Pirates of the Caribbean - Jack Sparrow's Compass




A friend was going to be Jack Sparrow for Halloween this year and what's a Jack Sparrow costume without his Compass to point him in the direction of what his heart most desires?! After doing a little research on the internet, I decided to make a replica. All of the materials used were bought at Michaels or AC Moore, so it's a very economical replica (particularly if you use the weekly store coupons!).

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Step 1: Materials & Tools

Here are the materials/equipment used to make the compass. Feel free to be creative in how to complete a step if you have better equipment than I had.

Equipment/tools I used:

  • Hand saw
  • Dremmel tool
  • Sanding paper/block


  • Unfinished coaster set (bought mine from Michaels but can be found in other craft stores)
  • Paper mache ornament ball (also from Michaels)
  • Thin wood shape (bought an Artminds house-shape silhouette from Michaels)
  • Small wooden ball (I couldn't find one of the right size so ended up buying a bag of wooden mini-peg people so I could use one of the heads)
  • Small hinge and clasp (found the right type/size in AC Moore)
  • Super glue (was using this for another prop, where I needed a stronger bond, so used it here as well. Thinking regular glue will work also.)
  • Small hook screw
  • Leather cord
  • Paint: black, ivory/bone, dark blue, gold
  • Pearlizing medium (optional)
  • Small piece of poster board
  • Modge Podge
  • Paint brushes
  • Movie reference pictures

Step 2: Finding the Right Wood for the Compass

Thankfully, there are many sites out there discussing the exact dimensions of the compass. As mentioned in the introduction, I did an online search on Jack Sparrow's Compass and found a site that explained how they determined the dimensions. Most importantly, the site included a PDF of the compass, which I printed to guide the development of my prop. Here's the link to the site for your reference.

Once I had the printout, I went to Michaels to see what I could use to make the replica. I found an unfinished coaster set and got excited immediately as I could use 2 of the coasters for the bottom piece of the compass and another coaster for the lid. The coaster set comes with 4 so you have an extra one to work with should you mess up one of the others (this came in handy as I messed up one of mine when trying to cut out the circle in the middle of one of the coasters).

I also found a paper mache ornament ball, which I thought would be great to make the dome portion of the compass. Note: while it says "paper mache," I found out it is really a plastic ball covered in paper mache. More on this later.

Once back at the house, I measured the dimensions of the compass, penciled in the corners and used a hand saw to remove the excess wood on each of the coasters.

Step 3: Hollowing Out the Compass & Creating the Dome

The compass has 2 different sized circles that are carved out, one on the bottom of the compass and one on the lid. The one on the lid is also a little smaller. Carving out the circles was not straight-forward as I didn't have the right wood cutting equipment. I ended up using an electrical powered dremmel to carve out each circle. Feel free to use another method to make these cuts if you have access to better equipment. I decided the depth of the coaster was deep enough to insert the sun dial on the base of the compass. Hence, I planned to only drill out one of the 2 coasters I was using for the base.

Since I didn't have a protractor, I used an old trick from school to draw each circle on the coasters. I used the compass PDF printout to determine the radius of each circle. Then I used a small piece of craft foam to make 2 tiny holes, distanced apart to the length of each radius. In one hole, I inserted a tool I had around the house with a pointy end (anything with a small point should work) and then inserted a pencil in the other. With the pointy tool on the center of the coaster, I moved the pencil around the coaster to draw the circle. Not 100% perfect, but workable. Feel free to use a protractor if you have one, to draw your circles.

Hollowing out each circle took a bit of time and patience. Using the dremmel, I started carving out the middle of each circle and then, little by little, I sanded down each circle until I achieved the diameter needed. The inside of the top of the compass also has a slight border around the lid. Using the dremmel, I trimmed down the wood to create the border. Be careful when trimming down the wood - you want to make sure it's deep enough to create the outline but also ensure there's enough wood so the lid doesn't break.

I then grabbed the paper mache ball ornament and traced out the portion needed to make the dome. I recommend making your cut larger than needed and then trimming down as needed. In trying to cut this with an Exacto knife, I met some resistance. As mentioned earlier, I found out the inside of the ball is actually plastic, which is then covered with paper mache. While at first I was perplexed to find this, I thought this was perfect as it would provide a stronger support to the dome and avoid damaging it should the compass be dropped. I switched over to the hand saw to finish cutting the dome. In doing this, the paper mache came off the plastic (good times!). I glued the paper mache back onto the plastic piece and the dome was done.

I glued together the two bottom pieces of the compass with wood glue. Once dried, I held the lid and base of the compass together and sanded the sides to remove any minor imperfections caused by the hand sawing. I then glued the dome to the lid and screwed on the hinge to attach the lid to the base of the compass.

Step 4: Creating the Sundial

The inside of the compass has a sundial and I recommend looking at reference pictures from the movie to look at the design. In theory, this is made out of metal. However, I wanted to make this replica as economical as possible and ended up using a piece of wood to cut out each piece of the sundial and assemble it. Feel free to make the sundial out of metal if you have the capacity to do this. I could not find a wooden ball that was the right size for the sundial. Luckily, I found a set of mini peg people and ended up decapitating one so I could use it on the sundial. I used a wood burner to make some markings on the circular piece of the sundial (paint should work just fine, I just wanted to try burning the markings since I had the wood burner). To finish assembling the sundial, I glued all the pieces together. It was exciting to see everything falling into place!

Step 5: Finishing Touches

The last steps involve painting the compass, inserting the sundial and adding the cord on the back. I did all the hard work so I made my friend complete the painting process. :)

I recommend sealing the wood before applying the paint. Reference pictures from the movie are very helpful to guide the painting of the compass. Overall, the compass has 2 primary colors: black and ivory/bone. However, the ivory/bone paint did not have the right look when dry. A pearlizing medium was added to the ivory/bone paint and this helped achieve a better finish. The lines were all hand done, a tedious and steady handed process (though you could always tape the lines out). For the final touch, a layer of just the pearlizing medium by itself was added to the top of the paint that outlined the compass. The inside of the dome resembles the night sky, which was done using midnight blue paint and a metallic gold for the stars. Rub 'n Buff (a gold leaf paint) was applied to the wooden portion of the sundial to achieve an antique gold look (you can probably achieve the same effect by using an antique gold paint.)

Once the paint was dry, I inserted the loop screw (this was the best thing I could find) on the back of the compass and added a leather string. The last piece was inserting the sundial. The graphical design of the bottom of the sundial changes based on the movie. I found samples online and adjusted the size so that, once printed, I could choose the one that best fit on the cut-out of the base of the compass. I ran some test samples in B&W and, when I had the right diameter, I printed the color copy. With scissors, I cut out the circular compass map, glued it on a piece of poster board, and used Modge Podge to seal it.

The final step was assembling everything together and, voila, the compass was finished! I'm really happy with the outcome. It was a nice touch to finish the Jack Sparrow costume. May this help make your own compass replica so you can find that which your heart most desires! Savy?

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    9 Discussions


    20 days ago

    Hola, gracias por el tutorial, voy a hacerme un cosplay de jack sparrow para el carnaval de mi tierra, pero no veo donde están las plantillas para hacer la brújula. Gracias!!


    Reply 1 year ago

    I was focusing on making something very affordable, so the above only points to what your heart most desires.... ;) But with some re-designing, I think you can make one that works.

    KAZ 2Y5

    1 year ago

    Epic! I went as Jack for Halloween 2 years ago and have been looking for a compass tutorial. This was a fantastic tutorial, well explained. Great work!

    1 reply
    JavierG45KAZ 2Y5

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you! I appreciate the feedback. :)


    1 year ago

    Very nice, I like the way this turned out.

    You mentioned a reference link in step 2, but it's missing, just fyi! ;)

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Glad you liked it. Thanks for letting me know that the link was not set up. I fixed this so should appear now.