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You are here: > News > March 20, 2009

How Mylow Replicated Howard Johnson's Magnet Motor

Story of how a garage tinkerer's 30-years of persistence finally paid off in apparently replicating one of the first publicly announced all-magnet motors.  He doesn't seem to realize how much of his own inventiveness came to bear. 


Download Interview Audio File (10 Mb; mp3; 50 min)
On March 23, 2009, Mylow joined me on the Free Energy Now radio show to talk about his motor. Al "Witherspoon", a former associate of Howard Johnson's called in, expressing his approval of Mylow's model and open source approach. Living not far away, he said he saw HJ's motor running, and that HJ told him that he thought it would be someone [like Mylow] who would successfully replicate the motor.

Mylow's replication of Howard Johnson's magnet motor.  March 19, 2009.

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by Sterling D. Allan
Pure Energy Systems News
Copyright © 2009


Howard Johnson's all-magnet motor, featured in Science & Mechanics in 1980, has captured the imagination of thousands of people.  Can magnets alone be oriented in such a way as to create continuous movement to create a useful motor?

Modern physics says "impossible," but since they also said human flight was impossible before the Wright brothers came along, their austere frown does not deter many people.  Scientists still don't know how bumble bees fly, and that certainly doesn't hinder bumble bees.

Howard Johnson was required by the U.S. Patent Office to present a working device before he could get a patent.  He did, and they awarded him three patents.  However, he was not able to ever configure it in such a way as to be commercially useful.  He passed away a little over a year ago.

30 Years in the Making

One person who was roused to curiosity by the Johnson story while in high school, is a lifelong tinkerer from Chicago who calls himself "Mylow" to protect his true identity.  He's been seeking with a passion to duplicate the Howard Johnson design for nearly 30 years.  "You wouldn't believe how many things I tried," he said.  Different combinations of magnets, different orientations, different types of magnets.

Last night (3/19/09) he posted a video showing some of his drawings he made while yet in high school.  One showed how the magnet motor might be integrated into the engine block of a vehicle as basically a hybrid magnet motor and generator, complete with capacitors and computer controllers.

After years of trial and error, pouring over everything he could find on the subject, he said that he noticed that there were differences between the Howard Johnson patents and the photos that exist of the actual devices.  He decided to go with the photos rather than the patents.

About ten years ago, his brother machined an aluminum rotor wheel and a high-precision bearing for it to turn on.  In trying numerous variations, gluing magnets on, then scraping them off and trying again, he said he's actually whittled down the original thickness of the rotor.  That's why he uses Crazy Glue, not something more permanent.
Then, about a month ago, he was in the Science and Surplus store in Chicago and he stumbled into a box of U-shaped alnico magnets.  "These look familiar", he thought, then realized that they resembled Howard Johnson's magnets, but a lot smaller, at just 2 cm long by 1 cm wide and 1 cm on each leg.

Mylow thought they looked like they may have been used in old 8-track players to erase the tape.  The key was that they were magnetized in the right orientation, with north on the two tip ends and south being on the long, back side. And the price was right at just $25 for the entire box of magnets. 

Not realizing this find was perhaps fortuitous, he assumed one could find these anywhere.  That's why he made a comment to that effect in one of the earlier videos.
In one of the first videos he posted to YouTube about a month ago, his prototype had sets of 7 of these rotor magnets spaced about 1/4 inch apart, placed around the perimeter of the rotor, with gaps of around three inches between each set of seven.  However, he did not have enough magnets to complete that last set of seven.  

An earlier version (before it was working) of Mylow's replication of the Howard Johnson magnet motor.

When he went back to the Science and Surplus store, he was chagrined to learn that they had no more of them, and that the manufacturer no longer makes them.  What was he going to do?

In a "what happens if I do this?" approach, he removed the middle of each of the sets of seven magnets, leaving 3&3, followed by a larger space (around three inches) before the next set of 3&3.  He was then able to fill in the last set of 3&3, with one exception.  

In doing this, he had one magnet left over.  Seeing the larger gap between his last set of 3&3 and the first set, he thought to put that last magnet in there for a 3&4 arrangement on the last set, in order for the gap between the last two adjoining sets to not be too great.

It Worked

Astonishingly, it worked.  After nearly thirty years of working on this, he was dumbfounded.  He told me he actually cried.  His wife of 16 years was likewise amazed that her tinkerer husband's efforts had actually resulted in a working device.  His brother who built the aluminum disc and bearing housing a decade ago is in awe.  "You finally did it! Apparently you've figured out a flux gate switching mechanism or something."

He said he scrapped the magnets off and reinstalled them three times to make sure he could replicate the effect.

On March 17, Mylow posted a video that showed the motor starting (with his assistance), then accelerating and coming up to a constant speed.

Mylow's replication of the Howard Johnson magnetic motor (YouTube originally posted by MYLOW12136; March 17, 2009)

It turns out that this non-symmetry of the last 3&4 set may be a key to the operation of the motor.  He tried removing the 4th magnet, but the motor did not work.  There is still a little wobble with the 4th magnet, but at least it works.

The single stator arc iron magnet is suspended from a long aluminum bar.  He brings the rotor magnets as close as he can to the stator magnet, goes through a little procedure of getting it by the right section of magnets to get the thing turning, and away it goes, accelerating gradually until it stabilizes at a set speed.  He tried putting two stator magnets on the suspending bar, one on each end, but that didn't work.  ([My note:] It may be that additional stator magnets could be added in, but that they would probably not work in symmetrical locations.)  He did try flipping the stator magnet up-side-down (detaching it and reattaching it 180-degrees turned), and said the motor then rotated in the opposite direction.

Mylow is aware of the eddy current phenomenon: If you drop a magnet down a tube of aluminum or copper, it will drop much more slowly due to the eddy currents being created as it passes by the aluminum or copper.  He thinks that perhaps these eddy currents are part of what makes this motor work.

Unfortunately, the iron stator magnet does not hold its charge very well (an inherent issue with that type of magnet in any context), and the speed gradually diminishes.  When I was on the phone with him a couple of nights ago, we were counting revolutions per minute, we timed it at around 77 rpm (36 rev in 28 seconds).  That was after it had run nearly continuously for a couple of days (stopping temporarily to take measurements, video, etc).  He has reported that the longest he has had it running without stopping has been about twenty-six hours.

Mylow said that there is a shop near him that he takes his stator magnet to re-magnetize it.  He said they have a big electromagnet, and the process includes quenching the magnet in a hydrogen bath for five minutes.  After it is recharged, the magnet works best for about two to three hours, after which it begins growing weak.

Getting the things going is a bit of a science as well, which he addresses in several of his videos.  He calls it a "sweet spot" where the pull begins overcoming the gate.  While we were talking, he noticed that the motor tended to want to self-start in the region of the set of 4 magnets.

The aluminum wheel part of the rotor is 17-1/8 inches in diameter and has a thickness of 1/8 inch (within 1/16 inch accuracy).  Mylow thinks the weight of the aluminum wheel provides a flywheel effect that helps the system work (possibly helping the magnets get past gate, to then be pushed through the next set hard enough to make it through that gate again [my conjecture]).
The stator-suspending, aluminum bar is supported on each end with wooden supports, fastened with aluminum screws.  Mylow said he had tried stainless steel screws, but they affected the movement of the rotor, making it jiggle.

One thing that I've noted with a bit of paradoxical humor is that Mylow seems to be tape-measure challenged.  As I was trying to get dimensions from him in our phone call, he didn't know that the smallest lines on his tape measure were 1/16 of an inch.  I had him count how many lines there were between an inch.  And the initial dimensions he gave me, as hard as he tried to give them to me accurately, were not right.  So last night (3/19/09) he posted a video of the magnets next to a Data Scan Ruler so we could read the dimensions for ourselves. He is also a bit challenged in his spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but none of these things seems to slow him down.  He is glad to share and answer questions people have.  Remember that some people who appear to be challenged in easy things, are usually compensated by superior talent in other areas, such as intuition or following hunches.

It may be thanks to his measurement ability challenge that he visually spaced the sets of seven magnets with gaps in-between, but ended up with the last set not fitting in symmetrically.  If it were easy for him to make and calculate measurements, he probably would have had everything symmetrically arranged, and it would not have worked.  So his handicap was actually part of the serendipity that enable him to stumble onto this success.

As I spoke with him last night, he said that the stator magnet had now diminished enough in strength that the motor was no longer working.  He may try a different magnet (e.g. alnico) so that he doesn't have to keep remagnetizing his magnet.

He stopped by the place he goes to get the stator magnet remagnetized yesterday afternoon to get permission to give out their name and address as part of our reporting. They preferred that he not do that since they are doing this as a favor to him, and they only want to receive commercial orders.  But if that point is made clear, they may permit him to reveal their identity.  They also told him (paraphrasing), "We can't keep remagnetizing your magnet for you. It costs us a lot of money to run that machine and to maintain the hydrogen bath."

I encouraged him to let them know what he is doing, to see his videos, to inspire them to continue to help him out and be part of history in the making.

At this point, I think we have all the information we need for someone to replicate what Mylow has done.  They're on it over at the forum, along with our PESWiki page.

Mylow told me this morning, "I hope everyone can replicate this better than I can."

# # #


Camilo Urbina (ASITEC) first brought this development to our attention on March 18.  New Energy Congress member, Sepp Hasslberger provided editorial input.

Next Story in the Saga

Open Source Site

  • MYLOW's Magnetic Motor based on Howard Johnson's Design - YouTube user "Mylow" of Chicago has apparently successfully replicated and is now open sourcing the late Howard Johnson's all-magnet motor, Stonehenge model, that Johnson worked on in the early 1980s to demonstrate to the U.S. Patent Office. (PESWiki; March 18, 2009)

See also

(Determined to be a hoax)


Page composed by Sterling D. Allan March 20, 2009
Last updated December 24, 2014




"It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom." // "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right." -- Albert Einstein

ADVISORY: With any technology, you take a high risk to invest significant time or money unless (1) independent testing has thoroughly corroborated the technology, (2) the group involved has intellectual rights to the technology, and (3) the group has the ability to make a success of the endeavor.
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