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

Picture of Materials
Screen shot 2010-02-25 at 4.24.13 PM (2).jpg
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
Mr AbAk6 months ago
Awesome Ible.....
Bradin49451 year ago
What about adding wheels so you can turn it and all the compass arrows turn
jdoorenbos1 year ago

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!

noahw (author)  jdoorenbos1 year ago
Check out step 9 - the coasters have rare earth magnets embedded right into the bottoms.

Thanks for the feedback!
009agent made it!1 year ago

Finally finished my version! Thanks for the inspiration.

shazni1 year ago
oh wow! That's so cool
mmorpgs2 years ago
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?
funvill3 years ago
Here is my version I made for the Vancouver Maker Faire 2012
noahw (author)  funvill3 years ago
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.
jcbeaver73 years ago
This is the perfect idea for my woodworking class! Thanks!
vincent75203 years ago
Neat ! …
I also like the music playing on your video : very 50's !!!… 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 Multiple Discoveries in a recent talk by David Wilcock
:D awesome! at first i thought it was a giant compass as a table :P
Great Job!!!!
xavec4 years ago
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
wiggins84724 years ago
Hilarious. Well done.
triumphman4 years ago
Dude, that's a lot of compasses! You'll never get lost!
mpino4 years ago
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!
mpino mpino4 years ago
aaaaand: we did!
Nice table! Looks good.
After calculating the cost of the compasses, I can totally see why you arranged them that way
0jack mpino4 years ago
That is FABULOUS! Great use of the 'Ible.
Skylberg4 years ago
I agree with Muller....Want, want, want, want!
jimopertrat4 years ago
mate that is totally AWSOME!!!!
simi-kilr4 years ago
Nice project. Where can you find cheap glass?
nerys4 years ago
Ok thats just plain cool. I am going to have to do one of these one day.

as for sources of compasses? go a little nuts and even smaller compasses


$2.54 shipped for 20 of them. figure what? 1500 of them for this project? $190

would also be cool to use different compasses IE one in the center much larger or spaces around to form a nice pattern

here are some of the cooler ones I found.

http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.11896 (this one is big 6.3")

More expensive but much larger and "nicer" for a larger version of this table?

18 of them for $26 just rip the compass itself out.

These are one of my favorites more money ($1 a pop but also much larger at 2")

best deal (same ones used here)


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  on Oriental Trading
saronpaz4 years ago
you might find your project in a bit wider perspective in dunne & rabys placebo project from 2001 which includes amongst others a compass table.

Jakeg4 years ago
I would love to do this project... But unfortunately I dont have the time (or patience) to do it... =(
Darwinfish4 years ago
That's really cool. Just when I thought I couldn't get any more lost... XD
Bitkid4 years ago
So all together how much total money was used to make this project?
Exocetid5 years ago
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
 lol awesome video, i bet he ALWAYS knows were hes going :) awesome                      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
Never eat shredded wheat.
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
xojess5 years ago
Oriental trading company sells those little compasses for $7.95 for 144! http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/browse/processRequest.do?demandPrefix=12&sku=39/37&mode=Searching&erec=2&D=compasses&Ntt=compasses&Ntk=all&Dx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&Ntx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&N=0&requestURI=processProductsCatalog&sd=Mini+Compasses
fkuk5 years ago
how did you mesure the table to that when you put in the magnets they lined up perfectly with out leaving gaps
bmlbytes fkuk5 years ago
You could just measure the diameter of one compass, and make sure the table has a multiple of that diameter.
CamWaite5 years ago
 i vote you mount large magnets in the coasters!
Derin5 years ago
Now make the whole table a single big compass. LOL Good work.
noahw (author)  Derin5 years ago
That would be pretty sweet. 

I wonder what the limiting factor is on a giant compass. 

The friction on the rotation point, the strength of the earth's magnetic pull, the weight of the needle itself? 

Anyone have any experience with very large scale compasses?

Kiteman noahw5 years ago
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).

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.

At the N & S points of the rose, inset magnets arranged to act as the ends of a bar-magnet.

What would be the point, though?  Once you place the table, it will turn, settle, and never move again.

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.
 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, 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" diameter 1" 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 .  
freerunnin15 years ago
how long did it take you to collect 500 identical compasses? :Plol
Greg Pless5 years ago
Great idea and implementation!
 Wow! Very good!!!
I wish I could have money to build a table like this one... ^_^"

By the way, it's very nice to study Chaos Theory by putting an iron thing on a point of the table's surface =D
luke275 years ago
 Very good idea, and good work also =)
jam BD5 years ago
WOW!!! so awsome
so many compasses
and such a cool effect
tim_n5 years ago
Brilliant, never get lost in the kitchen again!
Win Guy5 years ago
XD XD XD XD 5/5!
kgilchrist5 years ago
great idea, well done!
thepelton5 years ago
One place to get large numbers of compasses would be www.sciplus.com
ryanmuller5 years ago
however much money this was it must have been TOTALLY WORTH IT!!! want want wantwantwant...
 Great construction and realization of the table, but I would like to point out this was originally done by Stefan Sagmeister. 

He also created custom cups with the magnets directly under them which you could implement to finish off your look. Causing a surprise like no other.

Bravo fellow robot
regisd5 years ago
sputnik005 years ago
wow, this is amazing.
Flipyap5 years ago
Truly a work of art. Great job!
tevers945 years ago
This is fantastic!  Definitely a piece of art.

You've just inspired me to create a giant "Woolly Willy" table!  (or maybe someone could just steal my idea. . . I wouldn't mind ;) )

 that would be so cool
wat does wooly willy do?  make jose jalepeno!!!!
 it uses iron flakes to make the drawing seem to have "hair" you use a magnet to move the flakes around 
noahw (author)  tobywankenobi5 years ago
This idea was mentioned first on the compass table post on Facebook a few weeks ago and others have shown interest in the idea as well.

Not to play the whole, it was my idea first game...but to be honest, it really was my idea before those posts were made.  I can't tell you how many times this happens though, so I'm not new to it. 

My original intention was to make a Burt Reynolds iron filing "Wooly Willy" style table, since Burt Reynolds is the owner of the architypical mustache, and a more fun character fun character to play around with.  I ran into some trouble upon trying to properly vectorize Burt so that he could be cleanly blown up to and image spanning several feet and so I bailed on the idea.  I've since been working on just a regular Wooly Willy coffee table - pretty much exactly as everyone has been envisioning.

Keep your eyes peeled, it should be coming next week!
I'll just chalk it up to "great minds."  :)

A Burt Reynolds table would be pretty dandy.  So would Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Dali, or Frank Zappa.  I guess you'd have to do some photoshop work as well, to get rid of the original 'stache. . .unless you created a drawn, caricature-like image instead of a photo.  *shrug*  (I'm sure you've already thought long and hard about this, anyway!)

But I will definitely be looking out for that instructable!

noahw (author)  tobywankenobi5 years ago

noahw (author)  noahw5 years ago
This is great!

Thanks for the link.
MarkMain noahw5 years ago
Alternatively to Wooly Willy, would be to just have lots of metal filings in the table and then rapidly pulse the magnetic fields around at different points and sometimes at multiple points. Similarly to the way that lights on a road sign can be made to appear moving in a direction, you could do this with the filings. They could move in a circle to the left, then right, and occasionally move inward to the center and back out a again; even random movement. Interesting idea.

Creating a small CNC type machine mechanism under the table you could draw lines in the sand (only metal) like the way they do with oriental sand art.

Lots of possibilities. 
Here is a slightly cheaper option on the compasses:


I can't vouch for the seller or the quality of the compasses themselves, though.

This option comes out to around $50 after bulk discount.
mneufeld6235 years ago
 Did you really spend 100 bucks on button compasses, or did you find them cheaper then 20cents a piece?
noahw (author)  mneufeld6235 years ago
Spent $100!

We're high rollers.
well, a hundred bucks, plus all the cost of the wood, and the time of making it... well you should find a cheaper way to get the compasses...
xilefakamot5 years ago
 I'd love to combine this with some of these!
MarkMain5 years ago
 I thought of a pretty cool trick for making the compasses move around more often. Make an electronics project where you places small electric coils around the table by drilling small holes underneath (cap the holes to weather proof them and maintain them if needed) so they are very close to the surface without being seen. I'd recommend either just 1 in the center or 3, 4, 6 or 8 spaced even near the rim's edge (or slightly inward for a different effect) and optionally one dead center.

A controlling device when turned-on will send electricity to each of the electronic coils for a few seconds and then switch to another coil--this will guide the compasses move about as they also point into the direction of current magnetic field. The pattern can be in a circular motion, or with the center coil used in addition to the rim locations, you can move the field about in a gyroscope pattern--like this pattern: 12:00, center, 4:00, 2:00, center, 6:00, 4:00, center, 8:00, 6:00, center, 10:00, 8:00, center, 12:00, 10:00, center, 2:00, then repeat; a star pattern movement is possible; spoke pattern of center 12:00, center 3:00: center 6:00, center, 9:00, repeat; or simply a random movement.

You can slowly transition the movement by having electricity at two locations for a short bit and than slowly increasing the amperage (less resistance) to one coil while reducing the amperage (by increasing resistance) from another.

The coils need to be fairly small because you don't want to stop someone's pacemaker and it won't take much to move the compasses either.

You could also provide a motion sensor underneath to automatically turn the electronics on--it's a simple timer that would stay on for about 10-minutes, and then each recognized movement simply resets the counter. So it stays on until all movement has stopped for 10-minutes total.

Instead of a motion sensor, a vibration sensor could pick up tiny vibrations of the compasses.

You would want an on-off switch just in case someone with a pacemaker were going to sit there for awhile and you wanted to be absolutely safe. If you wanted to be really safe about this, then use more, but smaller, coils to create the magnetic field. A refrigerator and your flat screen panel generate electric fields and this thing could be made to create less field than that so I don't see a problem here, but a failsafe on-off switch is always a good idea just in case grandpa with the pacemaker wants to nap right on the table. :)

Mark, your idea would be fantastic as a wall hanging.  You would not have to sit at a table to see it. Everyone could watch it work from anywhere in the room. The only limits you would have are the size of your wall and the size of your wallet!
m1keo5 years ago
Can you please tell me where you got the magnets...
m1keo5 years ago
lol nice...i did this and painted the table gold with silver...btw where did u get the magnets? i bought mine of of ebay
You missed a word.

"but upon learning more about process"
noahw (author)  Yerboogieman5 years ago
Change made - thanks for the heads up!
MarkMain5 years ago
I'm curious if you tried to point north to the same direction or just got them in there. BTW, I think this would also be interesting if about one-third to one-half of the total area were randomly placed compasses of different styles, colors and sizes. One way would be to keep the symmetry of circles like you have now and then replace some places with the random ones in non-symmetrical patterns; or just have everything random. It would help to have a bunch of various sized compasses for this random style so that the small ones could fill in the gaps of the larger ones.
noahw (author)  MarkMain5 years ago
I like your idea of using different sized compasses to fill the space.  I think it would have a nice look to it.

I specifically bought compasses where the entire compass rose spun around on it's own...not just the needle (small compasses do this, large compasses often do not).  

So, there was no need to arrange all of them pointing towards north, because they do that on their own.
Very fun idea.
What could also be fun would be to use the little 1-2 inch diameter and very short paint/storage containers that you can get at craft stores and fill them with either iron fillings/dust or steel/iron ball bearings.
gateon5 years ago
you know a kool thing too, would be too make a giant compass and do that.
Wow creativity don't miss you!
centrd5 years ago
this is crazy good.
Really beautiful!

My I recommend using a long rod magnet in the coaster instead.  Then the traditional vector field of a dipole will be created.  The whole field will rotate in a predictable as you rotate the coaster.  Bring two dipoles together to see the sum of the vector fields. 

Rare earth magnets are also available as disks polarized across the diameter if you want a thinner profile.  For example, see http://www.amazingmagnets.com/p-127-d125d-dm.aspx
"May I"
shabaki5 years ago
YES !!! AWESOME TABLE! if i ever made one i would probly rig up a bunch of really strong elctro magnets under the table to fire of randomly at the touch opf a button so by pressing one button all the needles would go ballistict
static5 years ago
 nice original project, and a good instructable to go along with it. The video was well produced as well Often I have seen those compasses for sale in bulk temptingly cheap, but never could think of what to do with them. Personally I like the com compass faces as are, they add a little visual "action" as the magnets are move across the table.
neryval5 years ago
 Simplesmente Fantastico!! 
Só queria saber como vc dobrou os pés da mesa.
MjPadfoot5 years ago
Great piece of custom furniture. awesome design. i especially liked the table's legs, really modern. 
i do think that it would be prettier with better looking magnets, but then again that would amp up the cost.

five freakin stars from me!  
KahlZun5 years ago
If you made the face of the magnets look like cogs, then you'd have a bitching setup for a steampunk table.

Especially since, without the compass 'face', people would never figure out why it was moving when their drinks did.

JermsG KahlZun5 years ago
That would be so cool! Well done for making a great idea even better...
gwrober5 years ago
This is awesome - very creative!
jonsbuks5 years ago
Your instructable certainly caught my eye-- Good job!
 This is excellent work. Thank you.
Very cool.
Personally I would use compasses that are visually simpler. Imagine those basic red/white needles, all showing the direction of the field! 
noahw (author)  pacey_waring5 years ago
Those are definitely the ones that I'd use myself if I should ever make another compass table.  Problem is, I couldn't find a good source for those.  Have any ideas on where to source them?

hmmm a quick search on eBay turned up plenty of the compasses YOU used, in big cheap bundles... but not much in terms of what I'm picturing. Ideally it'd just be a magnetized needle painted half-red, but with a solid-color face behind it. The most basic compass possible. No visual clutter of numbers or hash marks (which you'd have to align anyway... pain!)

I was thinking something like this? But that's overpriced.

I'm not sure if these needle ones are water-filled or not... but you could dismantle them and swap out a cleaner background?  Oh man that sounds like a major hassle.

Ease of project > Perfection of project ?
Very cool table!  www.dealextreme.com tends to have pretty cheap stuff
Silence5 years ago
Now I have to admit.... this is freakin cool !!
TigerNod5 years ago
Wow, this is sick! How did you get so many compasses?
noahw (author)  TigerNod5 years ago
I ordered them off of ebay!

Just search for "20mm compasses" - you'll find lots.
TigerNod noahw5 years ago
That must have been expensive! I estimate there are 200 compasses, of 5 USD each. 200 X 5 = 1000$!! That's an expensive table...
twilly TigerNod5 years ago
 There are 500, not 200.  On ebay, you can get 24 compasses @ 12USD with free shipping. 21 lots x 12 = 252 USD, not $1000
TigerNod twilly5 years ago
Oh that's not to much. Well, I guess the place you buy them makes a large difference!
hammer98765 years ago
And as an added bonus, you always know where north is. Great instructable!
If the glass were replaced with a scratch-resistant polycarbonate, what a great idea for a science classroom or study room to demonstrate magnetism to kids.
 If the table or at least an insert holding the compasses could be rotated then you would get a really cool effect as they would all stay pointing in the same direction (except for the ones near the magnets).  Also filling the gaps between them with a black resin would look really cool
whiteoakart5 years ago
As a professional industrial designer with over 20 years of experience, I will comment that you have done an excellent job of creating a beautiful and compelling table. 

I think I will make something like this, but it will be anti-design: made with found and gnarly wood.  I already have a nice piece of glass waiting for a home and a bunch of rare earth magnets.
luvit5 years ago
 i have 500 compasses lying about my house. i think i'll round them up.
genius245 luvit5 years ago
lol Why do you have that many? Compass collection?
Jodex genius2455 years ago
Or are you sure it wasn't sarcasm?
genius245 Jodex5 years ago
 Sarcasm doesn't work well over text...
Jodex genius2455 years ago
As well......
djr6789 luvit5 years ago
lol! how do you have so many is what i want to know ? XD
Ward_Nox5 years ago
wouldn't the magets mess each other up?
 This gives me awesome ideas, thanks for the inspiration. I'm thinking a bunch of googley-eyes that follow the coaster or one giant eye compass that stares at the person with the magnet stashed in their cup. :) *****
Dr.Bill5 years ago
Good Idea. I like that you went as far as making the coasters with magnets.
I bet kids will have fun with it. What a teaching tool!
one word AMAZING

but you ca make me said 2 word FREAKIN AMAZING if u put only two color on the compass  like a pokebal...   red and blue

i know it would be long but  it would give a nice interactive table with the cup holder
Wow, this looks so professional! Great job!
red-king5 years ago
 =O awesome.
techshop15 years ago
 This is the very best idea - EVER!
 What a great job you did on this table.
Flashflint5 years ago
 I remember seeing something similar but the artist is escaping me, was this inspired by that?  I would love to find that artist but can't recall who it was.
 stephen sagmeister
noahw (author)  buddyhollyclone5 years ago
I didn't know of that artists work before reading the comment above.  Upon doing some searching now though I can see that this is certainly not the first compass table that has ever been built. 


We should start a compass table club!
mesirii noahw5 years ago
 Thanks for mentioning my compass table in the comment, perhaps you should add it to the intro as well :). Sure, we can start a club. I'm curious how many others will jump in and build such a table.

But at least you should also mention Stefan Sagemeister who was the first with this idea www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off.html
round 5:20.

I just took a ready made table from our local furniture store which had a opening and glass plate that fitted just perfectly. And I also glued the magnets to the bottom of the coffee cups. Dealextreme didn't deliver my order at all.

Wow--I think this would be a great project for a scout leader or wilderness enthusiast.
Xerillum5 years ago
This and a Woolly Willy table would be awesome...
Glockenator5 years ago
500 mini compasses of the same kind so it looks right. WAY TOO MUCH
tjdtjd15 years ago
AT5 years ago
Nice instructable!

I would think that the compasses would rub on each other more without any breathing room between.  But the magnets in your coasters appear to be strong enough to over come that issue.
foxtrot46975 years ago
Let's use it to put our magnet collection on!!
I wonder if an old table (thrift store version) would worK-I do not have woodworking experience or the space to work in.  what do you think?
noahw (author)  porcupinemamma5 years ago
It absolutely would.  Simply build up a rim around any table you like that's the thickness of the glass+height of the compasses and you're good to go.

You can get pre-milled and sanded strips of hardwoods at Home Depot and even have them cut to length on site for you so all you'd have to do would be to affix them to the table top somehow...screws, nails, glue, whatever is easiest and accessible to you.
You are wonderful.  Thanks for your encouragement
THE GOOSE5 years ago
Very cool, very different!
good job!
grtscott5 years ago
This would also be a fun idea to do with a lazy susan.
xKari5 years ago
 hahah!! i lol'ed when i saw what you meant about knowing where your coffee cup is XP
So creative, and way way cool!!! thank you for showing your fab creation!!! WOW
XOIIO5 years ago
Nice! The only thing I could think of is paint the wood underneath the compasses black so you can mainly see the moving parts, but it's still pretty trippy.
KnexFreek5 years ago
That is just too awesome. 5 stars, faved, and I subscribed a long time ago.
I know you wont reply to this comment because you get so many, but it's okay.

Great job

noahw (author)  KnexFreek5 years ago
Hey Kev - of course I'll reply! I do get a lot of comments, but I do a pretty good job of reading them all...well, maybe all of them besides the ones on my How to Kiss Instructable.  Unless I'm going back to middle school sometime soon, I don't think that there's much for me to say in response there.  :)

Thanks for subscribing and thanks for the support!  It makes me want to keep making things.

KnexFreek noahw5 years ago
Hey Noah- Wow! Haha, I have left  comments on different things of yours but ive never gotten a reply :) I get a TON of comments every day too, and its hard for me to keep up. I get about 2 pages of new comments a day while I'm at school, and another page when I get home!! Anyways...Thankyou for replying and I'm happy to "support " you any day :)

Thanks and keep up the awesome work!!!
 What a fun idea. So clever. I have a coffee shop and have handpainted most of the tables. I've done two with resin full of coins, small cutlery and broken crockery. I think a compass table would fit right in! Great instructable!
noahw (author)  jessandstavro5 years ago
I backed down from pouring the resin because I was afraid that if things went south I would lose all my investment in the compasses...hence the glass.  Perhaps it would be best to practice on something a little less valuable (like coins) and get my skills down first?

Do you have any tips about doing a resin table top?  From the videos I watched and tips I read, it seems like multiple layers is key, and then getting the glass finish on top seems to take some extra tricks as well... 

If you ever make another table, please consider documenting the process and posting - I've got tons of stuff I'd like to embed in resin but have just been shying away from the process.

Thanks for the support!

Sadly, I did the tabletops in resin before discovering Instructables, or I would certainly have documented it all! :) It was pretty easy, actually though.  I did two mosaic tabletops, one using broken crockery that was all different thicknesses. It should have all been the same thickness, as when I went to grout, it was a total pain in the butt having some jut out and others sunken in. My 'fix' was the resin, to make the table usable.  The resin filled in all the nooks and crannies, but I got high as a kite getting rid of all the little bubbles. The instructions said to use a straw to blow out the bubbles.  I later learned that a heat gun works well too.  My tabletops are pretty clear, just a few little bubbles that I couldn't get out.

In short, it's a fun project, so try it!  I still love my tables 6+ years later. The customers love them too, especially little kids.  One table is broken crockery and the other table is green marbles with tiny plastic turtles (as we have a view of Turtle Mountain out our window).

OlYeller215 years ago
I've already started gathering materials to do this project.  I'm trying to decide on the compass size (I've found a few between 13mm and 25mm).  I'd like to use a resin instead of glass to make the table a little more durable.

Can anyone think of any problems with using resin instead of glass?  I plan on gluing the compasses down before pouring but I can't think of any issues I would run in to.  I want to make sure before I blow $100-$150 on compasses.
noahw (author)  OlYeller215 years ago
See if you can source the type of compasses with the red-north and white-south arrows.  I think that would show off the patterns even more than the ones I used.  The resin top is totally the way to go for a more permanent job, I just shied away from it myself because I had never done it before and didn't want to risk my investment in the compasses. 

I'll definitely practice my pouring skills on something cheaper for my first time.
I can't find any of that type without a back plate of some sort (usually has a scale).  I do think that would be the coolest looking though to have just a red line that moves with just a simple "N" for north.

I did find compasses referred to as a "universe" compass that have a little less going on around the face.  Sadly, they're inexplicably more expensive.

A little off the table topic, but only a little. I am thinking of doing a pour for a bar top (2.5' x 4).  With trinkets thrown into the top.  Any idea how much that might cost?  Where do I buy the product?  etc.?

Thanks for any help you might have.

noahw (author)  mretuck5 years ago
I've found Tap Plastics to be really helpful when it comes to all my resin needs.  They also have handy instructional videos.  I know that they're not the cheapest for bulk orders, but they have really a really knowledgeable staff.

If you want a cheaper place for compass, you can check this web page ...
They are only 2.54 for 20 compasses and free shipping. This is a place to buy cheap made in china stuff, and to pay you can use your paypal so no worries about fraud. I order stuff from them very regularly.

For anyone looking at compasses, make sure you account for the size difference.  Also, I haven't done the math but I don't think that half the diameter means you need twice the compasses (I think it means you need more).
And for magnets ...

Now i want a table that is just one giant compass.
mousewrites5 years ago
This is awesome, though the video is marked private and won't play.

Are the compasses in the middle less accurate than the ones on the edges?
noahw (author)  mousewrites5 years ago
The video was made public soon after you tried to watch it.  I had to make one final change to it and didn't want to release it just yet...you must have been a little bit ahead of the curve.  :)

The once in the middle aren't less accurate, it just all depends on how far away they are from the magnet that's affecting them.
rimar20005 years ago
Very interesting, but not enough cheap for me...

Maybe one can make some "smiling faces" where the eyes be hacked compasses, then it always will look the cups (or coasters).
noahw (author)  rimar20005 years ago
Got any ideas on how to produce a simple N/S arrow style home made compass?  Seems like it wouldn't be too hard to make once you sourced the proper parts and components.
mungaman5 years ago
Great work!  This is one instructable that I want to build RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

What was the approximate price of getting the glass custom cut?  Don't need a specific if you can't post it, but just a general range would be nice.
noahw (author)  mungaman5 years ago
It was $27.00.  They cut it on a CNC for me so it was exactly to the 1/16th of an inch.  It dropped right in!
jbrecken5 years ago
How does it look at night with all those compasses glowing in the dark?
noahw (author)  jbrecken5 years ago
They glow in the dark???

They totally do!

I'm out of town right now actually but I'll be back on Sunday. 

I'll post a picture as soon as I can.

Thanks so much for the tip!!!
kelseymh5 years ago
Noah, this is a really, really cool project!  But I am rather confused by the last picture in your introduction. 

Most of the visible compasses have north point toward around 4 o'clock, but not all of them.  A couple are pointed in exactly the opposite direction (see the one in the nearest foreground), and one at the edge of the coaster is perpendicular!

The field lines from the coaster shouldn't have discontinuities, and I really wouldn't expect the compass magnets themselves to be strong enough to re-orient their neighbors.

I don't have an explanation (or even a good hypothesis), just wondering if this was something you'd noticed yourself.
noahw (author)  kelseymh5 years ago
Oh, and to your last point about the compasses affecting their neighbors...they totally do.  This was a surprise to me as well.  So, while you do see the field lines, they are definitely distorted slightly by the compasses themselves.
noahw (author)  kelseymh5 years ago
The N/S inversion thing is due to the fact that some of the compasses are incorrectly magnetized (or so I think).  They're cheap little guys from China and not really suitable for survival or orienteering purposes. 

I noticed this somewhere along the way when I was putting down the 500 compasses and didn't do a perfect job of sorting them out.  You can kind of force flip the compasses with a strong magnet though to correct the misorientation, but it's definitely worth doing some quality control on your compasses and getting some extras to avoid the problem.

For the ones that are just totally off I think the explanation is pretty simple.  As the magnet moves by, it lifts the compass rose up off of it's rotation point ever so slightly.  As the magnet moves on, some compass roses get dropped down ever so slightly out of place and don't rotate properly.  It's an easy fix though, dragging the coaster across the top to lift the compass rose up a second time and then dropping it down seems to easily fix the problem and get them spinning correctly again.
waltzingdog5 years ago
Are the compasses attached down in any way?
noahw (author)  waltzingdog5 years ago
I was prepared to glue them down when I started, but the concentric circle design squeezes them in so tightly that I don't think they really need anything.  The glass top also keeps a lid on things pretty well.
ac1D5 years ago
You can get mini compass for $0.04 each at this site:
(feel free to remove the "~r.67531941" part, It's my referall link)
Add the code "bulkrate"  when you add 10 in your cart to get the discount!
For 200, it will cost you $20.55
noahw (author)  ac1D5 years ago
That's a great price on compasses - anyone thinking of building the table should definitely consider that source.  I got mine off of Ebay - they are the 20mm size. 

I think the ones you link to here are 12mm.  Pretty small and hard to read, but that might actually enhance the effect...

Does anyone have a source for the simpler to read arrow style compass pictured below?  Upon actually building the table I'm noticing that the little compass roses show too much information.  The effect would probably even more fun to play with if it were represented in a very simple way, like the red and white N/S arrow.

OlYeller21 ac1D5 years ago
Thanks for the heads up on those compasses.

I checked the price just now for 500 compasses as the plans call for (25 sets of 20) and the final price after all extra costs came out to $63.39.  The only problem with this is that the compasses are less than half the size (25mm in example, 12mm at dealextreme).  Even thought they're half the size, I believe it would take more than twice as many compasses of 12mm D to fill the area meaning the total would be at least $126.78.

I wish I had a link to a better price but I don't.  Personally, I think that smaller compasses may not work as well as they would be easily pinned down (plates touch the base) but it may look more impressive with more movement from the larger number of compasses.
ReeseLloyd5 years ago
Very cool idea and awesome documentation of the process.  Thanks!

kparsons5 years ago
Very clever, thanks for sharing, would like to attempt myself,
have a great day,
Jur5 years ago
I could watch the last picture in step 7 for hours on end, it's just mesmerizing.
xenor Jur5 years ago
Whoah, trippy.
xenor5 years ago
Looks great, and I love how the compasses even quite some distance from the magnets move each other around. Reminds me of a complex gear movement. Hmm, now there's an idea...
EduGreat5 years ago
Wow! great idea
How about putting some small magnets around the edges of the coasters
so that as they are moved the needles point to your drinks
Thanks -
I have a bunch of these small compasses from a school science kit they were getting rid of... Oh Boy!
gregr5 years ago
Where did you get the compasses?
Try a1 components, or deal extreme.com. Already placing my order. Gonna put a twist on this one.
Sunbanks5 years ago
This is amazing! 
Shadowman395 years ago
That's awesome, great job!
ivan5365 years ago
Very cool nice work 
eyebot1175 years ago
=D FUN!!!! NEAT!!
austin5 years ago
this is cool i want to make this now.
scoochmaroo5 years ago
This is awesome!
=SMART=5 years ago
Woah ! Awesome !

Great work !
karabeckian5 years ago
 Pretty cool, you should lay your cell phone on it and see what happens! 
 Compass dance! It turned out great sir! :D
Nice... like the music in the video, good choice
qazwsx7555 years ago
 That's awesome!! 5 stars!!
Ninzerbean5 years ago
Staggering! I love it.