When navigating anywhere, it is absolutely essential to have a compass. Luckily, you can make one even if you’ve lost your magnet and needle.
Find the Right Metal
First, you need a piece of ferrous metal. Anything with iron as the base, including stainless steel, wrought iron, nickel, carbon steel, or cast iron will work.
The most common ferrous metal item used in making compasses is a needle, but there are plenty more options. Drill bits, forks, metal wires found in plenty of gear, the stem of some earrings, or the clasp on some hair ties can all become compasses.
If this is a survival situation, really take your time to look through anything you have with you for small hidden pieces of metal.
How to Make Your DIY Compass
Step 1 – Once you have your item, you want to break it down to being as close to needle size and shape as you can. The smaller the better the magnetic force will affect the object and the quicker the next step will be.
Step 2 – Grab a magnet. Don’t panic if you don’t have an actual “magnet,” because there is probably one in one of your everyday items. For instance, cellphones all have magnets in them just behind the speaker. It will probably look like a circular disc. In fact, all speakers use magnets, so if you have a broken-down vehicle nearby, you can probably find one inside.
Step 3 – To magnetize your piece of metal with the magnet, just stroke it across the magnet a few times. You have to keep the metal in contact with the magnet the whole time and always move it in the same direction, as if you’re petting your dog. You may have to do this for a few minutes, depending on the amount of iron in the metal and the size of the metal piece.
Step 4 – Next, take the magnetized bit of metal and put it on a leaf. Float the leaf on a stable body of water, such as a small puddle. The important thing to remember here is using a still body of water. If you are in a windy area, shelter the homemade compass from the wind so you can get a true reading.
Unfortunately, because the kinds of scavenged materials, you will not have true N, S, E, and W markings, so you will have to use cues available to you to figure this out, such as the sunrise and sunset.
For those in the northern hemisphere, moss will grow on the northern side of the tree, while the opposite is true for those living in southern hemisphere.