How To Make A Compass


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

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

compass-suppliesStep 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.

sliced-corkStep 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.

boy-pouring-waterStep 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!


  1. This is a great science idea – easy and I am sure your little on was impressed at what he made. This summer I am going to focus on Science fun and this will just fit the bill. You have been pinned!

  2. Thanks for all of the great kid ideas! They are great! You’ve been passed the Versatile Blogger Award!

  3. craftyone says:

    This is a great idea! And I just wanted to say that Yes!, you can take it along on a trail hike! Why not?! Stick a small piece of left over cork onto the point of the needle for safety, place it in an empty film canister or prescription bottle along with the piece of cork you will float! ;o)

    1. That is a great solution for making the compass portable! Thanks for the idea.

  4. My kids were as excited to make a magnet as they were to make the compass itself.

    1. Yes, mine thought that was pretty cool too!

  5. YOU could take the needle on a hike and improvise the rest if you needed a compass. A better plan is to take a regular compass–they are small, light and accurate.

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  13. mayee schmidt says:

    Thanks for sharing the steps how to make a homemade compass. Il use this to show to my kids ! Great info…. 🙂

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