Nails Good for Being Magnets

Most recent answer: 10/22/2007

How can I know from the nails appearence that it is good for being a magnet?
- Ashlyne
Buda, Texas
I don’t think you can tell for sure if a nail will be a good magnet or not just by looking at it. Nails are made out of many different kinds of materials, and some are more magnetic than others. There are some important clues you can get from a nail’s appearance that might help you spot a good candidate for making a magnet:

1) Is the nail made out of plastic? You can usually identify plastic nails by looking at them -- in general, they won’t be magnetic. But -- some nails may have plastic coatings on them, or paint that may make them look like they’re made out of plastic.

2) Some nails are made out of copper, and others are made out of aluminum. These also make lousy magnets. Aluminum nails are also weak and hard to use for other reasons, but they are fairly common. Copper nails may have that reddish tinge to them like pennies, or they may have a green or black oxide to them. Aluminum nails usually have a dull, gray finish, and are easiest to identify by their weight.

3) Stainless steel nails will also make disappointing magnets. Unfortunately these will look like other steel nails, as long as the other nails are kept clean and shiny. The stainless steel ones won’t rust. Maybe a few flakes of rust are an indication that the nail will make a good magnet. But this eliminates new, shiny nails. Many nails that aren’t made out of stainless steel will have coatings of various colors on them (dull browns, greens, or blues) that prevent rusting. These might be good candidates, but I cannot guarantee that every such nail will make a good magnet!

The best way to tell, of course, is to try to pick them up with a magnet. The really good ones will be hard to pull off of your test magnet.


(published on 10/22/2007)

Follow-up on this answer