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?

Step 3: 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!
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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)  Foehammer35815 days 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.

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!

workislove2 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.

swiftlovee3 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)  swiftlovee3 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.

claramecium3 months ago

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

Kadiya4 months ago

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

mocinoz5 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.
jacksonam9 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
(removed by author or community request)
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 :)
Can this same formula be used on other fabrics / materials like for example the lite-weight taffeta that most tents are made of now ?
RaptorWing1 year ago
I'm no plumber, but I've installed/re-installed my fair share of toilets. Those beeswax gaskets are much softer than straight beeswax. They're probably already cut with some kind of oil... I wonder what kind, and what your true proportions of oil/wax were? And I wonder if my leftover 'wood finish' would stop the leak in my kitchen sink disposal???
LynxSys1 year ago
Regarding the mix ratios: does anyone have any experience with how far in either direction one can skew it without hurting the final product's waterproof properties? I see that Marxmellow has suggested a 10:5:1 ratio for oil, wax, and turpentine (by volume), but I'd be really interested to hear if anyone has done some experimental comparisons and figured out (for instance) the ideal formulation to keep things supple.

Marxmellow, how did you do your volume measurements? Did you melt the wax first? I'm really hoping that you got all Archimedes and submerged your wax in water to determine its displacement...

Also, has anyone tried this on fabrics besides cotton, or different types of weave? I'm guessing that this process would result in one very uncomfortable cotton T-shirt, but I still wonder if it would work on tighter weaves, higher threadcounts, synthetics, ugly wool sweaters, etc.

I ask because I have an insulated Carhartt coverall that's great for working outside in sub-zero temperatures, but isn't very water-repellent. It's outer is made of "1000-denier Cordura, water-repellent nylon", according to Carhartt. I'd considered spraying it with some sort of commercial waterproofing spray, but this DIY technique might be just the trick, assuming that the formulation won't degrade the nylon over time or something...
It can go pretty heavy in the direction of the oil. On one beekeeping site, the recommended ratio for using to coat a wooden beehive for weather protection is 20 parts of the linseed oil to one part beeswax. I had read on another woodworking site to use a 5:1 ratio oil:wax. On the bunkbed I just finished building (but haven't started the instructable for yet) I used approximately 16:1 Easy to measure a cup of oil, and eyeball a Tablespoon of Beeswax. This stayed liquid (brushable) for quite some time when applying to wood, and even after it cooled, it was easy to apply to the wood with a cotton rag... like warm butter. Now that it's been aging in a sealed container for about 2 weeks, it's liquid again. huh.

the 1:5 ratio (no turpentine) I mixed before for another project was more like applying shoe polish.

I'm sure the water resistance is similar, but there's no way I'm taking a propane torch to my boys' new bunkbed just yet... I just finished yesterday and their room isn't even ready for it yet.
ssokolow1 year ago
I assume, from the comments, "boiled linseed oil" is the same thing as "double-boiled/treated linseed oil". (As in, heated in a "double boiler", not "boiled twice")

Does it have to be the hard-to-find pure stuff (usually sold as "heat-treated/polymerized/stand") or will the common, fake stuff made of raw linseed oil, petroleum solvents, and metallic drying accelerants do?

This site actually says to use raw linseed oil and provides instructions similar to this instructable. (This thread may also be relevant)

Also, am I correct in concluding from those links that the linseed is just to provide a compromise between water-resistance and stiffness? (Thinning out the beeswax to lower stiffness while replacing it with something that, while not as good at repelling water, does the job without being stiff)

...and I'm actually kind of curious why this stuff doesn't burst into flame since beeswax+cotton wick is the recipe for a candle and linseed oil-soaked rags pose an auto-ignition risk according to Wikipedia.

Finally, does anyone know if either kind of "boiled linseed oil" (fake or genuine) has a shelf life and how to test if it's still usable? We have a bottle that has been sitting in the laundry room alongside some paint cans and other such stuff since we moved into this house over 15 years ago.
oking ssokolow1 year ago
Linseed (flax) oil is a drying oil. The linseed oil is boiled to make it a better drying oil. Modern "boiled" linseed oil often is not boiled at all an in fact has an artificial drying agent added.

I used raw flax (linseed) for this very (the fact that it is drying oil) purpose on my cast iron frying pans and I have yet to see one of them burst into flames from using such oil.

So while the mixture sounds like a recipe for a fire tinder the fact that is calls for boiled linseed oil makes it less of a fire hazard once it's dry. Thus I believe that the author of this instructable is 'spot on' with the fire retardant properties that he had observed.

Now I will say that this may work just as well with tung oil because it too is a drying oil.

The reason that wet linseed oil covered rags are a combustion hazard is because part of the drying process is oxidization. When allowed to dry as described by the original author I see no auto combustion hazard unless you wish to make a stack of these while making them instead of hanging them up to dry.
donedirtcheap (author)  oking1 year ago
Cheers, oking. I am surprised at how much debate tincloth has raised. I want to try it with tung oil. A good tip from a knowledgeable Instructableer.
donedirtcheap (author)  ssokolow1 year ago
I just bought whatever I could find cheap. I'm sure there is a better way to do my i'ble but I am FRUGAL, like sick-cheap. The Instructible community, in response to this i'ble, has already done about 100x the research that I did to make it.
Let us know how it goes for you. Let's refine the process together.
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