Magnet Motor Kit

Make a simple electric motor

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Making a simple electric motor is an educational activity that may also be tried as school project or science project. With this project students can learn and demonstrate conversion of electrical energy to mechanical energy. In this simple motor you will use a 1.5-volt battery. Batteries offer a one directional flow of electricity also known as DC or Direct Current. That is why this motor is really a simple DC motor.

List of materials

The main components of a simple DC motor are a piece of magnet wire and a small magnet. Almost any type of magnet and any type of magnet wire will work fine. All other components are optional and may easily be substituted by other materials. Use the links and images in this page to see how others make their own simple DC motors. This special design of DC motor is well fitted for school projects.

Materials include:

1. Battery Holder 2. Ceramic Disk Magnet
3. Magnet Wire 4. Safety Pins
5. Screws 6. Wood Block


Electric motors are everywhere; even your computer has electric motors to power its cooling fans and hard disks. Building a simple DC electric motor is a great way to learn how they work, and it's really fun to watch your creation spin.


The objective of this project is to build a simple electric motor from scratch.

How to make?

Start by winding the armature, the part of the motor that moves. To make the armature nice and round, wind it on a cylindrical form, such as a pipe or a small AA battery. The diameter is not critical, but should be related to the wire size. Thin wire requires a small form, thick wire requires a larger form. For best results, the diameter of the coil must be the same as the diameter of the magnet you are using.

Leaving a couple of inches of wire free at each end, wind 6 to 9 turns around the cylinder form. Don't try to be neat, a little randomness will help the bundle keep its shape better.

Now carefully pull the coil off of the form, holding the wire so it doesn't spring out of shape.

To make the coil hold its shape permanently, twist the free ends and wrap one free end of the wire around the coil a couple of times, then pass it through and across the loop and wrap a few turns in the opposite side.  Make sure that the new binding turns are exactly opposite each other, so the coil can turn easily on the axis formed by the two free ends of wire, like a wheel.

If this method of holding the coil together is too difficult, feel free to use scotch tape or electrical tape to do the job. The important thing is to keep the coil together, and to have the two ends of the wire anchored well, and aligned in a straight line, so they form a good axle.

Now is where the secret trick comes in, the thing that makes the motor work. It is a secret trick because it is a small and subtle thing, and is very hard to see when the motor is running. Even people who know a lot about motors may be puzzled until they examine it closely and find the secret.

Hold the coil at the edge of a table, so the coil is straight up and down (not flat on the table), and one of the free wire ends is lying flat on the table. With a sharp knife, remove the top half of the insulation from the free wire end. Be careful to leave the bottom half of the wire with the enamel insulation intact. The top half of the wire will be shiny bare copper, and the bottom half will be the color of the insulation.


Do the same thing to the other free wire end, making sure that the shiny bare copper side is facing up on both wire ends.

The idea behind the trick is that the armature is going to rest on two supports made of bare wire safety pins. These supports will be attached to each end of the battery, so electricity can flow from one support into the armature and back through the other support to the battery. But this will only happen when the bare half of the wire is facing down, touching the supports. When the bare copper half is facing up, the insulated half is touching the supports, and no current can flow.


The next step is to prepare the axle supports. Use a pair of pliers to bend two safety pins from the middle. The safety pins can conduct electricity to the armature while the loops of wire on the safety pin can hold it up. 

The base for this motor will be a wood block. It makes a nice base because it is heavy, stable and  looks good for presentation in classroom or science fair. The wood block is large enough to hold the battery as well.

Use screws to mount the bent safety pins on the wood block so that the loops are faced to each other and about 1 inch apart.

Attach the wires from battery holder to the supports (bent safety pins)

Place the safety pins so the rings are just far enough apart for the armature to spin freely. Insert the screws through the lock of the safety pins into the wood. Swing the safety pins apart a little and insert the armature into both rings, then swing them back so they are close to the coil, but not touching it.

Insert the battery into the holder. Place the magnet on top of the wood block just underneath the coil. Make sure the coil can still spin freely, and that it just misses the magnet.

In some images you may see that there is a toothpick or plastic strip stuck in between the battery and the electrical contact in the holder. This is the on/off switch. Remove it to allow electricity to flow into the motor, and replace it when you want to stop the motor and save the battery.

Spin the armature gently to get the motor started. If it doesn't start, try spinning it in the other direction. The motor will only spin in one direction.

If the motor still doesn't start, carefully check all the electrical connections. Is the battery connected so one support touches the positive end of the battery, and the other touches the negative end? Is the bare copper half of the armature wire touching the support wires at the bottom, and only at the bottom? Is the armature freely spinning?

If all these things are correct, your little motor should be spinning around at a pretty fast rate. Try holding it upside down. The motor should spin in the opposite direction if the magnet is on top instead of on the bottom. Try turning the magnet upside down and see which direction the motor spins. If you want a motor that has the magnet on the side instead of the top or bottom, you can simply make a new armature, but this time lay the coil flat on the table when you scrape the insulation off of the top half of the free wire ends.

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

To do an experiment in this area, you should do research that enables you to understand the following terms and concepts:

  • armature or rotor,
  • commutator,
  • brushes,
  • field magnet,
  • electromagnet, and
  • the operating principles of a DC motor.

More advanced students will also want to study:

  • right-hand rule,
  • induction, and
  • back EMF.


Here are some resources to get you started:

Find instructions for the simple motor described below at any of these sites:


Additional Notes:

Another way of preparing the armature is wrapping the two ends of the wire in two opposite sides of the loop. In this way, one half of loop will have more wire than the other half and it will become heavier. This will change the balance and make it harder for the armature to spin. In this case you can move one of the ties slightly toward the heavier side to gain the balance again.

It is important for the loop to be balanced and spin freely around its axle.

whole coil

It is not necessary, but some people wrap a couple turns around these binding turns as well, threading the wire into the space between the large coil and the small coils that hold it together. This makes for a neat, tight package, as in the photo below:


Related links:

If you don't have this kit, you can order it now! It is available both as a single pack and class pack. Kit content may be different from the images shown in this page.

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