Yesterday I tried a new (to me) way to float graphite with the 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/4 inch Forcefield magnets with poles on the 1/2 x 1/4 inch ends.
I only had an hour to play around, so doubt if this is the best arrangement, but would like to come up with something that will work with the more common rectangular magnets, as the gold rods will probably always be more difficult to find and a bit more expensive.
This arrangement seems to have very great promise and easily lifted some leads and also a half-round 1/8 inch diameter spec. rod from Meredith. In the photo below, the very small magnets are being used to help push
the two rows of three 1/2x1/2x1/4 magnets together. Clearly it would help if the magnets had more elongated pole faces to help smooth out the field for long period response. The angle between the faces can also be 90 degrees, but as I played around the magnets on one side jumped to the vice jaw. This also worked so I snapped a picture. Because each row of three magnets wants to expand, as each is repelling the others in the row, it would help if the surface of the metal bar had more friction -- perhaps I'll try double sided tape next time, although that could make it TOO hard to get the alignment correct.
For damping, I wonder if the graphite could be coated with gold leaf?