Cheap and Easy Vintage Style Weatherproofed Gear

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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.
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mysss1 year ago
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.
XaqFixx (author)  mysss1 year ago
I haven't tried that, sound like a great alternative to ironing. Be sure to pay pictures here when you are done.
freewheel1 year ago
The results stand on their own, literally! ;)
XaqFixx (author)  freewheel1 year ago
Featured for pun. <3
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.
XaqFixx (author)  NatureGeek241 year ago
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.
_Vyper1 year ago
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
XaqFixx (author)  _Vyper1 year ago
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.
MRCrabtree4 months ago

How do you think this would fair with a skin tight knit material like a tight fitting sweater? Would it suffocate the skin too much? My full intention is to coat some Knitted kevlar arm guards that start at my hands and end just above my elbow.

XaqFixx (author)  MRCrabtree4 months ago
I've not tried on Kevlar, I would be worried adding wax would reduce Kevlar's fire resistance.
nedimbih1 year ago

what's it like when it comes to air permeability? is material still breathable? or it gets steamy when you wear it?

XaqFixx (author)  nedimbih1 year ago

It can get a bit steamy.

ok thnx :)

Would soywax be or perhaps a combination of coconutoil(which is a solid at roomtemp) and carnaubawax be a suitable replacement the petroleumwax/paraffinwax? I'd like to keep away from petroleum products in things thatmight be in close contact with my skin.

XaqFixx (author)  Brother_Bear1 year ago

It should be, Filson offers a commercial soy-wax recipe. Coconut oil may have too low of a melting temp though and my only experience with carnauba is as car wax.

(removed by author or community request)
XaqFixx (author)  ibikechicago1 year ago

WOW! That looks fantastic! Is that an M65 Field Jacket?

It is! super warm and now with the wax treatment it's an unbeatable combo.

Thanks for posting this 'ible. It really was an inspiration.

Sorry, this is the correct link

i finally got around to posting the pictures on Flickr. here is the final product after following your directions. Great 'ible! love the new color of my jacket and although it needs another coating of wax it's fairly water repellant.

Thanks for posting this!

link to pictures

Just did this to a lined hoodie.

I heated my material up in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. I would run it for a couple minutes. Let it sit a couple, Then heat it for a couple again, so that the heat would distribute evenly to melt the wax.

It definitely took 2 coats, or about a pound of material. (For a medium-sized hoodie.).Brushed on.

But I'm extremely happy with the results. The material is now chemical and fire resistant, and seems a lot more resistant to physical abuse.

Thanks a ton!
Also... I noticed that the wax would sometimes run if you tried attacking a heavy layer of it at once. The trick of the day, for anyone else attempting this, is to heat larger areas gently, and then concentrate on the heavy spots when there wax around it is already soaked in... Most drips will stop right away and soak in, too.
XaqFixx (author)  Chris Logan1 year ago
I haven't tried working with a softer fabric, it looks great.
XaqFixx (author)  Chris Logan1 year ago
Wow! 1 lb. on a hoodie? I used about half a pound (1/4 of each type of wax) on the jacket. How stiff is it?

Glad this 'ible could help. I'd love to see pictures.
Except for the hood, the jacket still won't stand up on it's own. But it's thoroughly impregnated.

The cotton was very absorbent. I think I could still add another half a pound to the chest and back.

I started with this hoodie, from Kmart. On sale for 16 dollars.

Waxed. (This is the second coat.)

Torched. (Post second coat.)

Putting it on the next morning was like wearing cardboard. But it broke in nicely over the course of a fairly aerobic day.

The final picture shows some of the crease lines developing. Some areas are becoming shiny. Others are becoming dull. It's fun and exciting to watch it, and to generate some of those creases purposely.

Also, I soaked the cuffs and the tail of the hoodie in water to keep the wax from soaking into the elastic areas.
kwhitacre1 year ago
I am thinking if a torch works then my heat gun for stripping paint should work better than a hair dryer. It gets VERY hot. It does have two settings, so I could use it on low. Was your jacket sweatshirt weight? Or heavier? (Will it get like the oiled hat that is brownish/black and has long coats to match? I think the underlying fabric is cotton.) Living in rainy Washington this is a great idea. Thanks for posting.
XaqFixx (author)  kwhitacre1 year ago
1. Your heat gun should work great, I probably should have used mine but couldn't find it (we just moved and I think it is with the laser cutter stuff) and the low setting will work fine.
2. It is heavier than a sweatshirt, kind of like a denim jacket. Here is a link It is 10 oz Duck if that helps - they don't make it anymore. 
3. Yeah - it will be similar texture/feel to that, with the wear lines to those hats and dusters. Those are made of oilcloth (boiled linseed oil) or Waxed Cotton (exactly this).

Hope that helps.
Slim491 year ago
Oh Man! Wher was thai idebale when I spent years in a carhart jacket & thought scotchguard was all that!
this is awesome!
XaqFixx (author)  Slim491 year ago
No problem, I know Carhartt and Dickies have some great waterproof gear but that would mean spending more and I'm a cheap B*****d.
clovers1 year ago
Parafin is highly flamable, that's why it is not used for waterproofing
XaqFixx (author)  clovers1 year ago
I appreciate your concern but believe you may be mistaken - paraffin wax has been (and remains) a key ingredient in waterproofing treatments since the mid 19th century. See Filson's Oil Finish Wax  for modern commercial use or the Wikipedia article on waxed cotton for historic reference. 
One thing that works better than the Heat gun/Torch/Hair dryer is to coat the jacket, wait for it to dry, then put it in a pillowcase, loosely tie the pillowcase shut and throw it in the clothes dryer a few times. The tumbling really gives it an even coat and works it deep into the fabric, that's how the professional companies do it.
Btw, very nice 'ible!
XaqFixx (author)  adamw ROX OUT LOUD1 year ago
thanks ;-)
XaqFixx (author)  adamw ROX OUT LOUD1 year ago
Thanks @Mysss suggested the same thing.
xie1 year ago
Does anyone know a way to make waxed cotton vegan/without the beeswax? (Is that even possible?) Hm..
XaqFixx (author)  xie1 year ago
If you do a vegan version please let me know how it turns out - I'd love to do a black denim Brando jacket with this finish to give it a more leather like texture and look.
...there are lots of vegetable waxes you might try... soya wax is one that is not so expensive and easily found(as in tee lights).
XaqFixx (author)  FO The Turk1 year ago
From what I've seen, at least based on texture, the Soya is a better replacement for the Parrafin - If you want to go all natural - than for the bees wax. YMMV
XaqFixx (author)  xie1 year ago
You can probably use a mix of paraffin and turpentine or boiled linseed oil. Not sure on the ratios. They will take much longer to dry, smell awful for at least a few days, and are more flammable while you work with them, but may be more durable.
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