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Emergency! (Big Magnets are Strong)

Here at K&J Magnetics, we handle a huge variety of neodymium magnets every day, large and small.  Some of the really big ones are incredibly powerful.  We handle strong magnets every day, yet the big ones still make us cautious.

For this article, we’ve decided to share some info about an emergency magnet separator we constructed.  It is a device designed to separate even the largest magnet sizes if they have somehow attracted with a hand or finger squished between them.  We’ve never had to use it, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

Note: This article is NOT about the best way to separate two magnets stuck together. For advice on that, see our article about How to Separate Strong Magnets. This article describes what we might do if we got our hand stuck between two huge magnets, which is a very different story.

Background

Two powerful BCC6 block magnets squeezing a hand.

In the picture at right, you can see strong BCC6 block magnets attracting to one another through a hand.  This is a neat trick that always gets attention.  These 3/4" x 3/4" x 3/8" thick blocks provide a strong hold at this distance, but they can still be removed with one hand.  With much larger magnets, however, we don't recommend trying this.  We are understandably cautious about avoiding injuries.  What would we do if someone’s hand got stock between two really powerful magnets?

Generally, the way to separate really powerful magnets is NOT to try pulling them straight apart.  As described in our article about How to Separate Strong Magnets, shearing them apart sideways is the easiest, safest, best way to get two magnets apart.  Of course, this assumes you don't have a finger or your hand stuck between them!

The situation we are imagining here involves having two much larger magnets squishing our hand.  This sort of accident and injury with a really huge magnet might require a trip to a hospital emergency room.  When we began offering very large magnet sizes, we started to wonder: Would a doctor know how to separate two incredibly powerful magnets?  Maybe not.  We needed a way to separate the magnets first, before heading to the ER.

If someone’s fingers or hand were stuck between two magnets, sliding them apart sideways might not be the greatest idea.  It might result in further injury.  It seemed that we would need a device that could pull the two magnets straight apart from one another, quickly and easily.

The Emergency Magnet Separator

With this problem in mind, we constructed our Emergency Magnet Separator.  Unlike the Magnet Separator products we sell, it does not shear the magnets apart sideways.  It uses two steel plates, which each of the two magnets will stick to.  Since there’s some gap between the two magnets (the squished hand), it works out that each magnet will be attracted to a steel plate it is touching more than the another magnet at a small distance away.

To use it, the hand with the magnets sandwiched around it is placed so that one magnet is centered on the bottom plate.  Then, the upper plate is slowly brought into position to stick to the second magnet.  Then, the lever can easily pull the upper magnet away.  We demonstrate it in the short video below.

Fortunately, we have never had to use this device in a real emergency.  We’ve suffered our fair share of pinched fingers and blood blisters, but nothing so severe that it required this device.

Be Careful Handling Large Magnets, Please!

While we have never used this device in a real emergency, we have found it useful.  When we show the device to visitors or a new employee, it helps instill a little healthy fear in those who are new to handling powerful neodymium magnets.  The really big magnets are incredibly strong and deserve a lot of respect.  If you are handling large neodymium magnets for the first time, seek out some experienced help if you can.

Most readers probably do not need to construct such a device in their work with magnets.  Still, we hope sharing this brief description helps demonstrate how incredibly powerful large neodymium magnets can be.

Please be careful handling neodymium magnets of any size.  Even smaller magnets can chip or crack if allowed to slam together, and the flying chips can be dangerous.  If your magnets have a Pull Force Case 1 of over 50 lb, or one of the dimensions is 2 inches or greater, consider it a very large magnet -- be careful!

Our How to Separate Strong Magnets article is a good guide for separating magnets of any size.  Be sure to read our Safety Page before handling such powerful magnets.