How to Make a Compass With a Leaf

How to Make a Compass With a LeafIf you don't have access to an actual compass, you can opt for a DIY solution for helping to find your bearings in the wild. One of the fastest, easiest ways to make a compass requires a needle or pin, a leaf, and some standing water.

DIY Leaf Compass Instructions

Difficulty: Easy

Making the Compass

Things You’ll Need:
  • Needle or pin
  • Small leaf
  • Standing water
  • Magnet (optional if you have silk or woolen apparel)
Step 1
Prepare or locate some standing water. The water should be still, without turbulence, ripples or movement. Standing water can be kept in a cup or found naturally in the wild as a puddle.
Step 2
Place the leaf on the surface of the water. Be careful not to let it sink or get wet. It should float, keeping the topside dry.
Step 3
If you have a magnet, use one pole of the magnet to magnetize the needle by repeatedly moving the magnet in a single direction along the needle’s length. A few runs with the magnet should be enough.If you don't have a magnet, take a small piece of silk or wool from your clothing and rub it along the length of the needle approximately 100 times in order to magnetize the needle. . 
Step 4
Place the needle gently on the leaf. If the needle is magnetized, it will align with the earth’s natural magnetic field, turning the leaf to point along the magnetic north-south axis.
Step 5
Determine which way is north. If this is in the daytime (and you are in the northern hemisphere), north will always be the direction the shadows are pointing. In other words, as the sun moves along the southern part of the sky, depending on how late or early in the day it is, the shadows cast by the sun will move from pointing west (at dawn), to north (at midday) to east (at sunset). Even though the shadows will not be pointing due north for most of the day, they will fall on the northern side of a line bisecting east and west. Whichever end of the needle is pointing closest to the direction of the shadows will be north.
Step 6
You are now ready to find your direction. Be sure to mark a point or object on the horizon that aligns with north for later reference (preferably something far away—mountain peaks work well). 

Tips & Warnings

If you are in the southern hemisphere, then the shadows cast by the sun will be pointing south.
This compass is no substitute for a professional, orienteering compass. While this is a fun project and a useful survival tool, always make sure you are properly prepared before venturing out into the wild. A good compass, with bezel and bearings, is one of the best investments a hiker can make.

Be Prepared to Find Your Way

Knowing how to create a DIY compass using a leaf is an important survival skill, as is having the ability to use a compass and a map. While you should never venture into the backcountry without an actual compass, this simple DIY technique can help you out in a difficult situation should your compass become lost or damaged.

Article Written By Benjamin Williams

Ben Williams is an award-winning reporter and freelance writer based out of Colorado. He has written for conglomerates of newspapers and magazines, supplying news, features, editorial and opinion. While running an Energy Services and consulting firm, he also writes for multiple websites.

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