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A certain attraction

When I was a kid, I was a junior scientist, fascinated with everything scientific – chemistry set, lenses, telescopes, fossil hunting, model rockets, you name it. The highlight of my year was getting the new Edmund Scientific catalog. I stayed in the house a lot.

One of my greatest fascinations was magnets, and I ordered a lot of them from Edmund when my allowance built up enough. I think I had hundreds of them, in all shapes and sizes. From horseshoe magnets to electromagnets, I had fun with them all.

Well, I’m all grown up and mature now – more or less – but I’ve retained that childish fascination with magnets. (I’ve retained a number of other childish traits, too, but we’ll save those for a future blog.)

There are a number of magnets in my shop. One on the side of my drill press holds the chuck key; a magnetic strip on the top of my bubble level lets me stick it to a steel cabinet when not in use; one on my push stick keep it secured to the side of the table saw; plus, there are several others.

In researching an article on jig hardware recently, I found a new magnet. From an Australian company called Magswitch, these super-strong magnets have something I’ve never seen before: an on/off switch. I’m not kidding; there’s an on/off switch on the top that changes the magnet from zero attraction to can’t-get-it-off-the-table-saw attraction with the flick of a finger. I’ve never seen anything so cool.

These things work because each one is really two magnets. A smaller cylindrical magnet fits inside a larger cylindrical magnet. Twisting the switch rotates the inner magnet so the poles can be aligned or unaligned. When aligned the poles cancel the magnetism; twist the switch the other way and the two magnets work together to make it incredibly strong. Ingenious. The company has a couple versions of the magnet, including one specifically for woodworking jigs called, appropriately if not cleverly, a MagJig. It has a mounting flange, so it can easily be screwed to whatever jig you make that needs to anchor to a steel surface.

This isn’t a commercial plug or anything like that, but just a Really Cool Thing that I thought you might like to know about. I’ve always considered woodworking to be fun, but I don’t often get to play with toys in the shop. This is one time I can.

I’m glad I didn’t outgrow that.

Till next time,

A.J.

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