How to Magnetize Metal With Batteries

Larry Parr

Magnetizing metal with batteries is a fun and common science fair or classroom project, but it can easily be duplicated at home. Any type of ferrous metal--such as iron--can be magnetized with batteries. Such objects are said to be electromagnets since their magnetic properties are dependent upon an electrical current.

Once the current is stopped, the metal object loses its magnetic properties.

  1. Wrap the bell wire tightly around the iron nail so that most of the nail is covered with one layer of wrapped wire. Remove the insulation from the ends of the wire, leaving at least half an inch of bare copper wire exposed on each end of the wire.

  2. Line up at least 2 D batteries, with the positive pole of one battery nesting in the negative end of the other battery. If more than two batteries are being used, align the batteries so that the positive pole is facing the same way on every battery. Make sure the batteries are all touching and wrap them with duct tape to hold them in a line. Do not cover either end of your battery chain.

  3. Tape one of the ends of your bell wire (the exposed copper part) to the negative end of your battery chain.

  4. Spread several paper clips onto a table top. Now hold the other end of your bell wire to the positive terminal of your battery chain. Your nail should now be an electromagnet. Test this by holding your nail close to a paper clip and see if the paper clip sticks to your nail. If it does, then you have successfully magnetized metal with batteries.

  5. Add more batteries to your battery chain and test the strength of your electromagnet by seeing how many more paper clips can be picked up by your iron nail each time a battery is added to the chain.


Do not hold the wire to the positive end of your battery chain for too long as the wire will heat up and it is possible to get burns to your finger. You may tape the wire to the positive end of your battery chain. Just remember that the wire will become hot after a short while. Your batteries will be drained of power if you forget to remove one of the wire ends from your battery chain.


Holding the wire to your battery for more than a few seconds could result in burns to your fingers.