View Full Version : How to Make a Compass in the Bush

04-05-2008, 07:49 AM
You all know how to float a needle to make a compass, right? But do you know how to magnetize the needle to make it point north? There are a couple of ways you can do that.

1. While you are still at home, you can take a magnet and touch the south pole of the magnet to the point of the needle and touch the north pole of the magnet to the eye of the needle. All you need to do is touch them briefly and the needle will be magnetized.

So how do you determine which is the north and south pole of a magnet?

If it isn't marked but painted, then the red end is north and the blue end is south. That's the standard color code for magnets.

Or you can use a compass. The North end (again, red) of the compass is attracted to the south pole of the magnet and repelled by the north pole. Remember, opposite poles attract, like poles repel.

2. If you didn't think ahead and you find yourself in the bush in need of a compass then use your silk (you do have silk undies on, right?) bandanna to magnetize the needle. Rub the needle from eye to point about 100 times and the needle will be magnetized.

Silk is a great material to take with you into the bush. It's almost as good as wool.

Now you can either float the needle on a leaf or piece of paper in a container of water or you can float the needle by rubbing it through your hair and coating it with hair oil. You can also use body oil for those that might be thin on hair. The oil should float the needle in the water.

No water around? No problem. Use one strand of the inner core of parachute cord about three inches or so long and pass the needle through both ends of the cord so the eye is supported by one end and the sharp point by the other with the cord forming a loop. Now tie a small piece of cord (about six inches) to the middle of the loop. You should now have a piece of cord that you can hold onto and the needle can now spin freely so it will point north.

Ole WV Coot
04-05-2008, 10:12 AM
What's this?? Rub my silk undies with something sharp and pointy, no thanks. But I usually carry at least 2 compasses packed somewhere. A couple of cheapos for backup may come in handy.

04-05-2008, 10:35 AM
Suck it up, Suzy. What's a little needle poke compared to a splash of hot lead on your carharts?

The first time I worked lead we were on a two man ladder and the other splicer had me put my feet between his. You know what's coming, don't you? Unbeknownest to me, that hot lead was dripping straight down on my carharts. It took a while to heat up but once it did it was all I could do to get 'em off while standing on that ladder.

04-07-2008, 10:15 AM
Rick, what do you do if the magnet is odd-shaped, like a disc or semi-circular, like from a hard drive? There are also ball and cube shaped magnets.

Tony uk
04-10-2008, 02:10 PM
I used snarewire, magnet in a pool of water sitting on a leaf before, It worked surpriseingly well.

04-10-2008, 04:42 PM
spend $ 60 on a good Silva compass.
no need to float a needle.

Tony uk
04-11-2008, 09:35 AM
spend $ 60 on a good Silva compass.
no need to float a needle.

But will you always have that comnpass with you if you get into a survival situation ?

04-11-2008, 10:56 AM

declination set?

04-11-2008, 12:21 PM
First, you have to make the assumption that you've lost your compass(es) for whatever reason. Obviously, a good compass such as Silva, Johnson Worldwide (JWA) or Brunton is you're best choice and everyone should carry at least one and know how to use it.

Second, don't use an odd shaped magnet, otherwise follow the instructions above to determine the north/south poles.

Third, if you are down to making a compass in the bush, I doubt that you're going to be too concerned about declination.

Tony uk
04-11-2008, 05:39 PM
I carry 3, One that i use, A silva, A spare (Agen silva) and a map compass (Agen a silva)

04-11-2008, 05:46 PM
Personally, if I'm in that big of a need of a compass, I'm probably not that pressed for time either. I'm gonna take a break and use the shadow method first. Now, if there's no sun, I'll be trying to figure out how to find a glass to float that puppy in. :)

But for me, a stick in the ground is a lot less hassle than trying to jack with a small needle unless I got to.

04-11-2008, 06:29 PM