Troop 501 Eagle Scouts

Andrew Jackson - 2011

Project: Recycle Bins at the World Bird Sanctuary

William "Billy" John Fisher, III - 2012

Project: Fire Truck Reading Center at Arnold Branch Library

Christopher "Blake" Hufford - 2013

Project: Flag Pole Installation and Beautification Project at New Hope United Methodist Church

Paul Morton Claeys - 2013

Project: Playground Renovation and Update; Construction and Installation of Benches at New Hope United Methodist Church's Preschool

Drew Vitello - 2014

Project: Development and Installation of interactive, 3-D, educational playground mural at New Hope United Methodist Church's Preschool

Using a Compass

This is a very easy lesson, and not sufficient for those who would like to travel safely in unfamiliar terrain.

the directionsThe first thing you need to learn, are the directions. North, South, East and West. Look at the figure and learn how they are. North is the most important.

There are several kinds of compasses, one kind to attach to the map, one kind to attach to your thumb. The thumb-compass is used mostly by orienteers who just want to run fast, and others. Let’s take a look at a standard map compass:

drawing of compass
You see this red and black arrow? We call it the compass needle. Well, on some compasses it might be red and white for instance, but the point is, the red part of it is always pointing towards the earth’s magnetic north pole. Got that? That’s basically what you need to know. It’s as simple as that.

But if you don’t want to go north, but a different direction? You’ve got this turnable thing on your compass. We call it the Compass housing. On the edge of the compass housing, you will probably have a scale. From 0 to 360 or from 0 to 400. Those are the degrees or the azimuth (or you may also call it the bearing in some contexts). And you should have the letters N, S, W and E for North, South, West and East. If you want to go in a direction between two of these, you would combine them. If you would like to go in a direction just between North and West, you simply say: “I would like to go Northwest “.

rotated compass housingLet’s use that as an example: You want to go northwest. What you do, is that you find out where on the compass housing northwest is. Then you turn the compass housing so that northwest on the housing comes exactly there where the largedirection of travel-arrow meets the housing. 
compass arrow alignedHold the compass in your hand. And you’ll have to hold it quite flat, so that the compass needle can turn. Then turn yourself, your hand, the entire compass, just make sure the compass housing doesn’t turn, and turn it until the compass needle is aligned with the lines inside the compass housing.

Now, time to be careful! It is extremely important that the red, north part of the compass needle points at north in the compass housing. If south points at north, you would walk off in the exact opposite direction of what you want! And it’s a very common mistake among beginners. So always take a second look to make sure you did it right!
A second problem might be local magnetic attractions. If you are carrying something of iron or something like that, it might disturb the arrow. Even a staple in your map might be a problem. Make sure there is nothing of the sort around. There is a possibility for magnetic attractions in the soil as well, “magnetic deviation“, but they are rarely seen. Might occur if you’re in a mining district.

When you are sure you’ve got it right, walk off in the direction the direction of travel-arrow is pointing. To avoid getting off the course, make sure to look at the compass quite frequently, say every hundred meters at least. Don’t stare down on the compass. Once you have the direction, aim on some point in the distance, and go there. But this gets more important when you use a map.

There is something you should look for to avoid going in the opposite direction: The Sun. At noon, the sun is roughly in South (or in the north on the southern hemisphere), so if you are heading north and have the sun in your face, it should ring a bell.

When do you need this technique? If you are out there without a map, and you don’t know where you are, but you know that there is a road, trail, stream, river or something long and big you can’t miss if you go in the right direction. And you know in what direction you must go to get there, at least approximately what direction. Then all you need to do, is to turn the compass housing, so that the direction you want to go in, is where the direction of travel-arrow meets the housing. And follow the above steps.

Why isn’t this sufficient? It is not very accurate. You are going in the right direction, and you won’t go around in circles, but you’re very lucky if you hit a small spot this way. And that’s why we’re not talking about declination here. And because that is something connected with the use of maps. But if you have a mental image of the map and know what it is, do think about it. But I think you won’t be able to be so accurate so the declination won’t make a difference.

If you are taking a long hike in unfamiliar terrain, you should always carry a good map that covers the terrain. Especially if you are leaving the trail. It is in this interaction between the map and a compass, that the compass becomes really valuable. And that is dealt with in .

Using a Lensatic Compass

imgresAn Engineer’s or Lensatic compass maintains a primary function of taking accurate bearings for land navigation. An additional function of this compass is to direct artillery fire. For these reasons, it is a highly coveted piece of equipment used by the military. Standard Lensatic covering is square with one side ruled. This is to aide military personnel in triangulating known landmarks to gauge positioning.The compass is comprised of three major components: the cover, the base and the lens. The cover serves the purpose of protecting the compass rose dial. It contains sighting wires and dots utilized in nighttime navigation. The base is where all movable parts of the compass reside. A floating dial rotates indicating direction each time the compass maintains a level position. Incandescent figures depict the directions east (E) and west (W). In the center lies the directional arrow. This always points in the direction of north (N). East falls at 90° and west at 270°. There are also two scales. The outer scale denotes miles and the inner scale denotes degrees. The inner scale indicator is in red color.


A bezel ring is also inside the compass base. This ratchet device turns 120 clicks on a full rotation. Each individual click represents 3°. A short incandescent line works with the north-directional arrow in navigation. This line lies in the glass face of the bezel ring. The floating dial contains a fixed black index line as well. The final component of the base is a thumb loop. This simply attaches to the base as a handling mechanism.

The last component of the Lensatic compass is the lens. This is what reads the floating dial. A rear-sight navigational slot works with the front sight wires in the cover to locate objects. In addition, this slot protects the compass when in the closed position. This works by a lock and clamp system. The rear-sight mechanism must remain open at a minimum of 45° in order for the compass floating dial to work.

To Take a Bearing

1. Unlock the cover half way so that the compass card forms a 90° angle.
2. Raise the lens arm to a 45° angle.
3. Stabilize the compass by placing thumb inside the thumb hook. Ensure the hook is all the way towards the bottom before doing so.
4. Locate the target object.
5. Adjust the sighting wire so that it lies in the center of the target object.
6. Read fine degree marking on the compass card. Do this by moving the lens up and down until the degree mark reads without taking your eye off the target.
7. Read the bearing in degrees or MILS, whichever is preferred.

Set a Bearing

1. Follow the directions above.
2. Bring the marking on the bezel in line with the north direction arrow. Indication of this comes off the compass card.
3. Once the bezel marking and directional arrow align, orientation is set.
4. Proceed on course in direction indicated by sighting wire.

Follow a Bearing

1. Follow directions above.
2. Pinpoint landmark in the distance to serve as a reference point.
3. When reference point disappears, due to weather or trees, use compass to stay the course.
4. Occasionally set a new bearing for your selected reference point.

More documents about the use of Lensatic Compasses can be found here:

How to Use a Lensatic Compass Guide

Lensatic Compass Information

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