How To Make A Needle Compass

You have probably seen a needle compass made in science class or in a movie, but I thought it would be good to review the basics and offer perhaps some variations to this phenomenon. It starts with a small piece of metal that contains iron, which can be magnetized. Some items might be needles, pins, paperclips, razor blades, etc.. They can be magnetized by repeatedly dragging them across a magnet, or by repeatedly stroking them across fabric or hair thereby collecting a static charge. The magnetized/charged piece of metal must then be suspended so that it can freely re-orient in a polar direction. Presumably this is a daytime activity, so you can have an indication of south based on sun travel. I have stropped a double edged razor blade on the hair of my arm and the end that I held between my fingers pointed North. You can cut out the bottom of a styrofoam cup or thin plastic cup (as contained in my DIY Mini Survival Kit) to float on water. You can also use a leaf for this purpose as well. An alternative way to suspend a needle is by folding a small piece of paper lengthwise, insert the needle into the paper like a stitch on the side, then tie a loop at the end of some thread and use it as a yoke lenghthwise to suspend it. I find that suspending it by a 3-4 foot length works best. Keep clear of any metal objects or structures as they may skew the magnetic field, and stay clear of windy areas. As usual, I advise everyone to develop their skills and try new methods now, before it is needed in an emergency. Proper tools are always best to use, but it’s good to know alternatives in an emergency situation.

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2 thoughts on “How To Make A Needle Compass

  1. The idea of magnatizing a needle with a static charge is a physical impossiblility.

    “abit of physics now. “Static” electric fields and magnetic fields are two different things and do not interact. So, we can’t pick up charged pieces of paper with a magnet, and we can’t use an electrostatically charged object to attract to a magnetic field – which includes the earth’s magnetic field. So, even if we could have created a static electric field on our pin with the piece of silk, this field will not interact with the earth’s magnetic field”

    The reason it seems to work is that most needles come from the manufacturer already magnatized.

    Read the whole article here;

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