How to Make Compass Designs


Compass designs are exactly what the name implies, designs made with a compass. Only the compass being used is not the common instrument used by sailors and woodsmen to find the four cardinal directions but rather the draftsman compass that is used to scribe a circle. Still, one may find many compass designs in many places on board an old sailing vessel and among many types of nautical equipment. You can decorate your woodworking projects and the walls of your home with the circular patterns made by a draftsman's compass and a simple straight edge.

Things You'll Need

  • Compass
  • Pencil
  • Straight edge (a ruler or T-square)
  • Paper
  • Eraser
  • Colored pencils or felt tip markers (narrow-tipped)
  • Protractor

How to Make Compass Designs

  • Mark a spot that is approximately in the center of your piece of paper. It does not have to be the exact center, so you can approximate the location with your eye. (In fact, a complex compass drawing that is not located dead center on the paper is a little more pleasing to the eye.)

  • Adjust the compass so that the pencil point and metal point are extended an equal distance from the top of the compass. Make sure the pencil tip is sharp and in good condition. Also check the compass to see that it adjusts easily and that once adjusted the two arms of the instrument can be tightened down so they do not slip out of adjustment.

  • Place the metal point in the center mark and extend the pencil point till it comes about an inch shy of the edge of the paper. If your paper is larger than the standard 8½ by 11 inches, make a circle that is about 6 inches in diameter. Slowly move the pencil in a complete circle, while holding the metal point steady on the center mark. When you turn the pencil, you will be drawing at the same time, so that when the point of the pencil returns to its original point of departure, you will have a perfect circle. If your circle is not perfect, practice drawing circles until the end result is a true circle.

  • Draw a second circle with the compass that is almost as big the first circle. Make sure the metal point remains in the exact same location that you used for the first circle. Leave a gap between the two circles that is about an inch wide.

  • Draw a very small circle using the same center point. This circle should only be maybe 2 or 3 inches wide.

  • With the straight edge draw a vertical line that runs through the center point of the circle and extends an inch past the circumference of the outermost circle. This line does not have to be exactly parallel with the sides of the paper. A close approximation will do.

  • Use a protractor to create a horizontal line that intersects the vertical line at a right angle (90 degrees). Also extend this line so it goes an inch past the outside rim of the outermost circle. At this point you should have three concentric circles with two lines that cross the center of the circles at right angles.

  • Use a straight edge to connect the tip of the vertical line to the outside edges of the small inner circle. You will draw two lines to do this, and the result will be a long narrow triangle, but the bottom side of the triangle will be part of the innermost circle, so that line will be curved.

  • Repeat step 8 for the other three points of the compass design.

  • Add color to the design. Each intersecting area can take its own color, but a word of caution is needed here. Monochromatic designs are easier to create than one that has a rainbow of color. Just because you have 40 different colored pencils, you don't have to use every one. Make your first design with just a few similar colors, and you might enjoy the simple beauty of the color design even more.

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