How To Make A Compass

My son loves making cool gadgets. For his latest creation, he learned how to make his own compass.

by Kim

The supplies are simple:

  • plastic lid or shallow bowl
  • needle or straight pin
  • a bar magnet
  • a slice of cork/styrofoam or the top of a plastic milk jug
  • some water

Step 1

I helped by using a knife to slice off a piece of cork. This cork was a bottle stopper left over from some decorative bottle we once had. A wider piece of cork might work better though.

Step 2

This step was fun. My son made his own magnet! He held the needle in one hand and slid one side of the bar magnet along the length of the needle. It is important that you don’t slide the magnet back and forth on the needle. Just slide it in one direction, lift it up, and repeat. He repeated this about 75 times which is probably many more times than needed. But now the needle is a magnet!

Step 3

He poured some water in the plastic lid.

Step 4

Place the cork in the water and put the needle on top of the cork. It may take a minute to get the needle balanced well on the cork but eventually it will smoothly spin so that the needle points to the North. I really couldn’t believe that my son had just made his own compass so we got out a real compass to check the results. Yep, it was pointing to the North!

The cork allows the needle to float on the water and creates a frictionless environment in which it can move freely.

Of course, the only down side to this compass is that you can’t take it with you on a trail hike!

For more fun map and hunting projects, check out these other great ideas from Quirky Momma:

If this inspires your family to get out into the wilderness, then please stop by one of our favorite places – KOA Campfire Community. We chat over there about all things creative, camping and kids!