Whitleigh Community Primary School, Lancaster Gardens, Whitleigh, Plymouth, Devon, PL5 4AA

Tel: 01752 706383

Main Contact: Lisa Richards


Chair of Governors: John Bale

Whitleigh Community Primary School

Children at the heart of the school - School at the heart of community

Week 1 -10th September

Trick 1 - Floating Metal!

Can anyone float metal, for example, a paper clip, on water? In this science magic trick section, you’ll learn how to float a paper clip  on water may look like magic, but it’s all science - yet another in our series of science magic tricks.


You make a metal paper clip float on water. (Really!)

The Science Secret:

The secret involves the water’s surface tension, the tendency for water molecules on the surface to be attracted to each other. This is the reason why when a glass of water is filled to the brim and small objects are added, you can see the water bowing up over the glass. And it’s also the reason why small insects and such can rest on the surface of still water.

The trick involves not break the water’s surface tension when resting an object, in this case, a metal paper clip, on the water’s surface.


A glass or bowl of water
Two metal paperclips

  • Bring out a bowl of water and ask a spectator to try and float a paper clip in the water.
  • Despite the spectator’s best efforts, the paper clip won’t float because the action of dropping the paper clip, or trying to gently release it from the fingers breaks the surface tension of the water.
  • The paper clip will drop to the bottom.


  • Take a paper clip and bend it at the middle at 90 degrees, as shown in the picture. 
  • What you’re doing is creating a handle that will allow you gently lay the paper clip onto the surface of the water.
  • Rest the other paper clip on the first paper clip as shown in the picture.


  • Gently and slowly lay the paper clip on top of the water.
  • You’ll find that the paper clip will float.
  • The science secret here is that the bent paper clip doesn’t break the water’s surface tension, which allows the paper clip to rest on the surface.
  • Slowly remove the bent paper clip and allow the other paper clip to float. It’s not magic, it’s science.