One day I was playing around with a compass and a magnet noticing how much fun it was to manipulate the compass rose as I moved the magnet around.  I'm of the mindset that when it comes to fun, more is usually better, so I rounded up 500 compasses and some rare earth magnets and decided to turn what started as just a little silly but entertaining play time into an actual piece of furniture.  

The compasses are inlaid into a custom table top underneath a piece of glass.  The coasters were made to match - they also provide an inconspicuous home for the powerful rare earth magnets that affect the compasses. 

Now I always know which way is north, and exactly where my cup of coffee is...er, so long as it's always on my compass table.

**Note, the reliability of compasses in mass quantities and close proximity decreases somewhat since compasses themselves are magnets.  It still works, and actually results in some pretty cool patterns, but if you're looking for the table to be 100% accurate, I'd recommend not designing a table that places them so closely together.  I'm a big fan of the way the table came out, as it's a toy just as much as it about the science of magnetism.**

Step 1: Materials

To make a compass table you need supplies for the top, the legs, and the tools to put it together.

  • 12mm sanded plywood
  •  table legs - I used 4 Ikea Vika Oleby prefab legs
  • 16 7/16" x 1/8" thick glass circular top (I had this custom cut)
  • a couple square feet of 6mm sanded plywood
  • 2 cork coaster inlay
  • 2 rare earth magnet
  • approximately 500 "mini compasses".  I got mine for around 20 cents a piece off Ebay.  It takes 500 20mm compasses to cover a 16.5" circle - crazy I know!
  • router
  • circle jig
  • drill
  • wood glue
  • brush
  • polycrylic - water based clear satin wood finish
  • speed square
  • clamps
  • random orbital sander
<p>This Instructable clearly has direction!</p>
Awesome Ible.....
What about adding wheels so you can turn it and all the compass arrows turn
<p>Very neat project! I love the simple and subdued look of the table. Have you considered putting small magnets in the bases of the coasters? It could be a fun way to visualize magnetic field lines! </p>
Check out step 9 - the coasters have rare earth magnets embedded right into the bottoms.<br /><br />Thanks for the feedback!
<p>Finally finished my version! Thanks for the inspiration.</p>
oh wow! That's so cool
Interesting project, thanks for posting it. I originally thought it would be a table with a homemade compass under it, but now I see it is 500 compasses lol. Have you tried making your own large compass?
Here is my version I made for the Vancouver Maker Faire 2012 <br>http://www.abluestar.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/IMG_4790.jpg <br>
That looks awesome! Did you modify an exiting glass top coffee table? I'm so glad that you decided to replicate this project and post a picture of the finished tab. Seriously - nice job.
This is the perfect idea for my woodworking class! Thanks!
Neat ! &acirc;€&brvbar; <br>I also like the music playing on your video : very 50's !!!&acirc;€&brvbar; cool.
This is fantastic Noah, great video too!
I saw this on a TED talk about the importance of sabbaticals, I wonder, are you that guy or did you both come up with the same idea ? I heard about an interesting phenomenon of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_discovery">Multiple Discoveries</a> in <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR-klTa1y54">a recent talk by David Wilcock </a>
:D awesome! at first i thought it was a giant compass as a table :P
Great Job!!!!
This is just outstanding. Top marks for thinking - as wiggins said below - hilariously big. I'm a total sucker for Epic Scale Silliness combined with good craftsmanship, so this sir, is a WIN XD
Hilarious. Well done.
Dude, that's a lot of compasses! You'll never get lost!
Fantastic! We're going to make one the nature center where I work, to help teach kids about the earth's poles, and orienteering, etc. Also, it's just a great toy for kids to play with!
aaaaand: we did!
Nice table! Looks good. <br>After calculating the cost of the compasses, I can totally see why you arranged them that way
That is FABULOUS! Great use of the 'Ible.
I agree with Muller....Want, want, want, want!
mate that is totally AWSOME!!!!
Nice project. Where can you find cheap glass?
Ok thats just plain cool. I am going to have to do one of these one day.<br><br>as for sources of compasses? go a little nuts and even smaller compasses<br><br>http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.4519<br><br>$2.54 shipped for 20 of them. figure what? 1500 of them for this project? $190<br><br>would also be cool to use different compasses IE one in the center much larger or spaces around to form a nice pattern<br><br>here are some of the cooler ones I found.<br><br>http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.35475<br>http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.11880<br>http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.11896 (this one is big 6.3&quot;)<br>http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.2834<br><br>More expensive but much larger and &quot;nicer&quot; for a larger version of this table?<br>http://www.rinovelty.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/products.detail/item/AMCOMPA/18pc_bulk_compass_set<br><br>18 of them for $26 just rip the compass itself out.<br><br>These are one of my favorites more money ($1 a pop but also much larger at 2&quot;)<br>http://cgi.ebay.com/60X-New-Plastic-Compass-Key-Rings-Wholesale-/380302127478?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_15&amp;hash=item588bc5f176<br><br>best deal (same ones used here)<br><br>http://cgi.ebay.com/Wholesale-Lot-20mm-Small-Mini-Compasses-4-survival-kit-/130461497769?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&amp;hash=item1e601c79a9<br><br>48 for $15 so 500 would cost about $165 you might be able to wheel and deal a better price ordering that many though.
144 for $8&nbsp; on <a href="http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/browse/processRequest.do?demandPrefix=12&sku=39/37&mode=Searching&erec=1&D=mini+compas&Ntx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&Ntk=all&requestURI=processProductsCatalog&N=0&y=0&Ntt=mini+compas&Dx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&x=0&sd=Mini+Compasses">Oriental Trading</a>
you might find your project in a bit wider perspective in <a href="http://www.dunneandraby.co.uk/content/projects/70/0 ">dunne &amp; rabys placebo project</a> from 2001 which includes amongst others a compass table.<br> <br>
I would love to do this project... But unfortunately I dont have the time (or patience) to do it... =(
That's really cool. Just when I thought I couldn't get any more lost... XD
So all together how much total money was used to make this project?
Not what i thought it was, but still clever! Being old and feeble, I thought it was a table where the top was a compass and pointed North via the coasters. Not as much fun as Noah's table, but just one compass instead of a gazillion--that is how many compasses are needed for this, isn't it?
how much did all those cumpases cost???
do the math 1 for 20c, he need 500, 500x0.2 or 1/5 of 500 is 100. it cost somewhere around 100 bucks.
ouch thats really expensiv for a table
&nbsp;lol awesome video, i bet he ALWAYS knows were hes going :) awesome &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;North East South West = Never Eat Soggy Waffles, but thanks to ur post, i can eat soggy waffles and STILL KNOW WHERE IM GOING!!! isnt that AWESOME?!?!!?
North, East, South, West<br /> Never eat shredded wheat.<br /> Our teacher taught us that in school, and I still use it to this day lol.
NEWS stands for north, east, west, south .
Never Eat Sour Worms
Our teacher taught us Never Eat Slimy Worms
Oriental trading company sells those little compasses for $7.95 for 144! http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/browse/processRequest.do?demandPrefix=12&amp;sku=39/37&amp;mode=Searching&amp;erec=2&amp;D=compasses&amp;Ntt=compasses&amp;Ntk=all&amp;Dx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&amp;Ntx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&amp;N=0&amp;requestURI=processProductsCatalog&amp;sd=Mini+Compasses
how did you mesure the table to that when you put in the magnets they lined up perfectly with out leaving gaps<br />
You could just measure the diameter of one compass, and make sure the table has a multiple of that diameter.
&nbsp;i vote you mount large magnets in the coasters!
Now make the whole table a single big compass. LOL Good work.<br />
That would be pretty sweet.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> I wonder what the limiting factor is on a giant compass.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The friction on the rotation point, the strength of the earth's magnetic pull, the weight of the needle itself?&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Anyone have any experience with very large scale compasses?<br /> <br />
The big limiter is friction - even the compasses you used are balanced on a pin-point (if the table ever gets a big whack, some will come off their pins - be careful).<br /> <br /> You could try the ancient floating-needle trick - make a huge compass rose on a sheet of light foam, float it on a pool under a sheet of glass.<br /> <br /> At the N&nbsp;&amp; S points of the rose, inset magnets arranged to act as the ends of a bar-magnet.<br /> <br /> What would be the point, though?&nbsp; Once you place the table, it will turn, settle, and never move again.<br /> <br /> Instead, I would randomly set neodymium magnets into the sheet of foam, with randomly-facing poles (you can get cubic magnets), so that the foam disc with twitch and turn as magnetic objects are placed on the surface.<br />
&nbsp;the foam would be drawn to one side of the pool and not rotate, ok last comment here. I made a few little mistakes in the descriptions of the huge compasses i have made<span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: rgb(61,61,61);">, the best giant compasses I have made used rare earth disc magnets aligned along the north south axis, they were balanced and hung by a filament, the simplest of which consisted of a single 2&quot; diameter 1&quot; thick neodymium iron boron disk attached to a fine thread with electrical tape and hung from the ceiling, I have used smaller safer : ) disks stuck in the ends of a length of rigid tubing and suspended similarly, various configurations and materials all definitely did some strange things besides aligning themselves north/ south, the strongest were perturbed by passing cars and most of the others responded in unison even when separated a great distance e.g. 40 feet or more, to periodic oscillations that, I have no concrete explanation for but, I think may have something to do with the field produced by the electrical system in the house&nbsp;. &nbsp;</span>
how long did it take you to collect 500 identical compasses? :Plol

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Bio: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs ... More »
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