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Drawing/Drafting Compass

Why Is The Drawing Compass Called A Compass?

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of a compass, but I bet the first compass you thought of was a compass that can tell you the cardinal directions. Well today I’m going to talk about a technical drawing tool that can’t tell you which way is North, but is also called a compass. While there are many different names like mathematics, drawing, and drafting compass, this tool is used by many architects and engineers to create circles and arcs in their line of work.


Although, you can’t get direction from this type of compass you can use this tool to measure precise distances on a physical map. You’ll see many times in movies when there’s a map involved and they needed to pinpoint a location a drawing compass was pulled out to determine the circumference of the area they were given; that way they’ll be able to narrow down their search area. The first time I used a compass was in high school geometry, we had to draw perfect circles when learning about radius and circumference. 

History and Built

The word “compass” means “to go around in a circular course,” since you can create a circle using a compass by going around in a circular motion on a sheet of paper this word fits the motion. One thing that the directional and drawing compass have in common is that they both have a needle which is heavily utilized. The directional compass has a needle that has been magnetized to connect to the Earth’s magnetic field, so you may be able to tell North from South. The drawing compass has a needle on one end and a writing utensil of some sort, usually a pencil or lead, on the other end. How wide the compass is pulled marks the radius of the circle being created.



To use the compass first make sure to have one end with the needle and one end with a writing utensil or lead. Pull the two ends as far apart or close together as you would like. When in use the needle side should always be the first side to touch the paper. Hold firmly on the top of the compass while pressing down on the needle side and tilt the compass so the lead side touches the paper. Finally, make a circular motion with your hand, keeping your wrist still, and there you have it your own hand-made circle.

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