DIY Magnetic Folding Shelf Brackets

Easy to build DIY Magnetic Folding Shelf Brackets

*This post is still under construction, links, photos and videos being added.*
In this post I go over the Steps, Materials & Tools used to build the super strong Magnetic Folding Brackets used on my Portable Magnetic Folding Work Shelf. Due to the various different configurations and level of detail in each, I decided to make this dedicated web post just on my custom Magnetic Folding Brackets.  I also use Magnetic Folding Brackets (and non-folding brackets) for various other tasks including holding tools and material in my shipping containers. 

Web Post for Magnetic Portable Shelf Build:  https://www.kevingittemeier.com/magnetic-shelf-v2/

Page 1:  Overview & Step 1: Prep Brackets 
Page 2:  Step 2:  Prepare & Glue Magnets
Page 3:  Step 3:  Magnet Coating
Page 4:  Read More, FAQ, SN List

Magnets are from totalElement Neodymium Magnet Supplier.
Use Coupon Code KTFG for 10% off your purchase at totalElement.com

For more, Subscribe to my https://www.youtube.com/KGittemeier

3 Steps to Build Magnetic Folding Brackets

Step 1:  Prepare Bracket (sand and glue)
Step 2:  Prepare & Glue Magnets
Step 3:  Paint & Clear Coat Magnets

I learned a lot of tips and tricks with experimentation, trial & error

Magnetic Folding Brackets
Variations consisting of 1/4×1/4×1/32, 1/8×1/8×1/32 Magnets & different coatings


Material List:

*These exact folding brackets and magnets are critical to the outcome of compact portable folding shelf! No substitutes are sufficient.
**1/2″ No longer recommended for portable folding shelf (too strong), use for heavy duty brackets and angle in Conex Storage Containers.

Neodymium Magnets


Tools List:

Helpful:

Alternatives:

Commercially Available Magnetic Shelves
If you’re just here for the portable magnetic shelf and don’t want to or don’t have time to build your own, I know people who own and are happy with these.

I designed and built my first shelf long before these companies existed and they don’t quite suit my needs as a compact material shelf but may be a great choice depending on individual needs (read more here).


Overview of each Step

Step 1:  Sand Bracket to Metal and Glue Holes
The brackets need the powder coat paint sanded completely off down to the metal, then rough scuffed with 80 grit. Initially, I believed that scuffing the paint would suffice to increase the bonding strength of the glue. The holes in the bracket must be filled solid to provide a bonding surface for the smaller 1/8” magnets (not needed for 1/2″ or 1/4″ but I still do for 1/4″).
Full details below.

Folding Shelf Bracket Preparation



Step 2:  Chose, Prepare & Glue Magnets
In order to prepare the magnets for glueing we layout magnets alternating the poles, mount to double sided tape, scuff the surface for a better glue bond then clean thoroughly. This process can also be used on non folding brackets as seen in my conex. Many details of each magnet choice pros & cons.
Full details page 2

Neodymium Magnets
Neodymium Magnets



Step 3:  Magnet Coating
Once the magnets are glued onto the brackets we can decide to put a coating on the magnets.  I have experimented with many options but I recommend 2-3 coats of automotive paint followed by 2-4 coats of high gloss clear coat or just 4-7 clear coats.  I rough the surface with 220 grit then thoroughly clean for a better paint bond.  Many details on options, application, errors, pros & cons of each variations.
Full details page 3

1/4” x 1/4” x 1/32” Magnets
Clear Coat on Left / Paint & Clear Coat on Right

Full Detail
Step 1:  Prepare Brackets (Sand & Glue)

*Note; I sanded first then glued but glueing first may be more efficient time wise.

Sand brackets down to the metal
I recommend sanding all the powder coat paint off of the back side of the folding bracket where we will glue the magnets.  This creates a stronger magnetic attraction to the bracket and a better surface for the glue to bond to.  The powder coat paint is relatively thick and will take a power sander with 80 grit to remove.  I have used both a table sander and a portable hand belt sander locked on turned upside down.  I sand two brackets alternating as each heats up due to friction.  I wear a mask, safety glasses and run a vacuum to collect paint dust.  The power sander will make the metal too smooth so once paint is removed go over the bracket with 80 grit hand sander to scratch some good bonding lines in as seen in photos.  Clean thoroughly with a vacuum then isopropyl alcohol before continuing.  You can tape the bracket and holes to minimize dust scatter and ease cleanup. 


The powder coat is thicker than I originally thought as can be seen in the paint scuff photo. Power sanding will get the paint off but the metal will be smoother than we want for a good glue bond so I hand scuff with 80 grit diablo hand sanding block: https://amzn.to/3vI8zIn If filling will glue as described below you can rough sand after glue is dried and sanded off. Again, glueing before sanding may be better.

Folding Shelf Brackets Prep
Folding Shelf Bracket Preparation


Sanding belt after sanding paint off several brackets vs new sanding belt. I use 80 grit but 120 would likely suffice.
80 grit: https://amzn.to/3Uq4fHW
120 grit: https://amzn.to/3uo9PQz


Although not absolutely necessary we can choose to Dremel, sand or scrape off paint on the inside of bracket for the lock closed magnet as discussed on page 2.


Fill bracket back holes with glue (1/8″ magnet models)
*Only necessary for 1/8″ x 1/8″ x 1/32″ magnets but I still do for 1/4″ as well.
*Again, glueing first before sanding paint may be more efficient time wise.
Now we need to open the bracket and put some tape over each hole, I use white 3m electric tape. You’ll have to remove the spring to access the all holes.

Folding_Bracket
Remove Spring
Folding Bracket
Springs removed

Above pic shows springs removed to access the back holes to apply tape &/or reinforcement glue as explained on page 2.


Flip the bracket over and add hard setting Impact Resistant Gorilla Glue to each hole.   Allow to dry a day then add a few more drops if needed.  Razor scrape &/or sand away any glue excess making sure the surface is completely flat and still has an 80 grit rough scuff in the metal.   Clean thoroughly with a vacuum &/or tape, then isopropyl alcohol before continuing.  


The left pic above needs thorough cleaning before proceeding as you can see dust and debris on the the dry glue and although you can’t see it, on the bracket as well. The right pic is cleaned and ready to glue magnets on.


I have used several glues including different hard setting Gorilla Super Glues but if you want to use only one glue for magnets and hole filling, try the semi-hard Clear Gorilla Glue 1.75. See results over time page 4. Details on glue choices below.
Gorilla Glue Hard Super Glue:  https://amzn.to/3h0tDgg
Gorilla Clear Glue 1.75oz (semi hard): https://amzn.to/4b8EKAY



Further Details and Reasons for Choices

Reasons to sand brackets down to the metal.
Originally I thought scuffing the bracket paint would be sufficient to create a good bonding surface for the glue.  My logic was the combination of magnetic attraction to the bracket and the glue would be enough to keep the magnet attached.

Folding Shelf Bracket Preparation
Bracket paint scuffed with 80 grit for better glue bond but now I sand down to the metal.


I even experimented with no scuffing at all on magnets or bracket with good results under ideal circumstances.  However I found over time with hard use (repeated hard impacts and or freezing cold environments) the magnets can detach from the bracket.

Magnetic Folding Shelf
Prototype 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 1/32″ Magnet Model, I still use & abuse daily


I like to build and abuse test marginal prototypes to gain an idea of threshold and tolerances then design and build more robust models.  Pictured above is the first unit using 1/8” x 1/32” magnets in which I only scuffed the bracket paint, brush painted with flat Rust-oleum metal paint and intentionally treated the laptop shelf rough.  I was able to chip some of the magnets early but finally on a freezing cold morning I was able to get some of the 1/4” magnets to detach after slamming on an elevator controller.

Considering that and after getting feedback that some of my original models using 1/2 “x 1/2” had magnets detach, I now recommend completely sanding all the paint off.   The bracket paint is thicker than I originally thought and the magnet being closer to the metal by the thickness of the paint makes the magnetic attraction to the bracket much stronger along with creating a better bonding surface for the glue.  Ideally the thickness of the glue between the bracket and the magnetics is less than the thickness of the paint coatings we will put on the magnets therefore the magnetic attraction to the bracket should be stronger than the magnetic attraction to the the mounting surface, elevator controller in my case.

Magnetic Folding Brackets diagram
Note that the Paint Coating is thicker than the Glue Layer


(need to make scale illustration of magnet bracket mounted to controller)
Full details on my thoughts on flat paint coating page 3
Read More on science and math involved in magnetic fields page 4


Reason to fill holes with glue and glue choice.
Originally I used 1/2” x 1/2” x 1/16” magnets that covered the holes so filling the holes was not necessary but now I recommend smaller magnets which require a flat filled surface because the magnets are smaller than the holes.  We use a flexible silicone glue to glue the magnets to the brackets but to fill the holes we want a hard solid impact resistant glue to form a strong non-flexible surface.  You could likely use epoxy or a number of other alternatives but I find this method sufficient and relatively easy to do. Here I am using Gorilla Clear Glue 1.75oz (semi hard) which I also have used for glueing the magnets. If you only want to purchase one glue for both tasks this is an acceptable compromise: https://amzn.to/4b8EKAY

Folding Shelf Brackets


1/8″ Magnet Models must have holes filled but 1/4″ Magnet Models can do without. I still glue holes for 1/4″ Magnet Models though because I prepare several brackets at a time and it’s not much more work. If not going to fill holes for 1/4″ Magnet Models prior to glueing magnets, I recommend adding glue on the inside of the holes after the magnets glued on and dry for a day. I add additional glue afterwards regardless as explained on page 2.

Folding Bracket



Next Page for full details on Step 2:  Prep & Glue Magnets

Page 1:  Overview & Step 1 
Page 2:  Step 2:  Prepare & Glue Magnets
Page 3:  Step 3:  Magnet Coating
Page 4:  Read More, FAQ, SN List

If any questions regarding a project or tutorial, ask in the Comment Section of the web post or YouTube video, not by email. That way the answer can help many people with the same question.

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