How to Make Your Own Compass
Here’s a great little outdoor challenge: assemble a compass with these instructions from noaa.gov. It’s a fun way to show kids how people navigated the “old-school” way, before GPS and apps.
What you’ll need:
- Sewing needle (1-2 inches long)
- Small magnet
- Small piece of cork (from a wine bottle is great)
- Small cup of water (to float the cork in)
- Pair of pliers
- Small knife
- Safety gloves (when handling the pliers/knife)
- Small cup or bowl
1. Hold the needle with the point facing away from you. Rub your magnet over the needle about 30-40 times, always in the same direction. According to ScientificAmerican.com, this action magnetizes the needle.
2. With a small knife, cut off a circle from one end of the cork, about one-quarter of an inch thick.
3. Using pliers for safety, carefully poke the needle into one edge of the circle and force the needle through the cork so that the end comes out the other side. Push the needle far enough through the cork so that about the same amount of needle is sticking out on each side. Be careful not to stick yourself.
4. Fill the cup or bowl about halfway with water, and put the cork and needle assembly on the surface of the water. You now have a compass!
5. Place the compass on a flat surface and watch what happens. The needle should point toward magnetic north, according to ScientificAmerican.com.
This easy, DIY project is a great way to show your kids that science can sometimes point you in the direction of fun!
Originally published on September 18, 2014.
How to Make a Compass
Opens on top down shot of a kitchen table top, with some dishes and trail mix visible. A woman is writing a packing list and checking off items. The last unchecked item on a list is a compass.
Voiceover: Planning a camping or hiking trip? Learn how to make a compass to help you navigate.
Title card appears: How to: Make a Compass, 20 minutes
View of the items needed laid out neatly across a wooden table top.
Voiceover: Here’s what you’ll need: a sewing needle, one small magnet, a piece of cork, a small bowl of water, a pair of pliers, a small knife and safety gloves. From start to finish, it will take you about 20 minutes.
A grid of all the materials you will need appears showing: Sewing needle, Small magnet, Cork, Small bowl, Pliers, Small knife, Safety gloves
See woman holding magnet and needle. She holds the magnet in one hand and the needle in the other, rubbing the needle over the magnet as described.
Voiceover: Start out by holding the needle with the point facing away from you. Rub your magnet over the sharp end of the needle about 30-40 times, always in the same direction.
Text box appears: Rub the needle over the magnet 30-40 times.
Top down shot of cutting board on a cabinet shows the same hands slicing a ¼ inch off a wine cork.
Voiceover: Using your small knife, cut off a circle from one end of the cork. You want it to be about one-quarter of an inch thick.
Text box appears: Cut off a circle about a quarter inch thick.
See hands holding a quarter inch piece of cork.
Close up as the hands, wearing leather safety gloves, take the pliers and poke the needle into the edge of the cork, forcing it through to the other side.
Voiceover: Pull on safety gloves. Using pliers, carefully poke the needle into one edge of the circle and force it through the cork so that the point end comes out the other side. Push the needle far enough through the cork so that about the same amount of needle is sticking out on each side. Be careful not to stick yourself.
Text box appears: Push the needle through the cork.
Return to top down shot of the counter where we see the compass, dishes, list and trail mix have been placed off to the side and a small bowl is now in the middle. Hands pick up a small pitcher of water and pour until the bowl about halfway full.
Text box appears: Fill the bowl halfway with water.
Voiceover: Fill the bowl about halfway with water. Place the compass on a flat surface, and watch what happens. The needle should point to the nearest magnetic pole — North or South, depending on where you live.
The hands pick up the compass, and place it into the bowl. The needle spins back and forth a couple of times before landing on North. A graphic of a compass appears over the water and show that the needler is pointing to “N” for “North.”
Top down view of clear table top is shown, and the materials needed to make the compass are shown “dancing” across the table.
Voiceover: Great job! You’re ready for your adventure.