I want to make some homemade magnets (the stronger the better), but am not sure whether these types of questions are really welcomed on this site. Any other site's suggested if I should not post it here?

The question would be something like this:

If I want to make some strong homemade magnets to use in science experiments, what process would I follow and what materials would I need to use? Bearing in mind of course that only materials readily to the layman can be used, so not any rare earth metals etc.

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    $\begingroup$ As with any "Would it be on topic" questions, we can't answer without seeing the text of your question. But this might fall too close to engineering (designing/building something) to stay open. We can't possibly know without seeing the intended text though. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Jun 8 '15 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 I've updated the question. $\endgroup$ – McGafter Jun 8 '15 at 14:39

Okay, so I'll preface this like I always do -- my answer here is my personal opinion and does not reflect what may actually happen. It takes 5 votes to close something and I would just be one. Likewise, it takes 5 to reopen something and I would just be one there too.

However, I will wager that this question as worded would be off-topic under the engineering close reason, which says:

This question appears to be about engineering, which is the application of scientific knowledge to construct a solution to solve a specific problem. As such, it is off topic for this site, which deals with the science, whether theoretical or experimental, of how the natural world works. For more information, see this meta post.

I think your question kind of hits the very definition of using physics to construct a solution to a very specific problem.

However, this is something that you could certainly ask about in the chat room and people might be willing to help there.

On further thought, you might actually be able to ask some engineering-like questions from this because it is used for a scientific experiment. I know it gets tricky to figure out what is engineering and what is experimental design. I still think that asking how to build the magnetic would be off-topic. But once you have a design in mind, asking things related to the construction as it pertains to the experiment might be okay. For instance, maybe questions about how to isolate the magnet from the sensors to prevent/eliminate interference would be okay. Or maybe... I dunno, I guess we would have to know what your actual experiment was like to know what kinds of questions come up. But if you can frame your question about building something where your experiment imposes unique constraints or challenges, it may be on topic again. So it's a fine line.

I'll close by saying that the best way to do this is to build an electromagnet. I did this back in high school physics -- I found a 2" iron bar about 2 feet long, hooked it up to a lathe so I could quickly wrap a ridiculous quantity of wire around it and then I went to every Radio Shack in a 50 mile radius of my house to buy up every single 12V lantern battery I could find. I didn't think ahead about how much heat it would generate and melted my first iron bar, but then I did it again and got my teacher to let me pump liquid nitrogen around the rod and we were able to lift about 500lbs. The magnet could have done more, but we weren't strong enough to hold up much more on the end of it and we didn't build a giant rig to deal with it.

So -- electromagnets. Go read up on those and I bet if you have specific questions about construction, the folks over at the Electrical Engineering SE may be interested in helping. And if you have questions about why or how they work, there's probably a dozen questions you could ask on here to help you with that bit.

  • $\begingroup$ I was going to answer just "no" but I figure this is better, as it includes some explanation. Suffice it to say I agree the question about how to build magnets would be off topic. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 8 '15 at 16:30

Go ahead and ask the question! If it's not on topic, you will get suggestions for improving it, and/or advice about a better place to ask it. It might get downvoted or closed, which would be annoying but otherwise harmless, or it might get upvoted because you are asking your question in a new or interesting way.

  • $\begingroup$ rob, I've +1'd because I like this too. However, since you don't frequent the chatroom hbar too often (ever?), I'll point out that this is what DavidZ had to a say recently, regarding a question posed in similar spirit. In general, worrying about whether or not something is on-topic for a site is good decorum. Also, as you can see, this comment exposes my personal ambivalence on this. $\endgroup$ – 299792458 Jun 8 '15 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @TheDarkSide -- There's no real harm I suppose in posting something and having it dealt with there, and it may or may not be disrespectful depending on how obvious it was somebody tried to make it on topic first or not. But I definitely appreciate people coming here and asking about on-topicness and wording of questions -- it shows a great respect for the community and good-faith efforts to do what is right. So just posting is neither good nor bad generally, but asking about it first is only a positive. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Jun 8 '15 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDarkSide I wouldn't say my comment applies to this case. Magnets are "physics-y" enough that someone who casually browses the help center might think this question could be on topic for us. But the chat discussion (as I understood it) was about asking a basic math homework question on Math Overflow. You could tell that it's off topic, and quite drastically so, from literally the first sentence of the site description. That being said, I agree that it's nice (but not expected or required) to ask first if something would be on topic. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 8 '15 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ The "harmless" applies if (a) you are right more often than wrong in such postings and (b) you are also adding value to the site in other ways. If you're not doing either of those than too many such trial balloons could add up to trouble. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jun 8 '15 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ If my question gets downvoted I might suffer irreparable psychological damage, so I just wanted to check first. Thanks anyway. $\endgroup$ – McGafter Jun 9 '15 at 10:38

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