Introduction: Tincloth

Picture of Tincloth

Turning an Instructables apron into an Indestructible apron:Water-proof, flame resistant and easy-clean. Could be it turns a knife too!

Ever wonder why some canvas, like the stuff that a Carhart jacket is made of, is so much tougher than, say, a drop cloth?  The secret is 'tincloth,' invented in some year by some guy --probably an American-- who needed something tougher than canvas or denim-- tough enough for fighting dragosaurs with a claw hammer on horseback across the Great Plains. Tincloth is that kind of tough stuff.

To demonstrate the wonder of tincloth I took a shower in my clothes and tried to set myself on fire.  Allow me to explain...

Step 1: A Simple Recipe

Picture of A Simple Recipe

Tincloth is made by coating canvas in oils that dry and harden, namely beeswax and boiled linseed oil. To demonstrate this simple process I will be coating my Instructables apron. The reason I made gallons of the tincloth mixture is that I am also coating a 20'X24' canvas tent that I sewed for winter camping. I only used about a cup and a half for the apron.

Equal parts:
beeswax (I used toilet gasket rings for this. Done dirt cheap.)
boiled linseed oil

(Optionally you can add turpentine. I saw it referenced in a few places while I was doing my research. I opted against using it since it seemed to increase drying time.)

Melt and mix the beeswax and the linseed oil.  It doesn't have to reach a certain temp, just hot enough to ensure complete combination.

Step 2: Application

Picture of Application

Paint it on. It is really easy to see when it is properly saturated. You will know when you've put on enough. I had to coat both sides of the pocket areas to achieve penetration.

Make sure the solution is brushed on evenly, give it a quick inspection and then hang it up to dry.
The drying should take two days-ish, depending on conditions.

So how did it fare when I put it through it's paces?

Step 3: Hey, Let's Take a Shower, Robot!

Picture of Hey, Let's Take a Shower, Robot!

As you can see, the water beaded up immediately and stayed beaded until it evaporated. Zero penetration.

As far as the flame resistance goes I figured that if I held the blowtorch up to the tincloth while I was wearing it and kept it there until I couldn't stand it anymore that would pretty much simulate the worst possible kitchen flame. I did just that about 10 times until it raised my pink. I'm not always the smartest guy in the room, especially when I'm alone, which I frequently am.

The torch left zero marks on the tincloth and even left the Robot unscathed! This exceeded my expectations.

But the real test had to be chocolate. I quickly scoochmarooed a 5 minute mug cake with pecans and semi-sweet chocolate (ah Sarah, how do I love thy i'bles) and dumped some on the tincloth. I let it sit long enough to take some photos and eat my cake. Then I just wiped it away and it looks like it was never there. Indestructable!


Foehammer358 made it! (author)2014-10-29

This all started with a late-night lurk over two years ago. I was interested in the recipe and bookmarked it, thinking it might come in handy. Oh boy, it sure did!

fast forward to a few months back, I was walking home from the local Tim Hortons and got caught in a downpour... Oh, Boy, my Favorite jacket was far from waterproof. by the time I got home, I was soaked, shivering, and I could wring my coat like a towel. What a shame! I went straight to the computer and pulled up this page.

for my own recipe, I used a pound of beeswax and two quarts of Linseed oil. This, because what I got from the many comments was that the mix didn't matter much, and these were the quantities I bought. it worked great. I got about a gallon out of it While still warm I apply it with a paintbrush. a few weeks later, when I got to work on a Backpack (most of us seem to be doing Coats, then backbacks!), it had the consistancy of Margarine left on the counter. I applied it with an old rag, which had to be thrown out afterwards (tin-clothed rags don't soak up shop spills very well).

The coat is nothing short of amazing. a single, thick layer has kept me bone dry in torrential downpours when working on projects, or just being out and about (except that one, quarter-sized spot on my back... I must have skimped on that spot). I took it Kayaking on a windy day a while ago and I could stick my elbow in without feeling any water. that's just how good this stuff is.

the Pack has been hanging a bit over a week now. I just can't seem to get the excess off, which was a problem with the Coat as well. Any tips on that, guys?

if anyone's curious or has questions feel free to respond to this post and i'll share what knowledge I have as best I can. Great, Great, Great stuff, Tincloth.

PS : my coat is just this run-of-the-mill dark grey coat, which is quite boring. Enjoy this panorama I took while I was out with it instead!

Ive heard the addition of mineral spirits to your formula solves that problem:

Mix the mineral spirits and linseed oil 50/50. Shake it up good. You
need the combination of chemicals. The linseed oil waterproofs the
fabric and the mineral spirits allow the oil to dry. I don't see any problem with adding wax to the recipe I would melt the wax in with the boiled linseed oil first then add the mineral spirits.

Pchristu (author)Foehammer3582017-12-07

To remove the excess, heat an area with a hairdryer or heatgun, brush in until fully saturated and liquid is pooling on the surface, wipe off the excess with a rag. Or, I’ve heard of running the article through a clothesdryer accompanied by some old towels. This may leave a coating in the dryer, or perhaps on lint in the duct, posing a fire hazard in the future.

Yes! This is the best comment ever!
It sounds like you are really living life, Foehammer. I'm so glad to be a little part of that.
Thank you,

owkaye (author)2017-12-26

Most wax toilet rings in the USA are made of "slack wax", a by-product of the petroleum refining industry. It is basically a
mixture of oil and paraffin wax. It is used as a waterproofing agent in various industrial products. It melts at low temperature but stiffens/hardens quickly when applied to fabric or leather. I made my own waterproofing material by melting a toilet ring with 1/2 as much coconut oil. While still liquid I prushed it on my new leather boots where it immediately turned into a stiff paste and did not soak in. So I heat the wax-covered boots with a hair dryer and the wax/oil mix quickly melted into the leather ... and now I have waterproof boots.

luablau (author)2014-09-23

After all, what's the risk of self-igniting while drying?

I'd like to do a "hay pillowbag", thought this could be useful to keep it clean even in the stall floor... But room temperature here can reach 40C (more than 100F).

(besides, I hope the smell will be accepted, and I don't think it will intoxicate the hay. Will it?)

Anyway, my main concern is it may ignite while it dries. Later I see if it serves the haybag.

Pchristu (author)luablau2017-12-07

There is no odor after drying.

sanityfade (author)luablau2014-10-13

Linseed oil on a layer of cloth wont ignite. It is when crumpled up as in a trash bin that heat can build up. If you lay it out to dry it will be fine. After the vapors are off the oil the chance of self ignition is minimal.

luablau (author)luablau2014-09-23

Oh, and thank you!

I would also love to try a medieval-style waterproof raincloak, if the stiffness alows for it :D

0UR0B0R0S (author)2015-10-15

Does this work on suede leather,silk and rawhide? Its for a shield.

Pchristu (author)0UR0B0R0S2017-12-07

Should work. I saturate new cheap leather working gloves with linseed oil to make and meep them flexible. Does the trick, and once dry it is not sticky. Applied hot, and brushed in while heating area with a hairdryer or heatgun, the wax/oil combo should penetrate, though oil alone may be sufficient for your purpose.

SameerS3 (author)2015-01-20

Hi !! I tried but the thngs r not working...N dont knw wht should b the ratio of oil n wax ....can u pls help..

alliecal (author)SameerS32016-07-31

I used 16 oz of wax to 16 oz of linseed oil and it's too much wax. I thoroughly combined it per the instructions. I painted it on hot, straight off the stove top. The wax hardens quickly out of the pot so the oil doesn't even penetrate the fabric. It makes for splotchy complexion which sucks bc I was doing this for look not function. The wax eventually gums up the brush. There's no way to get even coverage unless you do them separately. I'm glad I'm not the only one to have trouble. I added another 8 oz oil and it was a little better. If I redid it, I would do 8 oz or less of wax and 24 oz or more of oil.

Pchristu (author)alliecal2017-12-07

When I am painting on the wax I use a hairdryer on HIGH, or a heat gun in my left hand, brush in my right. Warming the fabric before application is helpful with penetration. I continue applying heat while brushing the liquid in until saturation is uniform. Works nicely.

MarkK47 (author)SameerS32015-10-10

In the beginning of his instructable he said equal parts bees wax and linseed oil;

jlytle-1 (author)2016-11-29

Does anyone know if it's possible to do this with other kinds of wax? I'm hoping it will work with paraffin wax. Honeybees are attracted to the smell of beeswax and I'd rather not have bees take an interest in my jacket.

Pchristu (author)jlytle-12017-12-07

Beekeeper here. I’ve waxed canvas sneakers, a baseball cap and a hoodie (all because of drizzly weather here in Portland, using beeswax and linseed, with and without paraffin; I commonly wear these when working my hive and the bees ignore me. I would add that the hat and sneakers are TOASTY warm.

AlphaOmega1 (author)2017-02-26

Toilet rings? Had to google that. Neoprene/rubber doughnuts used here. Although I seem to remember soft rope impregnated with grease or wax for similar use.

I would imagine that the wax would not be pure beeswax as it would probably be too hard at room temperature to form a seal, so possibly has softeners in it which would modify the chemistry. That may explain why some people are having issues. I've used pure beeswax to waterproof bush hats, using beeswax blocks, rubbed into the fabric and hot air. If you don't get a good soak then it cracks easily and allows wicking to occur.

It will be interesting to try it with a solvent as you have done. Off to Scotland in a few weeks, so a good test :) Wonder if the linseed will repel midges? :)

MelanieK41 (author)2017-01-09

Is there any reason that I should not use this to waterproof a canvas water bag to drink from?

LeeB143 (author)MelanieK412017-01-26

Yes, the chemical dryers used in boiled linseed oil are not food safe. You could use walnut oil as a replacement if you don't have nut allergies.

mgalyean (author)LeeB1432017-02-23

Linseed oil and flaxseed oil are basically the same product, but food-grade flaxseed oil doesn't have the drawbacks you note so I'd think would be fine for a waterskin. But it costs quite a bit more.

haflower (author)2016-12-28

Hi, I am wanting to purchase a cotton canvas yurt, to have up and be in always, everyday. Itll be over a few thousand dollar investment, so am wanting it to be mold,moldew, sun, fire resistant, and last a while etc. they sell it treated with Sunforger, which i think is silicone-based, but i dont like that it is synthetic/chemical. is this a natural mixture that is just as effective? thank you

ChrisM809 (author)haflower2017-02-02

Hello I own a small bussiness that builds custom wall tents and we have built a yurt before. I was actually reading this artilce to find a way to waterproof some teepees we are making. We would love to build that yurt for you check us out at.

SafeWalrus (author)2017-02-01

Interesting, basically from a very old recipe to waterproof cloth, way before America was invented - the idea was to use mainly Linseed oil with about 5% of say glycerine to make the cloth flexible, if you didn't do that it broke up with time, the oil cloth that is! Could be expensive. I'm not sure if the beeswax would actually ensure that the cloth would have that flexibility in it! Guess it would be nice to get some feedback on this in a couple of years time - now that would really finalise a very useful and fairly easy product that has many uses - but please remember the safety precautions - a bit of spontanious combustion could ruin your whole day!!

amastae (author)2015-12-11

made a batch using beeswax, turpenoid, and raw linseed. but now I'm wondering about proper disposal of a paint stirrer and a pair of latex gloves that will have the mixture on them. anyone have experience with this?

JoeM146 (author)amastae2016-01-31

for many years. I managed a independent paint store for years.

Rules for any oil-based paint stain on needs special thinners for clean up.

Dispose of all waste like rags, brushes by outdoor air drying I hang them on the clothes line. The leftover paints can be disposed of to your local hazardous waste facility in your state and county. Those facilities also take your old or leftover latex paints to be batched together and given to those who know it's available.

Incidentally never be lax with rags containing linseed oil raw or boiled. Linseed oil generates lots of heat as it begins to dry. Rags used with the stuff should be hung outside. Linseed oil spontaneously combusts and was the prime reason that burned down houses paint shops and such.

gardenwife (author)JoeM1462016-12-13

I didn't know that about linseed oil and the other concoctions. I guess I haven't really used it except decades ago on some tack at a barn. Thank you for posting that cautionary information.

Jackson123 made it! (author)2016-09-14

Tried this on an old sail bag. It suits the purpose. I use this bag for hunting/hiking, etc. Basically it sits in the back of my Subaru and spends a lot of time on the ground. It works, but I won't do it again because 1) it adds noticeable weight and 2) it doesn't look so nice after a while. Admittedly, neither are an issue with this application, but I think I would look for something other method if those two things are an issue.

process works, but I

JoeM146 (author)2016-01-31

Yo dude, I have a best friend opening with your name on it. Any guy who can sew his own tent and make his own water proofer out of wax toilet rings is sure to be better than my last B.F. Whom has a doctorate in organic chemistry and is pretty handy in his own right. Opening cans eluded him though.

P.s. Can you cook things that do not come in cans? Popcorn does not count.

Renard_Bleu (author)2015-04-30

Holy Liev Schrieber! I can't believe no one has mentioned this yet, I had to look at your other profile pics to make sure Instructables didn't have a program to sponsor celebrities... Anyway nice instructable and I hope you don't actually turn out to be a villain at the end of the movie.

JessicaD36 (author)Renard_Bleu2015-10-26

Yep, thought the same thing. Thanks for the tutorial.

cpatton6 (author)Renard_Bleu2015-10-14

My first impression too!


smorin (author)2013-03-03

What do we need to dry? Does it have water? I supose that if it is only oil and wax we should wait just until it is at room temperature. Am I wrong?

EricB58 (author)smorin2015-09-28

Linseed oil is a "drying oil" which means that it gets hard when exposed to air. Technically, it doesn't "dry", it polymerizes. This takes some time. Boiled linseed oil has chemical additives which speed up the process.

MarkK47 (author)EricB582015-10-10

Thanx for the technical part. Now I have some understanding

donedirtcheap (author)smorin2013-03-03

I didn't apply it warm. There is some off-gassing as the linseed oil evaporates. A strong smell but not bad. No water at all. It just dries and then it's done. Give it a couple of days. You'll see.

Just an FYI. Linseed oil actually oxidizes or catalyses, not sure which, as it is exposed to air. The drying period is when this happens. It does lose some volatiles (the smell), but mostly it is slowly changing to hard linseed oil.

Tung oil actually does the same thing. I wonder if it could be used also. I have some around and it has a better smell in my opinion.

Thanks for this instructable. It is one of the few where I said "I need to make that" instead of just trolling for ideas. This is really useful.

smorin (author)2015-09-29


chiefs50 (author)2015-09-01

Most toilet rings these days are not beeswax. Just so you are aware. You can find real beeswax if you look around.

gizmologist (author)2015-04-30

I don't get it. Linseed oil and beeswax are both flammable. How can this mixture be fireproof??

hanelyp (author)gizmologist2015-05-01

I'm also sceptical about the claims of flame resistance given the flammable nature of the materials used. A proper test would take a sample of the treated cloth and see if fire takes hold or spreads from a proper ignition source. The test described sounds like heat below the flash point of any common oil.

whsoj (author)hanelyp2015-07-21

I would imagine it would burn like a candle, cloth being the wick and all. I dont see it spreding very rapidly.

studleylee (author)2015-04-29

Should the toilet gaskets be new or recycled?. Just kidding! Great Instructable :-)

bryan.gifford (author)2015-03-26

I am about to make Tin Cloth Dining flies for my Scout Troop, or at least lead the boys through the process. Question I have is drying time. It takes 2 days, can they be outside, subject to dew, while they are drying?

alybianca (author)2015-02-05

This method seems to work so well! I'm trying to find a way to waterproof a backpack I made, but I already purchased mineral spirits and clear 100% silicone caulking to create a mixture. It seems to work well but I'm nervous about the flammability and toxins. Anyone familiar with that mixture?

Titanica-art (author)2013-03-04

Hi! I can't seem to reply to your comment, but here's the reply:

Here's a photo of a typical viking tent:
They were probably originally made of wool or linen (from the flax plant). Now they make them mostly in linen fabric, because that's cheaper. The frame of the tent is quite simple, but the top "logs" are often decorated by beautiful carvings, often with dragon/snake heads. We have a local viking organization, called Agder Vikinglag, and every year there is a viking market about 8 km from where we live. I've heard that there are quite many people with Norwegian ancestors in certain part of the USA. I guess it's because of the great emigration in the 1800. About 800 000 Norwegians went oversea to USA.

suzobr (author)Titanica-art2015-01-10

Thrilled to see this example for using tin cloth - it's exactly what I am planning to do for our next tent (and the reason I'm here on the site, scoping!).

Titanica-art (author)suzobr2015-01-10

I'm glad it could be of use :) I hope the writer of the article is
serious when saying it is flame resistant. :P Imagine a big tent on
fire... Scary! Perhaps you should try the method on a little piece of
fabric before you use it on the whole tent - just to be sure. Good luck,
suzobr :)

Thank you thank you. Holy Valhalla! Must....make! Can you imagine samkvem in a tent like that with furs and leather and lamplight? Zow!

About This Instructable




Bio: Flemming changed the the world with a saucer and a bit of mold. Florence Nightingale changed the world with a tiny lamp, walking silent rounds ... More »
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