Cheap and Easy Vintage Style Weatherproofed Gear





Introduction: Cheap and Easy Vintage Style Weatherproofed Gear

About: I'm a maker, gluten free home brewer, laser cutter, and aspiring space cowboy who lives with his lovely wife, wonderful dog and 2 cats in Charlotte, NC. I enjoy riding dual sport motorcycles and restoring ol...

The look and functionality of a waxed cotton jacket - like those made by Filson, Belfast, and Barbour - is hard to beat. Water resistant, easily repairable and timeless these coats look good new but look even better with age, like raw denim or a great leather bag - unfortunately like heavy raw denim or fine leather waxed cotton can be pricey and take some additional work to maintain compared to more modern synthetic fabrics. You can, however, take almost any cotton, canvas, or denim gear - from jackets to tarps and bags to boots - and give them them that special look and feel that only wax can provide.

I transformed my warm and reliable, but waterproof as a sponge, thermal lined rigid duck jacket from Dickies and turned it into my go-to stay dry and stay warm jacket. The coating is starting to wear to a leather like shine and looks better every day.

There is a great 'ible for tincloth - a similar coating made with Linseed Oil and Beeswax - and commercially available Otter Wax and 'ible for using commercially available wax to waterproof a Carhartt coat. This recipe and technique gives the best of both recipes and can be used not only on new fabric items but to refresh old ones, condition and protect leather, repair squeaking drawers, and help lubricate screws. It is, however, terrible on toast and too thick to use as a mustache wax.

Step 1: What You Need

I promised to keep it cheep - this recipe makes 8 oz by weight for about half the price of Otter Wax and doesn't require any special equipment and will provide a very heavy initial coating for a single jacket with enough left over for later touch ups. You can also do a thinner coat for less dramatic effects, I had decent water resistance over the whole jacket with about one ounce rubbed on from a solid block instead of brushing on while melted.

4 oz. Paraffin Wax (aka Household Wax, aka Canning Wax) (1 lb Gulfwax $7.25 on Amazon Prime)
4 oz Beeswax Pellets (1 lb Organic $12.39, or 4 oz for $6.87)
Aluminum Foil
(3) 3 oz Paper Cups - Optional (100 White Paper Water Water Cups $6.66)

Containers and Equipment
Kitchen Scale
Double Boiler ('ible) - You can also attempt to use your microwave, crock pot, or candle wax heater
Disposable Paintbrush - 1/2" - 1 1/2" (only needed for Heavy Duty coating)
Heat Gun - You can use a propane torch (like I did), or a blow drier (takes FOREVER) in a pinch.
Cutting Board
Funnel - Optional
Cupcake Tin - Optional

Step 2: Measure Twice - Cut Once

  1. Place an empty container on your scale
  2. Zero Out your scale
  3. Add 4 oz of Beeswax Pellets to the container
  4. Empty pellets into to container of double boiler
  5. Remove container and Re-Zero your scale
  6. If using gulf wax, it should be in 1/4 lb. slices, break one off and verify weight
  7. On a cutting board, chop the 4 oz of wax into small chunks
  8. Add Paraffin Chunks to double Boiler top container

Step 3: It's Getting Hot in Here

  1. Bring water in double boiler to a boil over high heat
  2. Reduce temp to maintain boil
  3. Place top container are to start melting wax
  4. Stir wax frequently with spatula until all chunks are melted
For Initial and Heavy Duty Coating skip to Step 5, for making bars for light coating or to store for later proceed to Step 4

Step 4: Save for a Rainy Day

If you aren't applying a heavy duty/initial coating - and want something more like the Otter Wax bars that you can save for later all you need to do is pour the melted wax into a mold. You can use a nonstick cupcake pan - or one with liners, but I found a funnel and Dixie Cups worked well.

When you are ready to apply just peel away the bottom and rub on your material in a thin, even coat. Once the wax is applied go over with a heat gun or torch on a low setting, or your blow drier on high. You can finish everything off with an iron covered in foil.

Step 5: Thick and Heavy

  1. Using a paint brush paint an even, thick layer of melted wax one in small sections
  2. repeat until entire jacket is coated
  3. Using Heat gun/Torch on a low setting (or blow dryer on high if you are a masochist) melt wax into jacket
  4. Allow to cool and check for uneven areas
  5. If needed apply a second coat and re-heat
  6. A quick ironing with a foil covered iron will help even everything out and soak wax deeper in the fabric
Your jacket should now be able to stand up on it's own, it will be much heavier and smell faintly of beeswax. As you wear it you will notice the creases at your joints will be clearly visible and lighter in color than the rest of the fabric. With time it will even out some and develop a leather-like shine.

If you wear it regularly and rely on this gear to keep you dry you will want to recoat the seams a few times a year. With proper maintenance though you can turn a department store work wear jacket, or cheap messenger back into an heirloom that will keep you grand kids (or their stuff) dry.
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    72 Discussions

    I plan to do this on a jacket and a bag when I get the supplies (including the bags, haha). I've read online that you can put the item in a pillowcase, tie it off, and put it in a clothes dryer for 15ish minutes and get a really nice even look, so that's what I'm going to try.

    1 reply

    I haven't tried that, sound like a great alternative to ironing. Be sure to pay pictures here when you are done.

    I will definitely be doing this, already have lots of both waxes on hand from other projects. Will probably melt with a heat gun instead of a torch; and I bet even an embossing gun would do a better job than a hair dryer. Also, a great source for beeswax and whatnot, is Bulk Apothecary, $8.91 for a pound of beeswax in your choice of yellow or white.
    Nice Instructable.

    1 reply

    Nice! I used Amazon because Prime had free 2 day shipping, but I may hit these folks up for some white beeswax for some other projects.

    I tried for months finding a beekeeper locally that had wax to sell or trade without any luck before breaking down and ordering online.

    Quick tip: amazon and many other places carry NEW empty lip-balm tubes and NEW empty deodorant sticks that would work even better than the raw block

    1 reply

    Thanks! The deodorant stick idea is FANTASTIC. I'm working on using some of the leftover beeswax to make lip balm and mustache wax so will defiantly be putting in an order.

    I made a similar mix for waxing cord. I also added some essential oils for fragrence(some could be used for insect repellant like rose or tea tree) and lanolin from Lansinoh(for breast feeding mothers) for further resistance and it adds flexibility. I might do my jacket now. thanks


    1 year ago

    Waxed my anorak with 50/50 bees/paraffin. I initially coated it with a very heavy and uneven layer of wax and melted with a hair dryer on high setting. Then I put the jacket inside a pillow case. Tied it off. And then put that in another pillow case. Tied that off and put it in the dryer on high heat. Tossed in a pair of shoes to beat the jacket. This evened out the layer of wax. The excess wax ended up on the inner pillow case. The end result looks really nice except for a few light patches. But the jacket is extremely stiff and difficult to put on.

    Here are some images pre wax, post wax, and post dryer.

    1 reply

    with wear it will become easier to put on, but you still get the marks from use.

    I've used something similar that gets into the fabric better/easier/faster. An old cowboying trick for saddles and rawhide. Using an electric plate, in very good cross ventilation, caerfully boil white gas or naptha. Once it is getting hot, put shaves of beeswax into it and stir. Once it all melted, paint on the fabric. If leather or heavy fabric, I do it on a hot day, lay the fabric out till warm in the sun and paint. When the mix is as deep or the fabric as saturated as you want, stop and habg the garment outside ubtil the white gas evaporated. I find this onerous but the results are spectacular.

    1 reply

    Impressive - I've heard similar with using turpentine instead of the white gas, but because of my stove and lantern I have the naptha on hand. I'd love to try this with leather for a holster


    2 years ago

    I mixed a chunk of a toilet bowl ring (99 cents) with some nasty-looking old candles to rewax a hat. Worked lovely. Toilet bowl rings used to be made out of pure bees wax, but now they are made with a bunch of poison from china but as long as I don't lick my hat too much, I'll be ok. ;)

    Glad to find this tutorial. I have previously finished a Summer oilcloth shirt jacket but am eager to try the waxed canvas method too. I picked up a pound of paraffin and beeswax. My question, is there a requirement to the strength of the heat gun needed to evenly disputes the wax? I'm going to need to purchase one and would like to spend as little a possible. I found one that's 1500 watts (572 degrees/ 1112 degrees), is that adequate? Or, does the method of hand applying the wax, then putting in a pillow case in the dryer at high heat give the same results as the heat gun? Thanks

    2 replies

    Yeah, that should work fine. Paraffin wax melts at about 99F (37C) and beeswax around 145F (63C) - the blend should melt around 122F (50C). Even the cheapest Harbor Freight will work fine.

    A dryer on low will be about 125F (52C) and will help even it out even after brushing it on.

    I applied with the heat gun but refresh with the dryer.

    We'll, I took a old canvas field jacket and went to it. I quickly brushed on melted wax on the front side. I think I over did it and tried to take a chunk of soft wax little at a time and do the arms and back. I bought a Wagner heat gun to melt it hoping for better control. The firstborn putting it on, it was like putting on a cardboard box. I broke it in and hundreds of wax lines appeared. I went back over it with the heat gun hoping to better dispute wax. Not sure if it's overkill or not but I know I'll try to do a much lighter coat with my next project.

    I did this to a pair of Duluth FireHose pants.

    Better than the heat gun, torch or hair dryer is a cloths dryer, preferably not yours and a industrial one at the Laundromat.

    Turn it inside out and add 2 shoes to beat it. Run for 2 cycles at max heat.

    This will melt and disperse the wax evenly, as well as soften the cotton wax combo preventing it from being wax armor and speeding up the process.

    The results are very nice. They are brown, so they look very much like distressed leather from anything more than a close inspection.

    Compliments the Olive green Barbour motorcycle jacket.

    The weatherproof and rain proof qualities are pretty amazing, and it does breathe a little, like 19th century Goretex.

    At freeway speeds in the rain, I got a little wet around some of the more complex seams. Not bad at all.

    At 105+ they are still windproof, something even the GoreTex has problems with. Very important in 30 degree weather.

    It has taken about 9 to 10 ounces to do the pants, the heavy canvas is very absorbant. The first 2 coats just sucked right in with no apparent change.

    I am going to do it again when the weather changes and I don't need them for summer.

    This is mine. Very stiff so hope I didn't overdo the amount of wax.

    1 reply

    Great Work!
    Even after a few years mine still can stand up on its own, if you need to soften it a little, toss it in the dryer.