October 22, 2012
Survival Gear: How To Make A Compass - 3
by Tim MacWelch
Being able to improvise a compass can make a huge difference in navigating your way out of an outdoor emergency if you have lost your normal navigation equipment. This is especially important if you are dealing with overcast weather, thick forests, or any other conditions that would eliminate a lot of modern navigational techniques.
Making A Compass Needle
The metal item becomes a compass needle when it is magnetized and somehow suspended to allow free movement that is not affected by wind or other forces. The earth’s magnetic pull steers the needle into a north-south orientation.
To magnetize the needle or razor blade in the field, you have three options: tapping it, rubbing it, or using a magnet.
The tapping method is done by tapping a steel or iron object against the end of the needle. It works best by sticking the sharp end of the needle into a block of wood and tapping the free end. Tap the needle at least 50 times to magnetize it.
Alternatively, you can magnetize a needle by rubbing it against your hair, some animal fur, or silk. Carefully hold the sharp point of the needle and rub just the eye of the needle 50 to 100 times against the hair, fur, or silk.
Using a magnet is the easiest way to make a compass needle, and it’s especially the best option when you’re using a razor blade. Rub the magnet 20 to 30 times against the needle or blade, going only in one direction.
Suspending The Compass Needle
You can also make an improvised compass in a way that allows the apparatus to be more portable and less vulnerable to the wind. Tie a thin bit of cotton thread to the eye in the center of the razor blade, and hang the blade inside a jar or bottle where the wind will not reach it. Make sure it is hanging freely, and it will line up north-south.