They were the coolest part of primary school science, and they're still one of the neatest way to stick things together and stir up a little homespun magic. Check out our 10 favourite ways bloggers, Lifehacker readers, and other creative types use mother nature to make life better.
Photo by oskay.
As with another of these 10 hacks, magnetic paint is the key ingredient here, but this time it's a primer layered underneath the wall colour of your choice. With your metallic base spread around a wall, you can glue or tape magnets to your posters, LP covers, photographs, or whatever else you want to collage and arrange, the stick it up to the wall magnet-style without worrying about pin holes, adhesive damage, or anything else, really. It's like a crayon wall for adults.
Emptying all of an aquarium's water out and finding temporary homes for all your fishy friends is a big hassle, but that tank still needs cleaning. Embed a magnet inside a sponge with a thin-bladed knife and a little thumb pushing, and you can use another strong magnet to guide it around your aquatic realm to pick up the grime off the walls without too much disturbance. Depending on your setup, you'll still need to occasionally empty out your tank for water quality purposes, but far less frequently.
Fair warning on this one: Not everybody likes the idea of putting magnets near their computer, especially when it comes to hard drives. Then again, Apple lets similarly low-powered magnets clasp onto their power cords, and most hard drives aren't going to be affected by little disks just powerful enough to keep a couple of doorstops in place and upright in this doorstop laptop stand. As with all things magnetic, the laptop "feet" stay in place when you move around, but come off when you give them a halfway firm yank.
Your fridge never lacks for thin, flat, promotional magnets from stores, services, and perhaps crafty friends, but you really don't need all those calendars, recipes, and save the date notices. Use a pair of scissors and some tape to cut them in half, hinge them, and turn them into magnetic bookmarks. Why magnetic? They stay put in your book and won't slide out due to gravity or annoying book browsers.
This tiny but essential hack, along with a similar, previously posted technique, seems unnecessary until you consider just how many pens you really lose every year to drawers, spaces under appliances, couches and other household black holes. When the pen sticks to the fridge or any other metal surface, you're more likely to put it back, and it's always there when you need it. Try to pocket it, and you'll hopefully notice its heft and be guilted into returning it to its proper home.
Most cupboards fail at making your spices handily available because they're horizontal surfaces. The basil is behind the cumin, the cumin's hidden behind the allspice, and it takes an obsessive librarian to keep it all straight all the time. Using a few metal tins, a hot glue gun and some strong magnets, one seemingly defeated cook turned their stove into a spice holder, then later converted part of a kitchen wall for the task. Now the cabinet is for baking supplies only, and the spices, with a good label maker, are easily found.
Do your alarm clock or computer speakers spazz out a second or two before you get a call, or when your smartphone is checking messages? That's because the cables leading to barely shielded speakers act like big antennas for the GSM traffic to and from your phone. The solution isn't a bigger speaker—it's ferrite beads, those cylinders of metal that make up the little nub on your USB cables. Cut one out of an unused cable or buy a few at a supply store, and tape the bead onto the speaker's cable. Now your speakers don't get your calls before you do. Note: Ferrite beads aren't always magnetic—they're really just hunks of iron that often have magnetic properties.
How amazing is magnetic paint? Find a space on a wall where you want to pin your stuff, apply a few layers in the shape of your choice, paint over that with whiteboard paint, and use it for both magnets and quick doodles. For the artistically inclined, there's also the incentive to creatively shape it, as with the pictured speech bubble creation.
MacBooks have a good number of thoughtful hardware features, including a magnetically-attached power cord that's strong enough to stick, but won't drag your laptop down if it's yanked on. If you've got a free afternoon and the will to attach some reliable magnets to your ThinkPad or other laptop, you'll get a nice little non-destructive hack that makes your power cord powerfully adhesive, yet easy to pull away.
Instead of spending money and counter space on a big brick of wood, plastic, or whatever else, keep your knives elevated and accessible with a magnetic knife block. They sell these things at fancy kitchen stores for a hefty markup, but making your own is a simple affair, and you get to choose the wood colour and stain that best suits your kitchen. Obviously, you should keep it at a height that's safe for noggins and kids, but you'll come to love the second-nature convenience of grabbing a chopping tool off the wall.
There are lots of other ways polarised metals can come in handy—weblog Evil Mad Scientist, for example, has 17 more—and we'd love to hear about any you've come across or are using in your own secret lair/office. Drop a link or describe your favourites in the comments.