The magnetic compass is an ancient navigational tool used to indicate the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west. It’s composed of a magnetized needle that aligns itself with the earth’s magnetic field to point north. If you find yourself lost without a compass, you can easily make your own using a piece of magnetized metal and a bowl of water.

1. Decide what to use for your compass needle. A compass needle can be made from any piece of metal that can be magnetized. A sewing needle is a straightforward, practical choice, especially since it’s an item you’d normally find in a first aid or survival kit that you might have on hand on a backpacking trip. You could also try these other “needles”:
– paperclip
– razor blade
– safety pin
– hairpin

2. Choose a needle “magnetizer.” You can magnetize your needle using a variety of methods: tapping it with a piece of steel or iron, rubbing it with a magnet, or rubbing it on another item that magnetizes it with static electricity.

3. Magnetize the needle. Whether you’re using a sewing needle or another metal item, rub the item with the magnet. Stroke the needle in the same direction, rather than back and forth, using steady, even strokes. After 50 strokes, the needle will be magnetized.

4. Insert the needle or place the needle in/on the plastic bottle cap or cork. If you’re using a sewing needle, insert it horizontally into the edge of the coin-sized piece of cork, so that the needle pierces through the cork and comes out the other side. Push the needle through until the same amount of needle protrudes from either side of the cork.

5. Float the compass. Fill a bowl or jar with a few inches of water and place the compass on the water. The magnetized needle will align itself with the earth’s magnetic field to point north to south.
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