Making magnets
Using the magnetic field of an existing magnet Using the Earth's magnetic field
Inducing magnetism by an electric current

Click for larger image Magnets are commonly pieces of iron that have a magnetic pole at each end, and have a magnetic field around them. Magnets can be made by a process called induction. There are three basic methods:

  1. using an existing magnet
  2. using Earth's magnetic field
  3. inducing magnetism by an electric current

Metals that can be permanently magnetised are called magnetically hard because they can only be magnetised using a strong magnetic field. They are often made of steel with the addition of small amounts of nickel and cobalt. Inside the steel are tiny areas called domains, each with a North and South pole.

To make the metal magnetic these domains must be lined up so that most of the North poles are facing in one direction and the South poles in the opposite direction. The combined magnetic fields produce a magnet with North and South poles

Using the magnetic field of an existing magnet
One way of aligning the poles is by a process called stroking. An existing permanent magnet is stroked from one end of the bar of metal to be magnetised to the other end, then raised well out of the way before repeating the process in the same direction.

Stroke magnetisation

Using Earth's magnetic field
A second method of magnetising a piece of steel is by hammering it into the Earth's magnetic field. By lining the piece of steel to be magnetised along the North/South axis, the weak magnetic field of the Earth is able to influence the magnetic domains of the steel. If the piece of steel is now hammered several times the domains are disturbed and tend to line up in the Earth's magnetic field. This only makes a weak magnet, but a new magnet has been produced.

Inducing magnetism by an electric current
A magnetic field is generated when an electric current flows in a coil of wire. This magnetic field can be used to magnetise a piece of steel by placing it inside the coil then completing the circuit so that an electric current flows. The magnetic field generated lines up the domains and produces a permanent magnet.


Copyright owned by the State of Victoria (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development). Used with Permission.

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Magnets and magnetism
Magnetic force and moving charge
The Earth and magnetism
  Question 1
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Magnetic Poles
Magnetic domains
Magnetic field