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Since the last time, I bought a few things: vegetable oil, mineral oil, some little plastic containers, a couple new magnets, and probably a few other things.

I tried different shaped magnets and also multiple magnets. You have to be carefully approach with multiple magnets if you want the particles to be attracted to both. if you approach with one too quickly, all the particles will be attracted to that one.

This time I also tried grinding up a steel rod that I have had forever with some sand paper. I tried mixing it with the mineral oil. The results are quite promising. I actually makes spikes like you see in classic fancy ferrofluid. But the spikes arent as smooth and glassy, and they are pretty small.

I also found out you can make the particle clumps “roll”. Once aligned with the magnetic field the particles are very sensitive to the alignment of the magnet. if you move or rotate the magnet, the particles will try their best to follow along. This caused the steel wool bits to make what looks like rolling dust bunnies — cool and weird at the same time.

I also tried making some objects by mixing steel wool particles and silicone sealant. I thought It might be interesting, but it ended up looking pretty gross, like a hairy spit pile. I also tried mixing steel dust with the silicone. I hoped it would be sort of like that magnetic putty, but it didn’t really do much. I think I might try again with more dust in it.

It’s interesting working with these materials. Every few minutes or so, I forget about the magnets, or forget that what I am holding is attracted to magnets. This startles me as it causes a sudden change in the magnet, surrounding objects, and often my hands.

Video from my point and shoot.

Observations/Comments:

  • Steel wool can be painful. It leaves splinters
  • you get better shapes if you hold the strong magnet about 4 inches or so away from the container
  • if you swirl the magnet around, the particles will stack up on the field lines to make taller spikes or “strings”
  • dust from sanding my steel rod works really well. It doesn’t take very much dust to get good results
  • slightly finer dust particles would probably yield smoother ferrofluid spikes
  • I don’t know if I need a surfactant, but I cant find Oleic acid or Citric acid
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