DIY - Magnetic Compass




Introduction: DIY - Magnetic Compass

About: Hello Guys, I am techgenie, an Electronics hobbyists, tech tinker and developer. I dedicate my free time in designing and making various creative and innovative projects, RC toys, Incredible Gadgets, Awesome L…

A Magnetic Compass is a navigation instrument that is used to indicate the geographical cardinal directions i.e North, South, East and West as well as inter cardinal directions (north-east, north-west, south-east, south-west). It is one of the most essentials tools used by people to find ways while on trekking, camping trips or lost in an unknown place.

In this Instructable, i decided to make a compass that just uses a magnet and a piece of cardboard. It can be made in just a minute of your time and is a very useful tool. You just have to let it float and it will point itself to the directions.

Note: This is a very simple school level kids compass. It does not account for declination and deviation as in expensive modern day magnetic compass. But it does perform the work really well if there are no magnetic interference nearby..

Step 1: Watch the Video

Every time i recommend to watch the video because it is a wonderful tool that provides deep insight to the procedure and makes it easy to follow. However, it is also advisable to visit next steps for additional details and images.

Step 2: Materials Required


From Home & Local Store - Cardboard, glue and a marker.

Note: You can use any magnet that you have at your disposal, only a neodymium magnet is not necessary.

Step 3: Working Principle

All of us know that Earth has two magnetic poles i.e North pole and South pole, which means that the earth is also similar to a giant magnet surrounded by magnetic field, so that the north end of the compass magnet is drawn to align with the earth's magnetic field.

Note: Since the Earth's magnetic North Pole attracts the "north" ends of other magnets, it is technically the "South Pole" of our planet's magnetic field.

Step 4: Prepare Cardboard

  • Take a piece of cardboard.
  • Draw a circle over the disc with diameter of about 4cm.
  • Cut the circular disc.
  • Using super glue, paste a circular magnet vertically at the center.
  • Magnetic poles always aligns with the earth poles when magnet is left to float freely.
  • We now need to calibrate the compass to mark the directions..

Note: Refer to the images attached above.

Step 5: Compass Calibration

  1. The compass can be used to point directions but initially we need to mark the directions over the compass by identifying the north and south poles manually.
  2. Put some water in a container.
  3. Let the compass float in the container.
  4. The magnet will align only in one specific direction.
  5. Since we initially so not know the poles of a magnet therefore, we also do not know which is north and south pole of earth.
  6. If a magnet has marked north and south poles over it, then this process is easy otherwise, we need to mark directions first.
  7. The easiest way is to use a compass along with this blank compass.
  8. I used a compass in my mobile phone to identify the initial direction that my newly made compass shows (i.e North).
  9. Then I marked the directions correctly over the cardboard.
  10. Now, our new compass can be used freely to find directions.

Step 6: Testing

  1. Pour some water in a container.
  2. Place the compass over the water surface such that it floats freely.
  3. The compass will align in such a way that it will always point to the North direction.
  4. This is a very simple DIY project that do have some limitations but is very useful.


  • The magnetic compass is not very accurate as it never points to the true North, in fact true north of earth is thousand miles away then the magnetic north pole of earth.
  • Also, if there is some magnetic interference nearby then the compass may indicate wrong directions.
  • The magnetic compass is useless near the earth's magnetic poles.

So Friends, this here concludes the instructable, stay tuned and SUBSCRIBE to receive regular updates. You can also connect with me through social media, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Instagram. In case you might have missed, watch the video and see how i made this wonderful DIY Magnetic compass at home.

If you like my tutorials, also do consider to visit my Youtube channel GOODTECH - Creativity And Science, where i frequently post new and interesting content.

Thanks for your Support..!!

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    4 years ago

    cool! I will make one too.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks..I am glad you like it..yes it works well..


    4 years ago

    Brilliant! And in a survival situation, you could use a magnet from inside some headphones.

    When calibrating it using another compass, make sure that you have the other compass far enough away that the magnetic fields don't interfere with each other.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks..yes that's true. However, you always don't need to calibrate using another compass. You can observe the direction of sun and orientation of magnet to get the right direction.


    4 years ago on Step 6

    Brilliant! It couldn't be simpler.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks a lot..:)

    Phil B
    Phil B

    4 years ago

    At the USAF Museum in Fairborn, Ohio there is a World War II display on Prisoners of War. US fliers imprisoned could get phonograph records and sewing needles sent to them. They heated the records with a candle and pressed a small cup from part of it. They magnetized the sewing needles. They cut a disc of cardboard to float on water in the small pressed cup and inserted the needle into the cardboard disc. That all gave them a compass for use during escapes.