“True enough, this compass does not point north….it points to the thing you want most in this world.” – Captain Jack Sparrow
Captain Jack’s compass is one of the most iconic props featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. In “Curse of the Black Pearl” the compass leads Jack and his crew across the Caribbean to the dreaded Isla de Muerta and to his precious ship, the Black Pearl. In “Dead Man’s Chest” Jack can’t seem to make the compass work on his own and has to con others into using it so he can find the heart of Davy Jones. And in “At World’s End” the compass is constantly changing hands from one character to another as the double-crosses and triple-crosses pile up.
While looking for a replica of the compass for my costume I have found everything from elaborate wooden replicas priced over $200, to cheap plastic toys that barely look like the original at all. Forgotten Seas Trading Co. offers a fantastic resin version of the compass that uses earth magnets to make the dial spin (hide one in your palm glove to make it point in whatever direction you desire). It’s a version I certainly wouldn’t mind having at some point since a wooden replica might be a bit fragile, and if I got up to some crazy Captain Jack high jinks I’d hate for an expensive compass to get damaged.
But probably the most common compass that a lot of Jack Sparrows out there carry is a modified version of the Disney Store compass. These have become a bit of a rarity, though, and as such are usually a bit pricey when they show up on eBay. It wasn’t my first choice (naturally I’d prefer a wooden replica or the Forgotten Seas version), but when I found one on eBay that wasn’t outrageously priced I thought, “why not?”
The compass arrived looking every bit like the children’s toy it is, packaged with a vinyl replica of Sao Feng’s map, an eye patch, a pint-sized plastic skull ring, and a plastic clip-on hoop earring. But what makes this particular compass such a favorite among Captain Jack cosplayers is that it’s a fairly accurate size and has a free spinning dial.
Of course the dial face is all wrong, as is the latch and the lack of a ring to attach a leather cord to for tying it onto your belt, but that’s why this compass is a modifying project and not a ready-to-use prop.
One of my Jack Sparrow pals over on the message boards and facebook offered to do the mod, so I sent the compass his way to be decked out and made to look more authentic. First, he used a dremel to replicate the nicks and dings and make it look a bit beat up. Then he gave it a new coat of paint and replaced the dial using a more accurate one from an image he printed off the internet. Next, he replaced the flimsy plastic latch on the front with a metal one. And lastly, he added a brass ring to the back and a leather cord, and the compass was complete.
Once the compass was returned to me I finished it up by giving it a bit more age and weathering using acrylic paint and a sponge. And thus, the finish product looks something like this:
Is it a perfect replica of Jack’s compass? Of course not. But for an inexpensive plastic toy from the Disney Store I’d say it came out looking pretty darn great! Eventually I hope to own a more accurate version of Jack’s compass, but for now this one looks really good and will work just fine.
One vendor’s site that I’ve browsed many, many times is called Swag Arts where Tia Jill offers up some fantastic replicas of Jack’s Piece ‘O Eight and other various beads and coins for his wig, as well as some other awesome trinkets for Jack’s gear. I’ve recently been lucky enough to grab a couple of her items while they were in stock, and I’ll be discussing them in an upcoming post, but for now I just want to mention one small item I purchased from the site a few months ago. Tia Jill had been going through a big move and most of her items were out of stock, but since I was on the site with a few extra doubloons to spend I ordered some kohl eye makeup because it was available. Sure, any old black eye pencil could probably be used to achieve the same effect, but I like buying things within the Jack Sparrow costuming community whenever possible. I’ve only played with the makeup once since it arrived, and (although I clearly need a lesson or two in applying eye makeup) it seems to work really well. It was the middle of the night and I was bored, so I put on a silly Rastafarian beanie with dreads and my Jack Sparrow bandanna and snapped a selfie.
The checklist of things I need in order to finish my Captain Jack outfit is getting ever shorter, but the things still left on that list are also some of the biggest and most expensive parts of the costume. Some things I can substitute with bits of my Captain McAnen costume for the time being, like the shirt, pants, and waistcoat. But there is one item I need above all others in order to pull off even a passable Jack Sparrow look: the wig. Luckily I know exactly where I’m going to get it, and it’s going to be my Christmas present to myself this year.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been bumbling around mimicking everyone’s favorite wobbly-legged pirate for over 10 years, but it looks like 2014 will be the year I finally look the parts as well. So until next time, here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!