How can I go about magnetizing something? Specifically, a whole bunch of BB's. I want to try this so that I could make a cheaper version of the Bucky Balls product. Even if I can't replicate Bucky Balls, it'll still be an interesting project.
To permanently magnetize them, you need to start with bb's that are made of a ferromagnetic material, e.g., iron (or some kinds of steel), nickel or cobalt. This is the challenging part. When I was a kid they made bb's out of copper. Nowadays they probably make them out of some other less expensive but equally non-ferromagnetic material.
Assuming you can find a ferromagnetic bb, the next step is to subject it to a very strong magnetic field, which you could do with a homemade electromagnet.
You can slightly magnetize the right object simply by subjecting it to high shock, for example, by striking it with a hammer; but a blow strong enough to be of magnetic benefit might squash your bb.
EDIT: Was doing a little research to answer a comment, and discovered that those "copper" BBs I shot as a kid were actually copper-coated steel BBs. So, your magnetic BBs may be much easier to come by than I thought.
Here is a great paper on how to magnetize. http://www.oersted.com/magnetizing.PDF
Yes you are correct it is a hard paper to “weed threw” but all the necessary information is there. If you go down to the explanation on the apparatus for magnetizing you can essentially deduce that.
1) You need impact the material being magnetized.
2) You need to put the material in a strong magnetic field
3) So the magnetic field and the material must be aligned just right “A ferromagnet, like a paramagnetic substance, has unpaired electrons. However, in addition to the electrons' intrinsic magnetic moment's tendency to be parallel to an applied field, there is also in these materials a tendency for these magnetic moments to orient parallel to each other to maintain a lowered energy state. Thus, even when the applied field is removed, the electrons in the material maintain a parallel orientation. Every ferromagnetic substance has its own individual temperature, called the Curie temperature, above which it loses its ferromagnetic properties. This is because the thermal tendency to disorder overwhelms the energy-lowering due to ferromagnetic order. Some well-known ferromagnetic materials that exhibit easily detectable magnetic properties (to form magnets) are nickel, iron, cobalt, gadolinium and their alloys.”