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Reed Switch Motor

Difficulty level: 1 (the simplest, no soldering iron required)


Kits covered: Kits #1,2,3,4,8 and "Simple Motor You Can Build Yourself"

If you do not know much about electric motors, I recommend building this motor first. I believe it is
the simplest motor and it works very well. You may take a look at how easy it is to assemble this
motor from the kit you may order.
Most simple motors described either in books or on the Internet (see Links) arent stable, reliable, or
powerful enough. Usually the brushes in these motors cause the problems. (In simple conventional
motors the coil spins in a magnetic field and moves between two sliding contacts called brushes.) It is
quite hard to make this part of the motor accurate and reliable without having special tools,
materials, and skills.
This gave me the idea of building a brushless motor, in which the permanent magnets (this is the
rotor) spin and the coil (this is the stator) doesnt move. I used a reed switch to sense the position of
the rotor and to change the magnetic field of the stator at appropriate times. This is my original
design, which provides very good results despite its simplicity.
A reed switch consists of two magnetic contacts in a glass tube filled with protective gas:

When a magnet comes close to a reed switch the two contacts become magnetized and attracted to
each other allowing an electrical current to pass through. When the magnet is moved away from the
reed switch the contacts demagnetize, separate, and move to their original position.
Reed switches are very reliable and last as long as 3 billion operations if used properly. They are
designed for low currents. High voltages applied to the contacts may cause a spark, which may weld
the contacts together. The best solution was recommended by one of our visitors, Karl Mueller from
the University of Michigan. He suggested to use so called ZNR's. The ZNR is a little electronic device

that absorbs voltage and current spikes. It connects parallel to the reed switch and practically
eliminates the spark inside the reed switch glass tube.

This is how the motor works:

1.

When magnet #2 gets close to the reed switch the two contacts inside the glass tube get
magnetized and touch each other. This causes the electromagnet to push magnet #1 away.

2.

When the magnets spin away, the reed switch demagnetizes and gets disconnected. This
creates an open circuit disabling the electromagnet.

3.

The magnets continue to spin due to inertia until magnet #1 gets in working range of the reed
switch. It becomes magnetized again and its contacts connect together making the
electromagnet push magnet #2 away. This process continues until the power source is
disconnected or depleted, or the reed switch is moved out of working range.

This motor can be built from Kits#1-4. Complete instructions are provided. However, if you decide to
build this motor yourself, you may order only the parts you need (reed switch, magnet wire,
magnets).
The reed switch motor has a unique advantage. It is very easy to control and change its speed with a
few additional parts. If you take an extra magnet and bring it closer to the reed switch, its magnetic
field will change the gap between the reed switch contacts. A smaller gap allows the contacts to
switch faster and therefore the speed of the motor will increase, and vice versa.

This allows you to control and change the speed of the motor from a complete stop to maximum
speed, which may be 10-25% greater than the normal speed of the motor.
You may move the magnet as shown above or rotate it near the reed switch. The following diagram
shows how different positions of an extra magnet affect the speed of the motor:

Orientation of the speed control magnet is very important. If it is oriented improperly the reed switch
contacts may get connected permanently. It will create a short circuit, which may overheat the wires
and drain the battery quickly. It may also destroy the reed switch.
The speed control can be added to any of the reed switch motors (kits #1-5 and #8) if you purchase
experimentation kit #1 or #3. Complete assembly instructions describing an easy way to orient the
speed control magnet are provided.
I believe it is the simplest variable speed motor.

Assembly Instructions: Kits #1-4

Difficulty level: 1 (the simplest, no soldering iron required)

Contents of Kit #1

1. Heavy duty reed switch (rated 1A @ 50V DC)


2. Spool of magnet wire (50 ft or more of 27 gauge insulated copper wire)
3. 2 magnets with South pole marked
4. Magnet labels
5. Heavy duty board (approx. 5" x 6") with stands position color markers
6. 4 stands (predrilled and color coded)
7. Rotor core with 2 flat surfaces
8. 4" nail with pre-wound tape for the electromagnet
9. 2 caps with a center hole
10. T-pin
11. Wooden insert
12. Pushpin
13. Rubber plug that allows you to attach disks, propellers, etc.
14. Super glue
15. Piece of sandpaper
16. Self sticking felt pad
17. ZNR surge absorber
*** Future motor development may result in substitution of some parts for improvement of motor parameters ***

Instructions
1.

Insert the T-pin into one of the caps.

2.

Insert the rotor core into the same cap as shown below. Apply some pressure to push the
rotor core approximately 1/2" (10-12mm) into the cap.

3.

Put in the wooden insert.

4.

Insert the pushpin into the other cap.

5.

Put everything together as shown below. Push the caps towards each other until they cannot
move any more. The T-pin must be secured firmly. This process may require some strength.
Be careful not to bend the T-pin or poke yourself.

6.

Glue the magnets to the flat surfaces of the rotor core with the letter S facing outside. If you
purchased the kit with 4 magnets and want to try 2 magnets first, glue them to the opposite
sides. Straighten the T-pin if necessary. You can check it by spinning the rotor between your
thumb and index finger. Again, be very careful.

All kits have magnets with the South pole marked. If you want this side to look better you may
cut out the white glossy round labels that are provided and paste them to the marked sides.
You may do it before attaching the magnets to the rotor. It is recommended to use regular
white glue or a glue stick on the labels for better results.

7.

Insert the rotor into the stands marked with blue and silver stars as shown below. Hold the
stands and test to see if rotor spins freely. Make final adjustments to the T-pin if necessary.

8.

Glue the stand with the silver star to the board. Try to cover the corresponding star
completely. Align the marks on the stand with the line on the board as shown below. Note that
the star's position and the marks are approximate, sometimes you need to move the stands
slightly to achieve the lowest friction. Keep in mind that super glue bonds instantly, so try to
be as accurate as possible in these procedures.

9.

Insert the rotor into the stand marked with the blue star. Glue it to the board the same way as
the first stand. Leave a gap of about 1/16" (1/32", or 0.8mm on each side) between the rotor
and the stands. Test again to see if the rotor spins freely. At this time, or later, you may take
the rubber plug and fix it as shown below. You can glue different things to the outer flat
surface of the plug. Try to be accurate, redo this step if necessary.

10. If you purchased the experimentation kit #2 or #3, instead of steps 10-12 for this kit, follow
these instructions. After that, please, come back to this page and continue the assembly
instructions from step 13.
Otherwise, insert the nail into the stand with the green star. Apply glue as shown below.

11. Cut two pieces of wire 9" (22-23cm) long. They will be used for connecting the reed switch.
Use the rest of the spool of wire to wrap around the area between the tape and the head of
the nail. Try to be as accurate as possible. Tape the end and beginning of the wire using the
same tape and leaving open ends of wire about 6" (15cm) long*. Do not let the wire slide off
the end of the electromagnet. Clean about 1" (2-3cm) of the wire tips with fine sandpaper
(included) or a sharp knife to remove the insulation.
* If your kit does not include a battery holder leave the ends 10" (25cm) long. In that case
you should make the two pieces of wire mentioned earlier 12" (30cm) long.

12. Glue the electromagnet to the board as shown below. Turn the rotor slowly to see if the

magnets hit the electromagnet. If one or more do, move the electromagnet back until there is
a 1/16" (1.5mm) gap between the electromagnet and the closest magnet on the rotor.

13. If you are assembling the Kit #8 please do steps 13-16 from Assembly Instructions: Reed
Switch Motor With Transistor instead. After that please come back to this page and continue
from step 17. For kits #1-4 follow these instructions:
Attach the green self-sticking felt pad to the reed switch stand as shown. This soft pad
decreases the reed switch vibration thus decreasing the sound it generates.

14. Take the two pieces of wire you cut earlier in step 11 and clean the wire tips to remove the
insulation. Clean about 1 1/2" (4cm) on one end and 1/2" (12mm) on the other end of each
wire piece. If you want to use ZNR go to step 15, otherwise wind longer bare ends tightly
around outside contacts of the reed switch as shown in the first diagram. Insert the reed
switch wires into its stand as shown in a second picture. Be careful not to break the reed
switch, it is very fragile. Twist the wires as shown below in diagram 3.

15. If you want to experiment with higher voltages (up to 15 Volts) or make much more reliable

motor you may add a ZNR. The ZNR is a small electronic part that absorbs the spark inside the
reed switch. The ZNR is not required for the motor to work. Skip this step if you are not
adding ZNR at this time.

Wind longer bare wire ends tightly around outside contacts of the reed switch and the ZNR as shown
in the first diagram. Insert the reed switch wires into its stand as shown in a second picture. Be
careful not to break the reed switch, it is very fragile. Twist the wires as shown below in diagram 3.

16. Glue the reed switch holder to the base. It should be located at a distance of about 1/8"
(3mm) from the closest magnet covering the gold star on the board. Check the rotation of the
rotor to make sure that it does not hit the reed switch. IMPORTANT: The most sensitive part of
the reed switch is not in the middle of it, but more to the side as shown below. You should
hear a clicking sound when each magnet passes by the reed switch, otherwise move the reed
switch a little closer to the magnets until all four can turn the reed switch on.

17. If your set does not include a battery holder, skip this step.

Attach the battery holder to the board. The battery holder allows you to experiment with 4
different voltage settings (1.5, 3, 4.5, and 6V DC). You will need 4 AA size batteries. The kit
may contain 3 metallic inserts (they look like medium size nails) or a jumper wire - short piece
of wire with no insulation on both ends.

A.

If your kit contains inserts simply replace any battery for a metallic insert to lower the voltage,
and replace a metallic insert for a battery to increase the voltage.

B. To understand how the jumper wire works let's take a look at the connections inside the
battery holder:

The following diagram shows how to get 1.5, 3, 4.5, and 6 Volts using 1, 2, 3, or 4 batteries and a
jumper wire shown in blue color. Arrows show the current flow for 1.5, 3, and 4.5 Volts settings.
Could you trace the current when all 4 batteries are inserted (there is no jumper wire in this case)?

Insert bare ends of the jumper wire between the spring and plastic case to make a good contact and
hold them in place. This is how the jumper wire is actually used for 1.5 Volts experiments (one end is
disconnected and may serve as on/off switch):

Before connecting everything together connect both wires from the electromagnet to the battery. If
the electromagnet doesnt repel the permanent magnets away, switch the wires. When it repels,
disconnect one wire and connect it to the reed switch. Connect the other end of the reed switch to the
battery. The wiring diagram for kits #3 and #4 is shown below:

Start with 1.5V. If the motor does not work, increase voltage to 3V. If it doesnt help, ensure that the
rotor rotates freely and check all the connections it is important to clean the insulation thoroughly.
Make sure the batteries are fresh and connected properly. If the motor still does not work click here
for troubleshooting.
It is easy to change and control the speed of this motor with only a few additional parts.
Experimentation kits allow you to add a speed control unit and conduct other experiments.

Build It Yourself

The following instructions are for people who want to build the reed switch motor themselves.
You will need these materials to build the motor:

One reed switch a general-purpose reed switch may be used but a heavy-duty reed switch is
recommended. You can buy it in special electronic stores; it usually costs $1-2. Unfortunately,
very few of them carry this item. You may order heavy-duty reed switches at this site for
$1.95 plus low shipping.
Two magnets. You can buy ceramic magnets from Radio Shack (diameter: 1/2", height: 1/4").
I believe they sell grade 1 magnets for $1.99. You may order 2 magnets (grade 5) at this site
for $0.95 plus low shipping. Higher magnet grade means higher magnetic flux, or strength,
and therefore more reliable reed switch operation.
Spool of magnet wire. You can get this at Radio Shack they sell a set of three different
spools for $3.99. Use the medium gauge wire, you will need almost all of it. You may also
order a spool of proper wire at this site for $2.95.
You may add a ZNR to your motor. This is a little part that absorbs a spark inside the reed
switch and prolongs the life of the motor significantly. The ZNR is not required for the motor to
operate but if you want to make much more reliable motor you may also order the ZNR here.
A cork from a bottle of wine or champagne. You do not have to drink it to get the cork!
Needle. It must be longer than the cork.
Battery. I used a 6 volts lantern battery, but in my experiments I found that even 1.5 volts
battery is sufficient enough to provide reliable operation.
Two push pins.
Tape. Electrical is advised, but scotch or masking tape is fine.
Long nail (3" 6", I used 4") for electromagnet.
Duct tape.
Glue.
Two matchboxes.
A piece of firm cardboard or similar material for the base.
A small piece of fine sandpaper, or a sharp knife. Used to remove the insulation from the wire.
Two sturdy hardcover books or cardboard boxes.
Optional: pliers, a small nail, and a lighter.

Read all of the instructions carefully and check the Safety Rules before you start!

1.

Take a nail and wrap it with tape to make a layer about 1/2" (12mm) thick in diameter at the
distance of 1 2" (3-5cm) from the head of the nail.

2.

Use most of the spool of wire to wrap around the area between the thick layer of tape and the
head of the nail. (Cut and leave a piece of wire about 10" (25cm) long you will need it later).
Tape the ends of the coil to the same layer of tape leaving open ends of wire about 10" (25cm)
long. Remove about 1 1/2" (4cm) of the insulation from the wire tips with fine sandpaper or a
sharp knife.

3.

Tape the open end of the nail to the matchbox.

4.

Using the duct tape attach the matchbox to the board as shown below.

5.

Make a small dent in the middle of each pushpin. Use one pushpin to make a dent in the
other; or hold a small nail with pliers, heat it up using a lighter, and press the hot sharp end of
the nail into the center of the pushpin.

6.

Insert two pushpins into two hardcover books or cardboard boxes as shown below. The center
of the pushpin should be at the same level from the base surface as the center of the
electromagnet.

7.

Take the cork and stick the needle through the center on one side and make sure that it comes
out in the center as well. Try to be accurate, redo this step if necessary. Balance of the cork is
very important as it affects the motor performance.

8.

Find the same poles on the magnets and mark them. Same poles (North North, or South
South) repel, while different poles attract. Find two repelling sides they should face outside.
Glue the magnets to the opposite sides of the cork. It really does not matter if North or South
poles are facing up as long as they are the same.

9.

Take the 10" (25cm) piece of wire (see step #2) and remove about 1 1/2" (4cm) of insulation
off both ends. Wind one bare end tightly around an outside contact of the reed switch. Tape
the reed switch to a matchbox as shown below.

10. Put the stator (the electromagnet on the base and the books with the pins inserted) and the

rotor (the cork with the needle and attached magnets) together as shown below. Position the
electromagnet as close as possible to the permanent magnets on the rotor. Adjust books
position to allow the rotor to spin freely without hitting the electromagnet.

11. Before connecting everything together connect both wires from the electromagnet to the
battery. If the electromagnet doesnt repel the permanent magnets away, switch the wires.
When it repels, disconnect one wire and connect it to the reed switch. Connect the other end
of the reed switch to the battery as shown on the picture above.

12. If you want to experiment with higher voltages or make much more reliable motor you may

add a ZNR. The ZNR is a small electronic part that absorbs the spark inside the reed switch.
Connect the ZNR parallel to the reed switch as shown on the next picture:

The ZNR is not required for the motor to work. Higher voltage makes the motor run faster but even
with the ZNR it is not recommended to exceed 15 Volts.
If you bring the reed switch close to the magnets the motor should start working immediately. If it
doesnt work check all of the connections it is important to clean the insulation thoroughly; make
sure the battery is new and connected properly; move the books to allow free rotation. If it still does
not work check out the Troubleshooting section.

Assembly Instructions:
Experimentation Kit #1

Difficulty level: 1 (simple, but it is recommended using a multimeter to find a proper magnet
orientation)
Experimentation Kit #1 is a variable speed control unit for the reed switch motors. It works with
kits #1,2,3,4,5,8 and may work with any reed switch motor you built yourself. It also provided good
results with the motors on a Hall effect IC (kits #6, 8). This kit allows you to control and gradually
change the speed of the motor from a complete stop to the maximum speed. It will even increase the
normal speed of the motor 10-25%.
Parts included in this kit
Printable version of this page (if you need to print these instructions).
If you want to purchase this inexpensive and simple kit, click here.
If you want to understand how it works, click here.

Read all instructions carefully and check the Safety Rules before you start!

Instructions
1.

Find the correct orientation of the speed control magnet. CAUTION: If you glue the magnet
incorrectly, the speed control will still work, however, the consumed current will grow
significantly. This may quickly destroy the reed switch, drain the batteries, and overheat the
motor parts.
It is very easy to find the orientation of the magnet using a multimeter capable of measuring
currents up to 2 A. A good digital multimeter is included in experimentation kit #3 and also
available as a separate part.
Set the multimeter on the highest current measurement range (10A) and connect it to the
motor as shown in the picture below. You will need to measure the consumed current of the
motor.
Hold the magnet as shown in the picture and slowly move it from position A to position B. The
motor should be working during this experiment. Watch how the consumed current changes. If
the magnet is oriented properly, the current should decrease. If it grows, the magnet is
oriented incorrectly. Turn it 180 so the other pole will be facing the reed switch. Remember
this pole, it will face outwards when glued to the speed control stand.

2.

Glue the magnet to the speed control stand. Once again, if the magnet is oriented properly,
the consumed current should decrease when the magnet approaches the reed switch.

3.

Experiment with the speed control stand. Its approximate position is shown below. When you
rotate this stand the speed of the motor should change according to the pictures.

4.

After you find the best position for the unit, glue the inner stand to the board as shown below.
The inner stand allows the rotation of the outer speed control stand.

If the outer stand rotates too easy and the vibration generated by the motor moves it, wrap the inner
stand with a piece of scotch tape or thin piece of paper.

Troubleshooting
This is a recommended troubleshooting sequence for all motors:

1.
2.

3.

Make sure that your rotor spins freely if you give it a slight push with your hand.
Test your electromagnet. Connect one 1.5V battery to electromagnet wires briefly. The
electromagnet should push the closest magnet on the rotor. The rotor should turn 45 if you
have 4 magnets on a rotor, or 90 if you have 2. If it does not - switch the wires.
If your electromagnet does not work, it may be shorted. Sometimes re-winding the
electromagnet may solve this problem.
Select the troubleshooting table that corresponds to the motor you are trying to assemble and
find your problem, cause and solution:
Reed switch motor you built yourself
Kits #1-4
Kit #5
Kit #6
Kit #7
Conventional motor (Beakman's motor kit)

Reed switch motor you built yourself:


Problem
Newly assembled motor does not
work: rotor does not spin.

Cause

Solution

Rotor is in a "dead spot" the


magnet is outside of the reed
switch working range. This
usually occurs with 2 magnet
rotors.

The rotor will not start


spinning on its own. Give it
a slight push.

Rotor is jammed.

Find the exact cause and fix


the problem. Moving the
books may solve the
problem.

Electromagnet attracts the


magnets instead of repelling
them.

Switch the battery


connection wires.

Bad connection in wiring.

Thoroughly clean the wires


to remove the insulation.

Reed switch is too far from the


rotor.

Move reed switch closer.

Reed switch does not function


when a magnet passes near its
center.

The most sensitive part of


the reed switch is not in the
middle of it, but more to the
side. Move the reed switch
left or right.
Your reed switch may not be
sensitive enough, or it is
defective. Get a different
reed switch.

Your magnets may not be


strong enough to activate
the reed switch. Get
magnets with stronger
magnetic flux. You may also
try to attach an extra
magnet to each magnet on
the rotor.

Motor worked fine for a while but


then stopped working.

The electromagnet gets hot.

The battery is dead or battery


voltage is low.

Get a new battery. Increase


the voltage by connecting
an extra battery in series.

One of the magnets is not


repelling. This could happen if
you built the motor yourself and
did not use marked magnets as
those sold at this site.

Tear this magnet off and


glue it upside down. All of
the magnets should have
the same pole facing
outside.

The battery is dead or battery


voltage is low.

Get a new battery. Increase


the voltage by connecting
an extra battery in series.

If you use high voltage (6V or


higher) you can see a blue spark
inside of the reed switch.
Sometimes it may weld the
contacts together.

Disconnect the battery. Flick


the reed switch tube
slightly. In most cases it will
fix the problem temporarily.
Afterwards it is
recommended to lower the
voltage or connect a ZNR
parallel to the reed switch.
You may also need to
replace the reed switch.

Not enough wire used for the


electromagnet.

Make sure that the


electromagnet coil has
enough wire. Use almost all
the wire from the spool if
you bought it here. Use all
of the wire from the
medium size spool if you
bought it at Radio Shack.
Otherwise use 40-60 ft (1218m) of 26-28 gauge
magnet wire (diameter 0.30.5mm).

Short connection inside the


electromagnet.

Re-wind the electromagnet.


It is better to use a new
spool of wire, but
sometimes the old wire may
still work.

Kits #1-4:

Problem
Newly assembled motor does not
work: rotor does not spin.

Motor worked fine for a while but


then stopped working.

The electromagnet gets hot.

Cause

Solution

Rotor is in a "dead spot" the


magnet is outside of reed switch
working range. Usually occurs
with 2 magnet rotors.

The rotor will not start


spinning on its own. Give it
a slight push.

Rotor is jammed.

Find the exact cause and


fix the problem. This may
require breaking off the
stands and reattaching
them to the board. You
may try to lubricate the
axles with WD-40 or any
other lubricant.

Electromagnet attracts the


magnets instead of repelling
them.

Switch the battery


connection wires.

Bad connection in wiring.

Thoroughly clean the wires


to remove the insulation.

Reed switch is too far from the


rotor.

Move reed switch closer.

Reed switch does not function


when a magnet passes near its
center.

The most sensitive part of


the reed switch is not in
the middle of it, but more
to the side. Move the reed
switch left or right.

The battery is dead or battery


voltage is low.

Get a new battery.


Increase the voltage by
adding an extra battery.

One of the magnets is not


repelling.

Tear this magnet off and


glue it upside down. All of
the magnets should have
the same pole facing
outside.

The battery is dead or battery


voltage is low.

Get a new battery.


Increase the voltage by
adding an extra battery.

If you use high voltage (6V or


higher) you can see a blue spark
inside of the reed switch.
Sometimes it may weld the
contacts together.

Disconnect the battery.


Flick the reed switch tube
slightly. In most cases it
will fix the problem
temporarily. Afterwards it
is recommended to lower
the voltage or connect a
ZNR parallel to the reed
switch. You may also need
to replace the reed switch.

Not enough wire used for the

Make sure that the

electromagnet.

electromagnet coil has


enough wire. Use almost
all the wire from the spool.

Short connection inside the


electromagnet.

Re-wind the
electromagnet. It is better
to use a new spool of wire,
but sometimes the old wire
may still work.

If you need to disassemble the


rotor

This operation may require


quite a bit of strength.
Disassemble the rotor with
a rocking motion as if
trying to break it and at
the same time pulling the
ends out.

Links to some related areas


Simple Electric Motors:
Beakman's Electric Motor - Build your own working motor as seen on Beakman's World TV show.
Chapter 2: Electromagnetism - Another version of Beakman's motor by Simon Quellen Field.
How Stuff Works - A great site for information on how electric motors work.
Stripped Down Motor - Another simple version similar to Beakman's motor.
Simple Electrostatic Motor - Build a high voltage motor from plastic pop bottles.

Reed Switches, Transistors and Optical Sensors:


Reed Switch Features - Homepage of Aleph, a reed switch manufacturer.
How do Transistors Work? - Simple explanation of the principles of transistor operation.
Opto Sensors - Description and application notes from Aleph.

Soldering Tips and How to Use a Multimeter:


Soldering 101 - Very detailed instructions on how to solder and un-solder.
Introduction to Soldering - Another page with instructions on soldering.
Help on Soldering - Some information from the University of Pennsylvania.
Using a Multimeter - Information on how to use a multimeter to measure the current, voltage, and
resistance.