Homemade Compasses are Easy to Make

We should all have good compasses as part of our bug out bags and know how to use them.  But what about if you have lost or damaged your compass do you know how to make homemade compasses.

Now homemade compasses are never going to be as good as a well manufacture commercial one.  They won’t be quite as accurate and will not show degrees. But they will work.

Homemade compasses consists of a magnetized, nail, needle, pin, razor blade or other similar piece of metal and a mechanism to suspend or float the pointer.  The first step is to magnetize the pointer.

There are three common ways to do this. Remember the pointer has to be iron or steel.

The first method, if you have a magnet (a refrigerator magnet works well) you can stroke the pointer with it.  Stroke toward the point and the point will face north.  You may have to periodically re-stroke the pointer to keep it functioning at full strength.

homemade compasses
Stroking the pointer with a magnet

The second method works great if you have access to batteries.  You can magnetize your pointer with as little as two volts.  Simple wrap the pointer in insulated wire and attach each end to the terminals of a battery.  Bare wire can be used, just use paper or light cardboard for the insulation.

homemade compasses
Coil the wire around the pointer you want to magnetize.

The third method is magnetizing a pointer by tapping it sharply with a hammer.  This is a little more complicated in that the pointer has to be pointed north and south when tapped.  This aligns it with the earth’s magnetic fields.  The raised end should be pointing magnetic south in the northern hemisphere and north in the southern hemisphere.  As you can see from the following diagram the pointer is angled toward the ground.  This is the X angle.  Now the X angle is the angle at which the magnetic field enters the earth surface.  In the United States, this is between 60° to 80° degrees, so this may take a bit of experimenting.

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homemade compasses
This shows the X angle, you have to use when tapping

One disadvantage of the tapping method is that you need to know magnetic north and south to make homemade compasses.  We should all be able to point out the different directions from our home or areas with which we are familiar.  I have asked some of my friend’s both non-preppers and preppers where north is at their home and a surprising number were not able to tell me.  With our modern road, system, we seem to have lost contact with nature.

Once you get the pointer magnetized, making the rest of the compass is easy.  Suspend the pointer from a string balanced in the middle and it should point north and south.  This is not as accurate as putting the pointer on a float. Put the pointer on a piece of cork, Styrofoam or another float and set it in water and it will point north and south.

homemade compasses
A typical homemade compass, with the pointer floating on a cork

Here are some links that may help you with compasses and land navigation.

old compass

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