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Thread: Compass Points in Different Directions - Which way is North???

  1. #1
    Widdler
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    Hello all,

    I just purchased a compass, a Silva Expedition 4. When I hold it in my hand, the red needle points one way, when I place it on the desk it points another way (about 10 degrees difference), when I place it on the carpet/ground, it points yet another way (another 10 degree difference). So.... which way is North?

    1. What is the correct way to hold/place a compass?

    2. Why is there so much variation observed when holding/placing it in different areas, as described above? Shouldn't the needle always point in the exact same direction irrespectively?

    I know this is a very beginner question, but I would be thankful for any advice and instruction.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Ultra King Matt C's Avatar
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    Hi,

    It's not a stupid question at all, more of a puzzle...

    I can think of two possible causes.

    1. Is there anything metallic nearby that could be deflecting the magnetic needle? When you're holding it, anything in your pockets, a watch. keys etc? Anything on the desk, or even screws, brackets etc. holding the desk together?

    2. Is the pivot that the needle rotates on free and not restricting the needle. To test this (try each of holding it, desk and floor) with the compass in that location, held or placed flat and horizontal, if you rotatethe body of the compass, fairly slowly, does the needle maintain a constant direction or does it follow the compass body around, maybe 'sticking' initially and then coming free.

    For a compass to work there are only really two things to watch out for - hold it horizontally (if the housing is tilted the needle may stick against the floor or roof), and keep it clear of anything that might affect the magnetic needle.

    So if you check those things and you can't get a consistent reading I'd take it back to where you bought it for exchange - the Silva Expedition 4 is a widely used model that should perform well. And I don't think there's ever much quibble with Silva over faulty returns.

  3. #3
    Widdler
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    Thank you so much for the reply. I am indeed very puzzled.

    2. I tried what you said, and whenrotating the body of the compass slowly, the needle pretty much maintains a constant direction. That is good right?

    1. How clear of metal objects does it need to be, as in how many feet clear?

    Another confusion, although all three readings are witing 10 degrees of one another, none of them point to the direction everybody here says isNorth (based on streets, etc.)!!!

    I could mail itback to Amazon I suppose, but I suspect there may be something wrong in what I am doing.

  4. #4
    Widdler
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    I just tried one more things:

    I placed the compass on the table. Then I dangled my key chain all around it. It had no effect on the the direction of the needle, although it did make the needle bob up and down a bit. Should it have changed the direction? I tried the same while keeping the compass in my hand with the same result.

  5. #5
    Goon Warhippo's Avatar
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    You're in a concrete and metal box so you'll never get a worthwhile reading from your compass. Take it outside and get used to it in the environment in which it's supposed to be used.

    Your compass is only of any use if you can trust it (always trust the compass) so you need to start working on that asap otherwise you'll be second guessing every reading you take.

    Do you have a book on basic navigation? I suggest you buy one or get yourself on a course - your confidence will soar.

  6. #6
    Ultra King Matt C's Avatar
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    Salid, my other thought was that possibly your compass needle has become demagnetised somehow. I'm not sure if your keychain test points to that but potentially it could.

    There's certainly no harm in doing some outdoor tests as Warhippo suggests, but tbh I'm still leaning towards returning it being the best course of action.

    Warhippo, all the Silva compasses I've had over the last 40 years have managed to point north correctly while indoors.

  7. #7
    ‹bermensch
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    Have you got any metal rings on your fingers? It's possible that these could affect the reading, depending on the metal.

  8. #8
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    A compass needle will only ever align itself to the STRONGEST magnetic field it can find. So, to get maximum benefit from a compass, all you have to do is make sure that the EARTH'S magnetic field is the ONLY magnetic field that it can align itself to. Bearing in mind that the Earth's magnetic field is actually very WEAK, you have to make sure that NOTHING else can interfere with it. So... do yourself a favour and just get rid of EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING that you've already found will swing the needle. No matter whether I'm on the hills or sitting at home, I just don't have anything remotely magnetic anywhere on or near me. Some people today are absolutely festooned with electronic tech, fake bling and body piercings, and unless you test EVERY ONE of those against a compass, you might as well jack it in. Personally, I find a compass an incredibly simple and completely foolproof thing to use, yet I never fail to be amazed at the range of 'problems' people find while using them.

  9. #9
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Here's a simple puzzle for compass buffs...

    The red end of the needle... what's its polarity?

  10. #10
    Mini Goon Fleegle's Avatar
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    Paddy

    SOUTH Pole, because opposites attract.....

  11. #11
    ‹bermensch
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    South !

  12. #12
    Initiate Bluff's Avatar
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    Aha!

    The north pole of the earth is actually the 'south' of a magenet. Ergo the north needle of a compass is indeed 'north' aligned. Because, as you say, Fleegle, north points to south.


  13. #13
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    A winner! (Sorry... no prizes)

    I once met an outdoor instructor who swore blind (and swore at me) that the red end was north. It didn't make him a bad navigator, it's just that he clearly didn't understand the principle.

    How about another one...

    British coins of the realm... magnetic or not?

  14. #14
    Initiate Bluff's Avatar
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    I think you need to ..... Ahem 'review' that Paddy

  15. #15
    Mini Goon Fleegle's Avatar
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    Salih,

    No doubt you have managed to get your answer, that the desk and the carpet almost certainly will have sufficient magnetic material to have an impact on the compass.

    The desk, hinges, nails and screws

    The carpet, if its a wooden floor, then nails and screws, electric wiring, metal pipes for either cabling, gas, heating or even water, will all have some impact.

    This may not be the best way to holod a compass, but its what I teach Cubs andScouts when handling a compass in the early stages.

    1 Hold the compass flatin both hands with only the fingers on the base plate and the arrow pointing outwards; to have a clear grip on the compass base plate permitting easy reading of the dial.

    2 Place your elbows firmlyin toyour hips; to give distance from any metalic zips or other metaliccarried objects in your coatpockets

    3 Bring your arms at the elbows, horizontal to your body; to keep the needle free flowing while trying to get/read a bearing.

    I hope that helps you to start holding and using your compass.

    Obviously, once you start to use the compass properly, you will adapt those three basic steps to allow easier handling of the compass and map reading.

  16. #16
    Initiate Bluff's Avatar
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  17. #17
    Initiate Bluff's Avatar
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    Here is an example of a reversed compass. I came across this one while checking a Ten Tors team's equipment.

  18. #18
    ‹bermensch Kelvin's Avatar
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    So the reason I get lost in the hills is, according to Paddy, all down to my nipple piercing! So it wasn't down to my nav skills after all...

    RESULT!

  19. #19
    Initiate Bluff's Avatar
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  20. #20
    ‹bermensch Rocky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluff View Post


    Here is an example of a reversed compass. I came across this one while checking a Ten Tors team's equipment.
    Was it Tim's?

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