Adam Savage made a good drafting compass out of coat hanger wire and a paper clip

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Oh, now that was sexy.


Compasses were an endless source of frustration back in the day. The cheap ones had a sleeve with a little screw that could in theory clamp down on a golf pencil – though the pencil would constantly slip or inevitably require re-adjustment as the lead wore down – and a frustratingly stiff gear that had to be turned to open it up. There were slightly better ones that could be opened and closed manually and had their own extra-thick lead supplies, but those were difficult to sharpen.

Do they still bother with compasses at all in math class now?

I’m suddenly reminded of this bitchin’ draftsman’s set I acquired during my Military days. It had the latter style of lead an a little sandpaper paddle to sharpen it.

I wonder if I still have it some where…

Elegant .

I love the man and his device does look elegant but the real test of competence is performance and those lines look terrible!


I really enjoyed drafting when I was back in school. Sometimes I think about setting up a table just to draw for the heck of it. Something about having your headphones on and gradually building a diagram of something.


I do agree that the lines look wobbly in places. However Adam likes to sketch quite often and it’s not meant to be a perfect drawing, otherwise why not just use CAD or some other software to make a very precise drawing? He likely would’ve hand drawn the entire thing but needed a bit more accuracy with drawing curves so he rigged together something to allow him to do just that.


Meh, I find a simple piece of rope and a little push-pin will do the trick a lot faster and possibly even cleaner than that.

But still cool in a McGyver kind of way to make yours out of a coat-hanger and a paperclip… :+1:

I’m not sure, but I think the wobbliness of the lines is actually from Adam retracing compass-made lines freehand. As beautiful as his device looks, I doubt it’d be very stable by way of maintaining a constant angle under a lot of applied pressure. He used it to lightly trace the outline of the curve he wanted (as visible in the top left part of the page, which looks to be a perfect curve), then went back and covered the original lines with a bolder, freehand stroke.

Like @Grey_Devil pointed out, if he really cared about a more accurate final drawing, he would have spent the time to make it more accurate, with a more stable compass or a CAD program.

I think you’re both right and I love that Adam shared his rustic solution using available materials.

It certainly looks more beautiful than anything I could macgyver if I was skippering and lost my GPS and compass!

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I think most people would be able to cobble a compass together if needed, though i would not have thought to use a coat hanger and if i did it would not be anywhere as refined as the solution Adam came up with. It’s certainly a really cool object to admire.

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