ones are around 10x stronger than typical fridge magnets. They’re attractive force is measured on an “N” scale from about N30 to N52 — with N52 being the strongest.
We sell a set of 10 neodymium magnets rated at N52. You won’t find stronger magnets this size at a better price (they’re the same ones we use in our Dovetail Jigs).
And even though they’re only 10mm wide by 5mm thick, each one has 7.6 pounds of pulling force.
That’s enough to hold up a newborn baby (assuming said baby’s made of iron…Marvel movie coming soon).
On that note, keep these magnets away from unsupervised children. There’s no harm in playing with them — but swallowing them is another story.
Neodymium magnets work better at colder temperatures.
They’ll still be super strong if it’s hot out — but don’t let them get over 200° F or they’ll be irreversibly damaged.
ATTACHING NEODYMIUM MAGNETS
A lot of the ideas I’ll list below involve embedding magnets in wood.
If you’re using the magnets we carry, 10mm drill bits will fit them perfectly — and a ⅜ drill bit or ⅜ inch forstner bit will provide a nice tight friction fit.
Drill the hole a hair deeper than the thickness of the magnet (about 3/16 inch, 5 mm).
Put a bit of CA glue in there for extra hold. Set the magnet over the hole, put a flat piece of scrap wood over it, and hammer it flush.
Clean up any excess glue with water before it dries and you’re good to go.
For a more permanent bond, use 5 minute epoxy. For a less permanent bond, go with hot glue.
You can also glue these magnets directly to any hard surface.
PUTTY KNIFE TIP
As soon as you try to take them apart, you’ll realize these magnets are SUPER strong.
Use a putty knife to pry them apart easily.
You can also use the putty knife to place the magnets in holes, pound them in, then slide the putty knife away.
10 WAYS TO USE MAGNETS IN THE WOODSHOP
Here’s a few ideas for using magnets — but definitely not all that’s possible.
Let these suggestions inspire you to come up with your own solutions
1. TOOL AND ACCESSORY STORAGE
SHOP TOOL ACCESSORIES
Ever been ready to make a rip cut — but can’t find your push stick?
Embed a magnet in your push stick handle and stash it on the side of your table saw. It’ll always be in reach, and easy to get out of the way.
You can do the same with featherboards, stop blocks, and more.
Another example: put a magnet on the side of your drill press for storing the chuck key.
Just like that, you’ll never lose the chuck key again.
BENCH SIDE STORAGE
Embed a few magnets in the side of your workbench for on-the-fly hand tool storage.
Instead of having your chisels, squares, and saws scattered over your work area, you can quickly hang them from the magnets.
NOTE: These magnets are definitely strong enough to hold a chisel…but don’t try to hang your #8 jointer plane from them.
ADJUSTABLE WALL HOOKS
Make a magnetic “french cleat” system with plumber’s tape (or even just screws) and shop-made wooden hooks.
Embed a couple magnets in the backs of the hooks and hang them on the wall as needed.
This is perfect for storing PPE like ear muffs, dust masks, aprons, and more.
DRILL BIT STORAGE
Everyone loves digging through a bag of drill bits looking for the one they need (hint: it’s at the bottom).
Embed a few magnets in a strip of wood, then cover them with a flat metal bracket.
The magnets will magnetize the metal. Attach your drill bits in a line, and no more searching.
2. SHOP JIGS AND SLEDS
Use it to get perfect 90° cuts, or any angled crosscut you like.
Making a 90° chisel guide is a cinch.
Cut a block of wood so it’s square, embed some magnets in one side, and you’re set.
The magnets hold your chisel true — making sure your cut stays straight.
But it doesn’t just have to be 90°. You can make them at any angle you like.
These angled guides are perfect for paring down angled bridle joints and other joinery.
MAGNETIC SHOOTING BOARD
You don’t need magnets to make a good shooting board… but they definitely help.
Here’s a magnetic version I made years ago that works amazingly for keeping your hand plane in the right position.
SHOP MADE COMPASS
Here’s an example of how useful magnets can be with a bit of ingenuity.
This guy managed to make a fully adjustable compass with a ruler, pencil, scribe, and a couple blocks of wood (plus magnets — but you already knew that).
Pretty freakin’ clever, if you ask me.
PADDING FOR MACHINIST’S VISE
Machinist’s vises provide great clamping pressure — but the ridges in the jaws are guaranteed to mar your workpiece.
Cut two strips of wood to fit the jaws, and embed a couple magnets in one side of each.
They’ll snap into place on the jaws and let you clamp boards without crushing them. You can add some cork for extra cushionioning power.
3. HIDDEN CABINET DOOR CATCHES
I haven’t tried this myself, but love the idea.
Instead of installing a visible stop for a cabinet door, use hidden magnets to create an invisible catch.
There’s a good explanation of how to do it in this video.
Basically, drill a hole in the bottom of the cabinet front where you want the door to stop. Don’t go all the way through.
Insert the magnet so it’s pushed as deep into the hole as it’ll go. Good neodymium magnets (especially N52 rated ones) will still pull towards each other through nearly an inch of wood.
Line this point up with the bottom of the cabinet door and drill a hole there. Insert another magnet that’s just slightly recessed from the surface.
Now you’ve got an invisible door stop you can use to freak out your friends.
Use the same mechanism for drawers, box lids, and who knows what else.
4. SHOP VAC SCREW COLLECTION
Don’t want loose screws sucked into your shop vac while cleaning the shop?
Super glue some magnets to the front of the vacuum nozzle.
As you run it over the floor, the magnets will grab any rogue screws or pieces of metal — so you don’t have to dig through two pounds of sawdust to find them.
5. TAPE MEASURE SCREW GRABBER
On a similar note, say you drop a screw on the floor and it rolls behind or under your workbench.
You could bend over to pick it up… but if you’ve got a creaky back, try this instead.
Put a magnet on the metal clip at the end of your tape measure. Extend it to pick up screws on the floor without having to bend over at all.
These are what we call “40 years+ strategies.”
6. HEAT ABSORPTION ON CARD SCRAPER
Card scrapers can get really hot with a lot of use.
Save your thumbs from burning by putting two magnets on the back.
You’ll still be able to fully bend the card scraper — and you get to keep your fingerprints. (Not recommended for sworn criminals).
7. STUD FINDER
This is one of my favorite tips. If you’re trying to mount a tool on drywall, you can use magnets to make your own stud finder. why not make your own?
Mill a piece of scrap wood so it’s square and mark center lines on both faces.
Embed two or more magnets in a vertical line on one of the faces, and voila.
You’ve got a dead simple tool that’ll find metal studs or the screws in wooden studs.
8. SWITCHABLE MAGNET
This one’s more in depth — but has the potential for lots of applications.
It’s a switchable magnet that can be turned on and off with a twist.
Check out this video to see how to build one.
You could use this to make a really strong feather board, tool-mounted camera holder, or whatever your heart desires.
9. SECRET COMPARTMENTS IN FURNITURE
Maybe it’s a wad of cash. Maybe it’s a dirty magazine. Maybe it’s the full DVD collection of the Twilight movie series.
Point is, we all have something we could hide in a secret compartment. And neodymium magnets make it dead simple.
I built a set of modern nightstands with a secret compartment hidden in the back of the drawer.
You can watch the video for a detailed breakdown of how it works, but here’s the basic idea.
Let’s say you want a drawer with a secret compartment in the back.
You make a wooden drawer slide with a stopped groove that the drawer rides on.
A metal pin attached to a dowel of the same material as your drawer bottom (for camo) sits in the bottom of the drawer so the pin rides in the stopped groove.
You cut the stopped groove so the drawer can’t be pulled out to a point where the secret compartment is visible…
Unless you use a magnet to pull out the pin. It’s simple but brilliant.
Embed the magnet in a piece of wood to create a sort of “key,” and stash it where prohibited eyes won’t find it.
10. CREATIVE FURNITURE DESIGN
Neodymium magnets give you a great opportunity to get creative (or weird) with your furniture design.
A while back, I built a lamp that used “floating” magnets to activate the light switch.
It was a super fun build,and definitely a conversation piece.
Was it everyone’s cup of tea? Probably not.
But the point is, experimentation is what makes woodworking fun — and magnets provide lots of opportunities for new ideas
Speaking of tea — or coffee, really — my old woodshop neighbor, Sean Boyd, made a really cool little project with magnets a few years ago.
It was a “one cup of coffee” table — and was fully collapsible thanks to the magnets holding it together.
As he himself says, it’s either the smartest or stupidest idea ever.
But hey. Now he has a dedicated spot in the shop for his coffee, while the rest of us schmucks are putting it on our workbench next to hundreds of dollars worth of tools.
SMALL BUT MIGHTY MAGNETS
The uses for rare earth magnets in your woodshop are practically endless.
From tool storage to wacky furniture designs — a little creativity will make them a tool you’ll always want to have on hand.