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An electric motor in 10 minutes

An electric motor in 10 minutes

The motor is simply a battery, a magnet, and a small coil of wire you make yourself. There is a secret to making it (which I will of course share with you) which is at the same time clever and delightfully simple.
We start by winding the armature, the part of the motor that moves. To make the armature nice and round, we wind it on a cylindrical coil form, such as a ball point pen or a small AAA battery. The diameter is not critical, but should be related to the wire size. Thin wire requires a small form, thick wire requires a larger form.

Leaving a couple of inches of wire free at one end, wind 25 or 30 turns arounf the coil form. Don’t try to be neat, a little randomness will help the bundle keep its shape better.

Now carefully pull the coil off of the form, holding the wire so it doesn’t spring out of shape.

To make the coil hold its shape permanently, we will wrap each free end of the wire around the coil a couple of times, making sure that the new binding turns are exactly opposite each other, so the coil can turn easily on the axis formed by the two free ends of wire, like a wheel.

It is not necessary, but I usually wrap a couple turns around these binding turns as well, threading the wire into the space between the large coil and the small coils that hold it together. This makes for a neat, tight package.


If this method of holding the coil together is too difficult, feel free to use scotch tape or electrical tape to do the job. The important thing is to keep the coil together, and to have the two ends of the wire anchored well, and aligned in a straight line, so they form a good axle.

Now is where the secret trick comes in, the thing that makes the motor work. It is a secret trick because it is a small and subtle thing, and is very hard to see when the motor is running. Even people who know a lot about motors may be puzzled until they examine it closely and find the secret.

Hold the coil at the edge of a table, so the coil is staight up and down (not flat on the table), and one of the free wire ends is lying flat on the table. With a sharp knife, remove the top half of the insulation from the free wire end. Be careful to leave the bottom half of the wire with the enamel insulation intact. The top half of the wire will be shiny bare copper, and the bottom half will be the color of the insulation.

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