Ideas That Work: Use Magnets to Clean Up Scraps, Find Studs and More

By Dec 15, 2013
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Every month, we pick the top four Ideas That Work submitted by you, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR readers. These ideas can't be found in any code or guidebook and are only learned or devised through years of experience and thinking, "There's got to be a better way to do this!" Please remember, the ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Before using such ideas, make sure codes and safety standards have been fully adhered to. Now, without further ado, here are this issue's Ideas That Work!

Stick to it
Magnets are a very helpful tool. I have a large round one (from a discarded speaker) that fits in a plastic tape roll case. I use it to clean the metal scrap from the bottom of panels. Then I open the plastic case, and the metal falls away, keeping my magnet clean. I have a smaller magnet in my apron pouch that keeps everything in there. When I pull it out to find which screw I need, they all stay together.

John Kiener
IBEW Local No. 41
Alden, N.Y.

Metal detector
While recently doing some remodeling work on an old house, I needed a stud sensor, but the battery was dead. I found the stud with a magnet from my tool bag. This works on wooden studs because of the nails and screws. Of course, this works even better on steel studs. I have used a magnet to find studs a lot lately.

Frank Stahl
Brookings, S.D.

Getting the bends
To match an existing bend or figure out the angle between two conduits when you need to find the degree, use your wooden rule. Line up the rule to the bend or shape to the bend you need, hold it up (remembering to hold the hinge so it doesn’t move) and use your protractor to determine the bend.

Joseph Lombardi
IBEW Local No. 3
Oakland Gardens, N.Y.

In the Southwest, ants invading outside electrical equipment is a problem. They cause short circuits and ground faults. To stop them, place three or four bay leaves inside the electrical equipment. The bay leaves will keep the ants away. A handful of bay leaves can save hundreds of dollars per year on repair service calls.

Douglass Beers
Aliquippa, Pa.

IF YOU HAVE AN IDEA that has saved you time or money on the job, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR ­readers would like to hear about it. Be sure to include a good photo of your idea—hand sketches are often hard to interpret. Note that some similar ideas are submitted by more than one person. In these cases, the one that is more clearly written and includes a photo is given precedence. Send your letter and photo to Jack Pullizzi, Ideas Editor, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Suite 1100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5372, e-mail [email protected], or use the online submission tool at

CASH AND TOOL PRIZES FOR WINNING IDEAS Each published author in Ideas That Work receives a $50 American Express gift card from ELECTRICAL ­CONTRACTOR. In addition, Southwire ( will send the following set of electrician’s tools to each month’s first-place winner:

• Cable cutter
• Fish tape
• Long nose pliers
• Side cutting pliers
• Diagonal cutting pliers
• Pump pliers
• Screwdriver
• Wire stripper
• Crimpers
• Multimeter

DISCLAIMER: The ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Before using such ideas, make sure codes and safety issues have been fully adhered to. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR disclaims any liability from your use of these or any other ideas. ­ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR reserves the right to reprint the words herein at its discretion.

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