Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How to build a large Compass

A compass is often used as a symbol of  precision and discernment.                                             
make a large wooden compass


                                         I like to use a compass for woodworking, the points
                                         make it easy to get  precise measurements and for
                                         marking distances repeatably and very accurately.                      
                        How to Build a Large Wooden Compass !

compass oak table saw
To start I found nice piece of oak with some interesting grain, I will cut this for the legs. Since the compass will be large I will cut them to 13" in length. To get a clean cut  I will use my table saw miter gauge .
table saw strips for compass
 On the table saw the pieces are cut into strips 5/16"x 1 1/8".
compass prototype

 I sometimes build a prototype to see if a project will work.  I built the one shown here in about 15 minutes and was happy how it turned out, and know I was ready to build a larger one.

I will actually keep and use the smaller one because it works fine.
It will be another addition to my woodworking tools.

large compass legs oak
The strips of wood for the legs are marked and ready for the band saw and the drill press.

large compass
Cutting the shape on the band saw....
,large compass nail hinge
A small hole is drilled and a finishing nail is used as a center pin to make the hinge.
make large wood compass hinge
Since the hole is slightly smaller than the nail the nail should  be carefully pounded in. A small drop of lubricant can be added so the parts move smoothly.
large compass drill threaded rod
Time to drill the hole for the threaded rod. Since the piece is spring loaded a clamp should be used to secure the piece while drilling.
drilling legs large compass
The same finishing nails for the hinge can be used for the compass points. I have moved the drill press table over and used a screw clamp to hold the piece secure. Use a small level or eyeball the leg to make sure it is vertical prior to drilling.
pump pliers compass legs

The head of the nails are cut off and pushed into the base of the legs with a pair of pump pliers.

Large wooden compass

                               A threaded rod is installed and a knurled brass nut is put on. A
                              couple of nuts are put on the ends to keep everything together.
                              This was a very simple woodworking project and one that I will
                               certainly use often. The reach is slightly over 1 foot.  I really like 
                               many different measuring tools  and this one is a keeper. An easy 
                               woodworking tool that can be made in less than 1 hour.

See Also:

Vacuum Hose Holder             Make a Spray Can Rack            Make a Dowel Stop Gauge


  1. Jack,
    As always your designs are simple yet elegant.
    Richard Jurdeczka
    Sydney, Australia

  2. Thanks for watching Richard, many more to come!

  3. very perfect Jack ... i(m fan your channel Youtube end i'm french

  4. It is a great piece of woodwooking.I really like this.As well as it is an fantastic tutorial of build a large wooden compass.Ye did a great job writing this blog post.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, I will keep making these post and share my ideas!

  5. Hi Jack, I'm with a small maker media called Makery (www.makery.info) and I'm just finishing up an article about DIY compasses. I would like to know if it was alright to use the pictures you took for this post in my paper, with full credit and a link to your blog of course.

  6. I made one. Made a sector too to go with it. Thanks so much for your great tutorials and videos.