How to Make a Homemade Compass

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Homemade Compass

Now many of us may remember this from our childhood, boyscouts, etc. for those that don’t this is something to put away in your mental tool chest for a day when you might need it.

Mil Spce Compass

Now of course you should have a good compass, I prefer the Mil Spec Compass since it has Tritium in it for night use and is very durable.  However for situations where you might find yourself not in the most…advantageous position, you can create this makeshift compass that you can carry with you, all you will need to do is to have water available for it to float on whenever you want to get a reading.



  • Sewing Needle (you can also use a paperclip, safety pin or hairpin in a pinch)
  • Magnetizer (Fridge Magnets work great, but you can also use steel or iron to rub it on, silk/fur, or even your own hair to magnetize it)
  • Bowl
  • Small piece of cork (wine cork or cork board is great, but a light wood can work as well just has to be very light and move easily in the water as the needle moves. Leaves can also work in the wild)
  • Water



Rub the needle on the magnet, don’t rub it back and forth but in the same direction, like sharpening a knife.  After about 50 strokes the needle should be magnetized, repeat if necessary.

NOTE: I fyou are using a piece of iron or steel, stick the needle in a piece of wood and rap the top of the needle on the metal item 50 times



Stick the need through the cork, insert it horizontally through the edge of the cork and out the other side.  Push it through until there are equal portions on either side of the wood.  If you are using something like a leaf just lay it on top with equal portions hanging over.



Fill a Bowl with a few inches of water and place your makeshift compass in the water, the needle will align itself with the earths magnetic field and point north to south (that is magnetic north to south).  Now realize that wind will push it off course and you cant stick this in a lake or pond due to currents, however you could use a small still puddle.



You can tell if it is working by if you set it in the work it will start to spin either clockwise or counter clockwise to point form north to south, if it doesn’t and just sort of sits there, then attempt to remagnetize it.



Now you will need to see where North is, if you know the area and have a general idea of which was is north then use that.

If not put a stick in the ground, mark the tip of the shadow it casts with a rock, wait 15 minutes and mark the tip with a rock, the line between the two should be roughly East to West, using that you can tell which way NORTH is.  Stand with First rock on left, second rock on right, then you are facing north.

If it is night, Locate the Norther star, the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper, draw a line from the north star to the ground, that direction is due north.



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