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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danmellow20 days ago

very useful.. i will make one for my mom

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

dspathaky1 month 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...
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) 1 month 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,


beth03011 month 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!!

Foehammer3582 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)  Foehammer3582 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.

craftclarity2 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!

workislove4 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.

swiftlovee5 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)  swiftlovee5 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.

claramecium5 months ago

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

Kadiya6 months ago

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

mocinoz7 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.
jacksonam11 months ago
Would this method work to create a water-proof and heat-proof barrier for my ironing table when I'm using tons of spray starch? My iron is very hot and the fabric to be starched is saturated. Have ruined several table covers due to starch build-up. Thx.
smorin1 year ago
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?
donedirtcheap (author)  smorin1 year ago
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.
jnunz1 year ago
ticks are attracted to the chemical compounds of lynseed and beeswax attracts ants...... if you plan to coat the roof, plan to keep the temp down, inside and out..... thermal radiation tends to raise the viscosity of a wax based element. you could have saved yourself 20 bucks with a can of starch bro......
lance201801 year ago
Love the idea. Only problem I see: "Wax rings are made from a combination of petrolatum and proprietary ingredients that vary among manufacturers." They have not been made from bee's wax for years.
You are a finalist in the Indestructables contest DDC! Congratulations!!! :D
sabu.dawdy1 year ago
a really very good ~ible
donedirtcheap (author)  sabu.dawdy1 year ago
Thank you! I wish I knew why, then I could make very good ones every time.
it is unique.. this is the actual reason why i liked your ~ible
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The "tin cloth" I have scored has a "different" feeling to it--sort of a cross between wax paper and canvas. Don't know what the DIY one would feel like--depends on the base cloth I would think.

Has anyone used this formula to RE-COAT any sort of Barbour type item? I just scored two jackets--one Thorndale (some say better-n-Barbour!) and a KAKADU of Australia that some dude on ebay had no clue how to list etc. Now these are slightly used and one is much too small for anyone here but the Thorndale--just might become a new biking jacket. But I wonder if re-coating it would be a good thing? I think Barbour sells a re-coating kit but if I remember right it was--not cheap.

And these altho not at all "smelly" don't at all smell like the AMAZING Barbour "Crayola" scent. That I LOVED.

OH--BTW---asked about those US toilet rings ---since sometimes it does pay to be married to a Big Box That Is Not Orange store manager---and he assures me that they are INDEED MADE OUT OF BEESWAX. Since just the other day I saw a chunk of beeswax at the "Health Food Store" for a whopping $18 this is good to know! In CANADA he sez they use silicone or something.
donedirtcheap (author)  valkgurl1 year ago
Ebay score! Congratulations.
I love that smell too.
Thank you for the confirmation about the beeswax. I hope that this is the case, if only so that my local hardware store people can restore their record of 100% accuracy.
Ebay score would be better if the coat fit hubs but---oh well will make a savings jar for his International Dreams! Suspect that this was labeled an XL for a British guy not an American Biker Guy XL. It--fits--sorta--but the sleeves are too long and the middle is snug. Hubs is not overweight but built differently than the Brit co's cut for I suspect from what we have had him try on. Off to list back on ebay with REAL title and REAL pics!!! LOL!!!

Local hardware guys are very knowledgeable--if you don't get the "New Kid" in Sept after the "Old Kid" goes off to college! My hubs sells these rings so----.

I should just go and buy myself a box of Crayola and sniff. Altho the "Re-dressing" for the KAKADU was only $12 Aus I did NOT however ask about the SHIPPING on that!
donedirtcheap (author)  valkgurl1 year ago
I'm long in the arm and slim in the middle. Send me a pic and maybe we can avoid the eBay commission, I get a deal an you make a profit.
Works for me! How or where do I send you a pic?
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.
donedirtcheap (author)  Titanica-art1 year ago
Thank you thank you. Holy Valhalla! Must....make! Can you imagine samkvem in a tent like that with furs and leather and lamplight? Zow!
And with some mead in your drinking horn while playing Hnefatafl... ;)
Sounds fantastic, if you ask me :)
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