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Understanding Motors: How to Make a Simple Motor at Home

A common fallacy is that motors are complex systems that can only be manipulated by scientists and engineers. This cannot be further from the truth; ordinary people can make their own motors by using simple and inexpensive household materials. The concept of a motor is actually very simple; all it requires is an electric current passing through a wire coil to form an electromagnet. When the electromagnet contacts a permanent magnet, the coil will spin and create a motor. Here are the instructions on how to make a simple motor at home.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • 5 ceramic magnets, which can be either disc or rectangular magnets

  • 2 paper clips, preferably large

  • A Styrofoam, paper, or plastic cup

  • Non-stranded insulated or enameled 20-gauge copper wire measuring 60 cm long

  • Masking tape

  • A battery. For consistent supply of power, use a power supply set at 4 volts. 6-volt lantern batteries or 1.5-volt D batteries can also be used

  • Wire strippers for insulated wires

  • Sand paper for enameled wires

  • 2 electrical wires made of lead, preferably containing alligator clips on both ends

  • A marking pen

  • Battery holder

  • Adult help, for minors only

Most of these materials are readily available at home or in local stores.


Take the non-stranded copper wire and wind it into a 1-inch diameter coil. Make about five loops with the wire. To hold the coil together, the ends should be wrapped around twice. Leave about two inches of wire on each end of the coil.

Insulated wire should be stripped before it is used, and enameled wires should sand-papered until the enamel is completely removed. While the coil is in a vertical plane, color the top half of one of the projecting ends black with the waterproof marking pen. This is necessary to prevent current from flowing after a half-spin since the paint will turn off the current.

Upturn the Styrofoam cup and position two magnets on top. Attach the three other magnets in the Styrofoam cup, directly opposite the two magnets on top. Make sure that the magnets are perfectly placed, so that they can create a strong magnetic field.

Open one end of each clip and attach to the cups’ opposite sides using the masking tape. Rest the coil’s projecting ends on the cradle of the paper clips. The paper clips’ height should be adjusted, so that the coil will remain in the center. Place the battery on a holder, and connect the clips to the battery terminals to get power supply.

Spin the coil to jump start it. The coil will continue to spin freely until the power supply is disconnected. In the event that it does not work, check to make sure that the insulated wires have been stripped off or the coil is close to but not touching the magnet. Also, the assembly must be well-balanced.

  • Simple Electric Motors : A website that contains comprehensive information on how to make simple motors, including assembly instructions and safety measures.

Understanding the Physics behind It

When current passes through a coil of wire, it forms an electromagnet. An electromagnet is a temporary magnet that functions when an electric current passes through it. The electromagnet has two poles, namely, the south pole and north pole. The permanent magnet repels the like pole and attracts the opposite pole, and this will make the coil spin.

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