How To Make a Compass with Needle and Silk

Whenever you go out camping, trekking, or hiking in the outdoors, one of the most important items that should not be missing from your bag is the compass and an area map. Being a small device, a hand-held compass can easily be forgotten or misplaced. When this happens, you may find yourself not having any compass while you are out hiking.

The compass is an essential device to help you find your way or to determine the direction of north so you can reorient your map accordingly. If you ever forget to bring your compass while you are outdoors, you can easily make one by using simple materials. In this article, learn to make an improvised compass. All you really need are just a needle and some silk cloth.

  • The trick here is simply the power of magnetism. You probably already know that the Earth is a big magnet. If you can just make an emergency magnet, you will definitely have a way to pinpoint which way is north. Your needle will be the right thing for that. But, you need to turn it into a temporary magnet. To do that, rub some silk cloth or fabric along the length of the needle, starting from its eye up to its sharp point. Rub the fabric for at least a hundred times.
  • Once you’ve magnetized the needle, you must let it float on a liquid so that it can align its north pole to the Earth’s magnetic north. A bowl of water will be able to do the trick. Fill up a container—cup, bowl, shallow saucer, or the cutout bottom of a plastic soft drink bottle—with water. Set it aside to let the water surface calm down.
  • But, you have a problem there—your needle is metallic, and it won’t float. To get around that, rub some oil on the needle. For this one, simply use body oil. One way to do it is to rub the magnetized needle through your very own hair. That ought to coat the needle with a thin layer of oil that will make the needle float on the water surface. Another possible source of oil is the sides of your noise. Those are areas of the human body where oil is actively secreted.
  • After coating the needle with oil, set it on the surface of the water. Make sure the surface is calm and not rippling. The magnetized needle will slowly turn around and align its sharp point with the Earth’s magnetic north.
  • Take note that the direction of magnetic north will vary depending on which hemisphere you are currently in. If you are currently in the southern hemisphere, the needle will point northwards. Otherwise, it will point southwards (that is, if you are presently in the northern hemisphere).
  • Once you have determined which way is North, imagine the other four basic directions. Opposite North, of course, is South. With North at the top and South at the bottom, West points toward the left while East points toward the right.

Regardless of how superb your map-reading skills are, if you don’t have a compass or a way to know which way is North, you will still be lost. So, make sure you keep these handy tips in mind so can easily make an emergency compass if ever you forget to bring one.

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