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How To Determine North on a Magnet

Author: Mark Read
Created: Thursday 2 August 2007
Last update: Thursday 2 August 2007
Description: Two quick methods are illustrated regarding the correct way to determine which part (end, side etc) of a magnet is it's North (magnetic north pole).
Instructions: View the video to see how it's done.
Notes: Some people get easily confused regarding the "magnetic action" of a compass. This quick how-to serves as a reminder to all regarding the correct methods of determining "North" (and "South") on any magnet (permanent magnet, electromagnet, traditional compass etc).

Parts List

  • 1 or more unknown magnets (refer to our Suppliers list for suggestions on where to buy magnets).

  • 1 x sheet of small circular (or square) stickers.

Equipment Needed

  • Compass (approx A$2.00 for a simple compass from any "$2 Bargain Shop").

  • "known" magnet (approx A$2.00 for a small ceramic bar magnet with N and S ends labeled).




View the short video, either streamed (in a new web browser window that opens automatically when you click on the link) via the YouTube website, or via downloading the Microsoft wmv files to your computer.

Watch here on YouTube (runtime: 6 minutes 15 seconds)

Tip: If you're accessing this site via a dialup link, we suggest you watch the low-bandwidth friendly streamed videos, available on YouTube.


Media Player
Windows WMV files (320 x 240 - 150 kpbs low bandwidth encoding)

Simply click on the video link below to watch in a new window (if you're on a Microsoft Windows platform, like Windows XP), or right click on the link and select 'Save Target as ...' to download the video to your computer & watch off-line.

Detecting North on a Magnet (6Mb)


  1. Opposite ends of a magnet are attracted to each other. So the "N" (North) end of one magnet will be attracted to the "S" (South) end of another.

  2. The South tip of a compass needle will be attracted to the North end of a magnet (and vice versa).

  3. Warning: Never place a magnet close to a compass for too long as you may damage the compass permanently.