Instructables
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...




 
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Step 1: 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

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?
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Foehammer358 made it!1 month ago

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!

Photo0418.jpg
donedirtcheap (author)  Foehammer3581 month ago
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,
DDC
sanityfade2 months ago
http://www.thefedoralounge.com/archive/index.php/t-35625.html
This is close to what i was going to start with then i decided the wax would be fine alone. I was working in louisiana when i decided this. When i got back to nebraska winter i realized i may have been mistaken.
luablau2 months ago

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.

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 luablau2 months ago

Oh, and thank you!

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

DavidS112 months ago

Awesome instructable! Is the equal parts linseed oil and beeswax by volume, by weight, or not that critical?

donedirtcheap (author)  DavidS112 months ago
Thank you for the praise. I would use by weight. But it probably doesn't matter. More bees wax will make it softer, more oil will make it tougher. I think. Take that with a grain of salt. This process used to be common but it has nearly perished from the earth. We need to keep it alive, right?
You can also add some pinetar. It prevents decay of the fabric a little more. Also i must disagree about the beeswax being the soft part. I refinished my filson tincloth packer coat with pure beeswax and it is harder. Almost like plate in the cold. You can see exactly where my elbows bend as the wax is somewhat lighter in color there. Of course the warmer it is the softer. I went with pure wax to avoid the linsed oil scent.
Hell yeah we do.

Going to try it on some cotton shopping bags this weekend. I'll do it by weight and we'll see what happens.
AlyssaO12 months ago

I'm so excited, I need to make a waterproof travel bag and I think this is how I'm going to do it. I was wondering, can you sew through the tin cloth? Or should I make the bag first and then apply the oils?

Lisette

What Would Nancy Drew Wear? wwndw.blogspot.com

donedirtcheap (author)  AlyssaO12 months ago
That sounds like a good project. I read your last two blog posts, Lisette, and I'm sure you should try tin cloth. The answer to your question lies with what kind of sewing machine you have. But my gut says that you should sew it first, then coat it. That way you will seal the seams and really make it waterproof. I'm no expert, really, just some guy with ambitions to relearn old ways.
The tin cloth will be discolored- be advised. But if you want a world class, life long travel pack that is meant to take damage then proceed. AND SEND ME A PICTURE! Thank you. I'm working on a bag too. I'll show you mine.
Yours,
DDC
hammered2 months ago

Hi Donedirtcheap. Im digging this project. Im planning on trying with a tarp. I do have a question for you though. Did you notice cracking or flaking of the tincloth coating? Being as its part wax. My reason for asking was storing my tarp folded. And have you had to recoat your apron since you first tested it?

Thanks for your time,

Dave

donedirtcheap (author)  hammered2 months ago
No risk of cracking our anything like that because there isn't really a surface of linoleum but rather a permeation off the fabric. Like aggregate and steel keep cement from cracking, the fabric keeps the linoleum flexible. The proof of this is the massive canvas tent that I seed from long drop cloths. This tent has been tightly folded since I made this i'ble and then rolled and stuffed into a five gallon bucket. The only time I use it is on an annual ice fishing trip on Lake Nipisiquit (look it up!) where it goes through 80 degree extremes with a woodstove and serious wind and ice for a few days, then folded and rolled back up frozen and covered in ice and jammed back in the bucket for another year. I've never even aired it out. One time the stove pipe fell apart while we were in our sacks and blasted directly against the tincloth with wood fire for an unknown period (until we choked on smoke) and all that happened was it got a little brown with soot. No fire, no scorching no problem. Try it on a tarp. That is the perfect application. You will not be disappointed.
indiaritu2 months ago

i will try and show

I am having trouble identifying which gasket rings can be used. Can you offer some suggestions?

donedirtcheap (author)  ruth.petersen.54772 months ago

This is the kind I used, sort of. I actually bought the Ace Hardware version. Just bees wax in a ring shape, soft and sticky and $1.99. The apron and the tent I coated still look like brand new!

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-Toilet-Bowl-W...

What are you making?

I just refinished my craft table and would like to make a tincloth tablecloth for some of my messier projects. I am going to try it with an 8oz. Canvas Drop Cloth (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-6-ft-x-9-ft-8...). I will let you know how it works out. Thank you!

I made up a batch using your instructable earlier today. I coated a few yards of heavy cotton cloth with it. I had trouble with the mixture in that some parts of the cloth ended up like in your photos and other parts ended up with large gobs of wax all over. it was easy to scrape off but the extra step was a bit of a drag. any suggestions? I would post pics to the comment but i dont have a camera, sorry.

fixed the problem through playing with the temperature, i got it near to boiling. i also used slightly more oil than wax. made for a nice even coat without clumping

This is good news. I'm so glad that it worked for you to modify the ratio. I had to heat mine pretty hot too. It could be scary stuff if spilled. Can you imagine spilling that down from a high castle wall onto invading foes?! It would stick and slough their skin clean off. I hope everyone is careful with this recipe.

danmellow3 months ago

very useful.. i will make one for my mom

dspathaky4 months ago
Also makes stencils better!

(This must be the longest comment thread on any instructable!)

btw. Well done on the writing style and content.

- I've previously come across another obscure use for this concoction which is to waterproof graffiti stencils. in fact any kind of paint stencil made from thin card will be easier to cut and not absorb paint so readily.

If you draw or photocopy your design onto thick paper or card (the thick brown paper from the bottom of banana boxes works well and seems super absorbant (I kid you not!), then coat with linseed oil, beeswax mix and dry carefully outside.

The resulting coated card is easy to cut with a sharp blade on a cutting board and makes detailed stencils that are durable.

I should do a separate 'structable but maybe someone else can take that on?
Whoa, that reference is obscure. But I like it. It amazes me what can surface in a discussion with such creative people. I never thought of applying the tincloth mix to paper but there are a ton of uses that that opens up. Thank you for writing this.
What about a paper canoe made in a birch bark style? I have native friends who would wet themselves laughing at that but they'd be jealous on the inside.
Question: when applying it to paper does it make the stencil curl at all? I think you will have to write that i'ble and show us how it is done...
DC
Whow there! Let's not get carried away here. Paper Canoes!?

I said it repeals water and water based paint, I don't think it makes it that much stronger but I could be wrong.

In reply to your query about the flatternessing, it does seem to be a thing that happens. The paper does seem to actually get flatter and stiffer, both positive attributes in the world of being stencils.

As to making an instruct able? No. At least not for a good while and even then probably still no as I have a few projects on the go.

If someone want to take this ball and run with it feel free.

All the best.
donedirtcheap (author) 4 months ago

I completely understand how frustrating it can be to buy something and have it ruined by spills and kid smears immediately. Argh

I am sorry to say that I don't believe my recipe is right for this application, however. This mixture does discolor fabric (albeit uniformly) and makes is pretty stiff. It is essentially linoleum embedded in fabric.

Having said that, I suggest that you try neverwet spray. Neverwet and other hydrophobes provide amazing protection from water/pets/stains without adding an uncomfortable surface texture. You can buy this type of product at Amazon or Home Depot.

Thank you for asking about this. I applaud your dirt cheap solution. My screen name indicates my frugality but that doesn't mean that my time or yours is cheap. If you spend the time and skill to make something beautiful for your family you should certainly make the effort to preserve and protect your work. Your work is precious!

Good luck,

DDC

beth03014 months ago

OK, so here's what I want to do ... please let me know if you think this would work for me. I need to recover an upholstered arm chair and I have kids and pets, so I need something durable, damp cloth wipeable and water/stain resistant. I'm too cheap to go buy nice upholster fabric, primarily because I know they'll get it soiled and yucky looking in no time any way.

I have some curtains that were used in another house but are still in practically new shape and the color/pattern would be great in that room. They are cotton and a decent weight, though not a heavy upholstery weight. Anyway, once I undo all the hems and stitching on them, I was hoping to find a really cheap way to treat the fabric before covering the chair. I want to toughen/stiffen the fabric up and give it some stain/waterproof qualities. That spray protectant doesn't work that well IMO and I wanted something stronger and cheaper.

I plan to use something different for the seat and back cushion - a coordinating piece of untreated fabric (a soft fleece or something) that comes off and goes on like a fitted bed sheet that can be popped in the washer, so the part you actually sit on & rest your back on will not be treated, just the body of the chair, including the armrests.

Will this water/stain proof the fabric?

Will it be soft enough to sit on? I don't mind if it's a little still/leathery, a lot of upholstery is, especially at first, just don't want it sticky or unbearably hard/rough

Will it change the color? If so, a little or a lot? In what way? The fabric is a dark print.

Do you recommend the first recipe without the turpentine or the one with? I want to use whichever will give the nicest end result since it is for an indoor daily use item, not a utility item.

Thanks in advance!!

Foehammer3585 months ago

just boiled up a batch after over a year of dreaming and patiently waiting until I could.


two quarts of Oil and a pound of wax, with a generous splash of pine tar means an eh... 4:1 ratio? hopefully it'll turn out nice. I gave up with the Orange oil after many months of frantic searches every store I went. Oh well, I guess.

I'll ''make it'' and add pictures once it's brushed on and dried!

thanks, DDC!

donedirtcheap (author)  Foehammer3585 months ago

That is great news, brother. I can't wait to see the pictures. When you "make it" it encourages others too.

The next tincloth project is a backpack. Stay tuned, Foehammer.

craftclarity5 months ago

This stuff is AWESOME.

Tincloth is the near-indestructible material that kept miners clothed during the Gold Rush...! Glad to see that it's making a reappearance!

workislove7 months ago

I love it! I'll be making a shop apron soon, and this is the perfect way to coat it. I'll try this next week.

swiftlovee8 months ago

I am looking for an organic way to make canvas waterproof for a crib mattress I am making. Would this make the fabric waxy? What is the texture of the fabric when this is finished? Thanks!

donedirtcheap (author)  swiftlovee8 months ago
The texture is just like linoleum only thin and flexible. It is perfect for the mattress cover but you would want another sheet over it. It actually smells a lot like desetin baby cream (that is the "tin" in desetin maybe?) But the smell fades over time. Please let mgr know if you do it.
what about the risk of spontaneous combustion with linseed oil? I read an article about that..

My understanding is that linseed oil is only dangerous while it's drying - notice how he hangs the apron open wide while it's curing, that prevents heat from building up in the fabric. After the oil dries it is oxidized (which is what makes the heat in the first place) and the danger is gone.

So basically, don't leave the fabric to dry in a crumpled heap, otherwise things might get crispy.

claramecium8 months ago

Now guys can finally look cool wearing aprons(while fighting dragosaurs)

Kadiya9 months ago

do you know if this is food safe? i thought this might be a better option for lining diy snack bags.

mocinoz10 months ago

Good instructable but sorry to tell you, Tincloth was actually invented in Cornwall by some English types.

This is great! I've been looking into a way to re-treat my duster (western-type overcoat) and all the recipes I find call for raw linseed oil, so I was worried that using the more easily available (it's in the garage right now) boiled linseed oil might net adverse results. Since this simple recipes worked so well for you I'm'n'a go ahead and try it. I'll also consider experimenting with some of the other ingredients that the traditional recipes call for, like tar, and orange oil. I expect the tar will help discourage insects that might be attracted to the bees wax and linseed oil, and the orange oil will keep from discouraging me by the smell of the tar. Also I read that mineral spirits are a good replacement for the turpentine as a drying agent because it's less harmful to the fabric.
the only diference between raw and boiled linseed oil is the "drying"(oxidizing) time, and the fact that comercial boiled linseed oil has metalic oxidizers in it to make it "dry"(set) even faster.
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