You may have heard of iFixit, the company that tears down electronic devices and creates detailed repair guides and upgrade manuals. But did you know that they also sell tools and accessories useful for such projects? Here we’ll be taking a close look at their new magnetic project mat.
iFixit deals with a lot of small screws and fasteners when tearing down devices and creating their repair guides. You know, the tiny kind that love to roll around right off of the table. iFixit claims that their new magnetic project mats will help DIYers keep much better track of screws during repairs.
The best tools and accessories are often designed by people and companies who would personally use them. But is the magnetic project mat as useful as iFixit claims? We spent some time reviewing the mat to find out.
On the front you have a simple but clearly marked grid of 20 squares. One option is to number the square locations and document where each screw and fastener came from on a pad of paper. Or, write directly on the whiteboard-like mat with a dry erase marker.
iFixit includes a Staedtler correctable Lumocolor pen with each mat, but you can also use your own fine-tip water-soluble dry erase markers.
See, erasable! The marker’s built-in eraser is good for minor erasures and corrections, but you’ll want to pull out a damp rag or large eraser to clean the mat between projects.
The mat is designed for the small precision hardware iFixit’s readers and customers usually work with, so forget about using it for machine screws. Even so, the magnetic strength was substantial enough to immobilize small #2 machine screws, washers, and nuts.
We still found the mat useful for projects that involved machine screws. The dry erase surface made sorting and labeling a piece of cake even if the magnetic strength was insufficient to hold onto the weightier hardware.
The magnetic mat is perfectly balanced and well suited for keeping small fasteners organized and exactly where you want them. It won’t magnetize them either – at least in our experience – and we had no difficulty lifting them up from the magnetic surface.
So what if you’re working with small fasteners too large for the magnetic surface to keep still but small enough where there’s a good chance of losing them? The Pro mat has a foam backing with cut-outs perfectly sized for such hardware.
In testing we used both sides of the mat almost equally as much. The dry erase magnetic surface came in handy when working with small SSD mounting screws, a laptop hard drive upgrade, and we even tore down an old cellphone to see if we could fix the speaker. The reverse foam side of the mat came in handy during disassembly of a desktop PC and when assembling a robot chassis with small M4 screws.
The standard version consists of just the magnetic dry erase surface, and the pro version has a compartmentalized foam backing as shown. Both versions come with a Staedtler’s dry erase pen.
iFixit’s magnetic project mat is a handy and well-made accessory. Is it an essential accessory? Not really, but it is exceptionally useful. The project mat is one of those things that will make your projects easier to manage, especially if you’re prone to losing or mixing up small hardware.
In the past we’ve used masking tape to label and secure small fasteners to our workbench. Other times we used small cups and pill boxes. The iFixit magnetic project mat is not the end-all solution to organizing small fasteners, but it can be an integral part of the process.
We’re quite happy with the mat’s design and quality. Grid lines are crisp and the foam compartments are perfectly edged. We definitely recommend this project mat to anyone who opens up electronic devices or works with small fasteners. DIYers who work with larger fasteners will also benefit from it.
The mat is 8″ x 10″ in size, and it’s made in the USA. Standard version is priced at $12.95 and the pro version, which has the foam backing as featuring in this review, is $19.95.
Buy Now(via iFixit)
Thank you to iFixit for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes.
This is a great idea! When tearing stuff apart I use a strip of magnetic tape on my desk to hold screws and other small magnetic components. I’ll line them up in the order that I take them off.
This idea is way cooler though, you can actually label where the parts came from and make notes right next to the components.
Great find Stuart! I love ifixit.com and use it all the time but I never knew they sold things like this. I’m buying one right now.
I have small magnetized parts bins, but they’re meang for larger automotive fasteners and are thus too strong for small hardware.
I knew iFixit sold tools and accessories, but the magnetic mat is a very new development. Makes sense – with how much time they spend disassembling electronic devices they must have a great sense of what types of products users need most. If it’s not already available on the market, why not design it themselves.
Wow iFixit has a fast response. I bought it on the 29th and I got it the 31st using USPS Priority Shipping (the cheapest option.) I was little concerned because the edge of the mat had been folded to fit in my mailbox, but today it looks like it flattened out again.
The Staedtler pen is a little different than the normal dry erase markers. It has a really fine point, but requires more effort to erase (which can be a good thing) and smears when you try and erase it with a normal dry erase marker. I tried normal dry erase markers and they work just like you’d expect though.
Looks as if this is a interesting means of not losing screws, but when I emailed iFixit about another issue and would later ask about this product, I was told that there is a chance that not all the contents are USA made. Was thinking of buying this, but that probably means this item was made in China, so no thanks.
In the bottom right hand corner of the mat it says Designed and made in California. The included Staedtler marker is made in Germany.
My name’s Alex I work for iFixit on products. As of right now, the components of the mat are all made in USA (pen is German) and every mat is built here in the iFixit office.
For the future, we are looking at some Chinese manufacturers. We only want to make changes that will increase the quality of this product, and do lots of testing for all of our suppliers. Believe it or not, some Chinese manufacturers are much better than the options in the US.
Oh lord, here we go.
Take a look at Avery Magnet Sheets, 8″ x 11″, five for $8-$9. And, print whatever you like on them.
Great suggestion. But if too thin, as refrigerator often magnets are, the Avery sheets wouldn’t be able to immobilize but the tiniest of hardware.
Is this something you’ve used in the past? I’ve seen something similar at Staples for under $10 as well.
Joe 'the Pro' Sainz
I love this. Definitely buying one for the next tear-down of something tiny.
Please be aware that the new project mat does not have the sorting tray on the back anymore. There is just one version available now, which is better than the old standard version, but it no longer features the dual use.
make this anywhere but the usa and I will not purchase it. Period.