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How to Make a simple Compass

Updated on June 25, 2015

Things Needed to Make a Simple Compass

  • Sewing needle
  • Small bar magnet
  • Small piece of cork
  • Small recipient (glass or plastic cup)
  • Small metal screws, nuts and staples

Magnetized Stones (Lodestones)

A compass can be very useful for navigation purposes. Ancient civilizations used naturally magnetized stones, such as lodestons, as aids in ocean navigation. Compasses were known by the Chinese 2,500 years ago and Europeans used them in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the present, there are many distinct types of compasses, including the magnetic compass, the liquid compass, the gyro compass and the astrocompass, all of them use the magnetic pole as their point of reference.

Compasses are small and cheap; however, you can save some bucks by making your own compass. A magnetic compass consists of a magnetized pointer such as a needle that points to the magnetic north pole. To make a simple compass, you can use some items around the house, such as a sewing needle a cork and a glass full of water, plus other items which you will probably also have at home. In the case you don´t have them at home, they can be conveniently purchased at any gift or hardware stores.

How to Magnetize a Sewing Needle?

Lay all the items on a flat table; hold the sewing needle with your left hand and the magnet with your right hand; rub the magnet over the needle about ten times in one direction; this procedure will magnetize the needle. Test the needle by picking up some small metal items, such as screws and nuts.

How to Magnetize a Piece of Metal?

Magnetizing a Needle
Magnetizing a Needle | Source

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Lay the piece of cork over the table and cut off a small fragment of it. Hold the small fragment of cork with your left hand´s index and thumb fingers, while holding the magnetized needle in your right hand; introduce the needle through the cork by pushing it carefully. If you find it hard to get the needle through the cork, once the point of the needle is inserted, push the other end of the needle gently against the table. This will help you get the needle through the cork. Make sure the needle is evenly distributed on both sides of the cork.

Inserting the Magnetized Needle Through a Piece of Cork

Inserting a Needle
Inserting a Needle | Source


  • Try to place the compass away from magnets or metal objects, as this can render the compass useless.
  • The needle compass will always point to the magnetic pole (north or south).
  • By knowing where the magnetic pole is, you can use the compass to locate other cardinal points (east, south, west, and north).

The Needle Should Point in the Direction of the Magnetic Pole

Fill the container (plastic cup or glass) with water to about ¾ quarters of its capacity; place the cork and needle in the very center of the surface of the water.

At this stage, the magnetized point of the needle should point in the direction of the magnetic pole (south or north); depending on the region of the world you live.

Needle Pointing to the North Pole

North Pole
North Pole | Source

Facts About Compass

  • The compass was invented in China during the Han Dynasty between 1900 and 2200 year ago.
  • The first compasses were made of naturally magnetized stones (lodestone).
  • The first compasses were used in the search for jewels and to select appropriate building sites for houses; subsequently, they were adapted for navigation in the 11th century, during the Song Dynasty.
  • Soon after, compasses were made by magnetized needles with lodestone.
  • The dry compass was invented in the 1300s.
  • The liquid-filled compass was invented at the beginning of the 20th century.


Submit a Comment

  • unvrso profile image

    Jose Juan Gutierrez 2 years ago from Mexico City

    It´s really cool!

  • profile image

    Bambi 4 years ago

    Cool! Wow, magnets and compasses. Yay, Hub of the Day! Cool!

  • unvrso profile image

    Jose Juan Gutierrez 4 years ago from Mexico City

    Useful and easy to make thing! Thank for commenting on the hub of the day!

  • toptenluxury profile image

    Adrian Cloute 4 years ago from Cedartown, GA

    This is a great looking hub. I never knew how to make my own compass. I was always curious of how they worked. Thanks.

  • rose-the planner profile image

    rose-the planner 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

    Congratulations on HOTD, well done! Great article on making a compass. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

  • unvrso profile image

    Jose Juan Gutierrez 4 years ago from Mexico City

    Thanks for your comments. Hub of the day!

  • cheeluarv profile image

    cheeluarv 4 years ago from INDIA

    congrats for 'hotd',and useful,innovative, interesting hub.

  • thumbi7 profile image

    JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

    Congratulations on hub of the day

    Interesting hub. Voted up

  • profile image

    shamsAlAriyaf 4 years ago

    It would be nice to be able to do it without a magnet!!

  • unvrso profile image

    Jose Juan Gutierrez 4 years ago from Mexico City

    Yes, indeed! It´s a great invention!

  • W1totalk profile image

    W1totalk 4 years ago

    This is a great article on a simple survival necessity. Awesome writing.