HOW TO – Make a super-easy supermagnet compass

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Windell writes – “When I was a kid, I read in a science book about how to make a directional compass. You magnetize a sewing needle and balance it on a cork floating in a bowl of water. Even today, this is the standard story. For example, How Stuff Works still says that this is how to make a compass. (There are a lot of other examples, too.) It turns out that it’s a whole lot easier than that. All you need is a really good magnet. “ [via] – Link.


  • Photos of the compass in the MAKE pool – Link.
  • Access point compass – Link.
  • HOW TO – Make a digital compass – Link.
  • Sixteen-Point digital compass – Link.
  • Compass belt project… – Link.
  • HOW TO – Make a simple compass with a magnet and CD – Link.

10 thoughts on “HOW TO – Make a super-easy supermagnet compass

  1. I had a similar idea, but never got around to posting it on Actually two ideas.

    One was to seal the magnet in clear tape or laminate it. Then you could keep it in your wallet. The assumption was that it would float in any source of water you had avaialble.

    The second was to place a smaller cylindrical magnet into a wooden sphere and seal the ends. The wood should allow the magnet to float and you would mark one end as being north.

    Both are small and portable and would make for a good backup compass should something happen to your more useful primary compass.

  2. You may not want to put a magnet like that in your wallet; it will rewrite all of the magnetic stripes for you.

  3. Ya gotta git yourself one of these:

    The Brunton Emergency Pocket Survival kit. It’s a business card size case that holds cards with survival and first aid info, a Fresnel lens, and a compass that pops out of a hole in one of the cards. You use the compass by cupping water in your hand and floating the dime sized compass.

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