Introduction: Cheap and Easy Vintage Style Weatherproofed Gear

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.

Materials
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.
Spatula
Knife
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.

Comments

author
mysss (author)2013-12-08

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.

author
XaqFixx (author)mysss2013-12-09

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

author
Nate Cougill (author)2013-12-06

The results stand on their own, literally! ;)

author
XaqFixx (author)Nate Cougill2013-12-06

Featured for pun. <3

author
NatureGeek24 (author)2013-12-05

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.

author
XaqFixx (author)NatureGeek242013-12-05

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.

author
_Vyper (author)2013-12-04

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

author
XaqFixx (author)_Vyper2013-12-05

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.

author
psuedoward (author)2017-04-26

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

author
ZkTVWC (author)2016-11-28

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.

IMG_9068.JPGIMG_9069.JPGIMG_9070.JPGIMG_9073.JPGIMG_9074.JPG
author
XaqFixx (author)ZkTVWC2016-11-28

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

author
Mikethehunter (author)2016-10-18

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.

author
XaqFixx (author)Mikethehunter2016-10-18

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

author
romac (author)2016-06-27

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. ;)

author
Acska83 (author)2016-05-30

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

author
XaqFixx (author)Acska832016-06-01

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.

author
Acska83 (author)XaqFixx2016-06-02

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.

author
RussellC22 (author)2016-03-17

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.

author
Dorsetdevon (author)2015-11-24

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

image.jpg
author
XaqFixx (author)Dorsetdevon2015-11-24

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.

author
Chris Logan (author)2013-12-29

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!

author
Chris Logan (author)Chris Logan2013-12-29

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.

author
jmb4 (author)Chris Logan2015-04-11

Hi,

" The material is now chemical and fire resistant ... "

Bear in mind that some candles are made of beeswax and paraffin and the wicks from cotton. Most solvents will dissolve these products.

I think this can make a nice torch.

author
Chris Logan (author)jmb42015-04-11

"Resistant" is not the same as "proof".

As far as burning goes, I have held an oxyacetylene torch to my new hoody with no ill effect.

I have been using this hoody since I posted my experiences. Almost every day. In an industrial research and development setting.

author
XaqFixx (author)Chris Logan2014-01-04

I haven't tried working with a softer fabric, it looks great.

author
XaqFixx (author)Chris Logan2013-12-30

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.

author
Chris Logan (author)XaqFixx2013-12-30

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.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-GkN96_UafFY/UsJfUriePsI/AAAAAAAACXM/6xcWyKThb5k/s846-no/spin_prod_843770712.jpg.

Waxed. (This is the second coat.)

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-524tPobxxoo/UsJeN4uINFI/AAAAAAAACW0/hQLTFhAJazo/w635-h846-no/20131229_203918.jpg

Torched. (Post second coat.)

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-etDBgkx79hc/UsJeWEb9qEI/AAAAAAAACW8/paYV5KA1wFI/w635-h846-no/20131229_224107.jpg

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.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-qEFvyinvpag/UsJekqda62I/AAAAAAAACXE/Tt2n4HhzMB0/w635-h846-no/CameraZOOM-20131230230352848.jpg

Also, I soaked the cuffs and the tail of the hoodie in water to keep the wax from soaking into the elastic areas.

author
MRCrabtree (author)2014-11-03

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.

author
XaqFixx (author)MRCrabtree2014-11-03

I've not tried on Kevlar, I would be worried adding wax would reduce Kevlar's fire resistance.

author
nedimbih (author)2014-03-20

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

author
XaqFixx (author)nedimbih2014-03-21

It can get a bit steamy.

author
nedimbih (author)XaqFixx2014-03-22

ok thnx :)

author
Brother_Bear (author)2014-02-02

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.

author
XaqFixx (author)Brother_Bear2014-02-02

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.

author
XaqFixx (author)2014-01-19

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

author
ibikechicago (author)XaqFixx2014-01-19

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.

author
ibikechicago (author)2014-01-19

Sorry, this is the correct link

http://www.flickr.com/photos/43639067@N07/sets/72157639951924044/

author
ibikechicago (author)2014-01-19

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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/organize/?start_tab=n...

author
kwhitacre (author)2013-12-10

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.

author
XaqFixx (author)kwhitacre2013-12-10

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.

author
Slim49 (author)2013-12-09

Oh Man! Wher was thai idebale when I spent years in a carhart jacket & thought scotchguard was all that!
this is awesome!
thnaks,
Slim

author
XaqFixx (author)Slim492013-12-09

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.

author
clovers (author)2013-12-09

Parafin is highly flamable, that's why it is not used for waterproofing

author
XaqFixx (author)clovers2013-12-09

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. 

author
adamw ROX OUT LOUD (author)2013-12-09

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.

author

Btw, very nice 'ible!

author

thanks ;-)

author

Thanks @Mysss suggested the same thing.

author
xie (author)2013-12-09

Does anyone know a way to make waxed cotton vegan/without the beeswax? (Is that even possible?) Hm..

author
XaqFixx (author)xie2013-12-09

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.

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Bio: 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 ... More »
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