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A simple project that can be built with common household items in under 10 minutes that will permanantly magnetize steel items such as screwdrivers. This project uses 120V AC current, so be careful! I didn't insulate the wires, but if you were to touch the bare wires it would give you quite the shock, possibly even killing you.
This method was invented by William Sturgeon, who made the first solenoid in 1823, and found that he could magnetize ferrous metals with it. Soft iron loses its magnetism readily, while hard steel tends to retain its magnetism. It works because the voltage in the coil creates a magnetic field which aligns the atoms in the in the steel screwdriver. The orientation of the atoms is called the domain.