Introduction: Tincloth

About: 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 among the wounded and dying. Einstein: chalk. Pasteur: chickens....

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

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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289 Discussions

Is it necessary or preferable to prewash canvas before waxing?


7 months ago

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.

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.

3 replies

There is no odor after drying.

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.

Oh, and thank you!

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

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

1 reply

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.

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..

3 replies

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.

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.

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

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.

1 reply

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.

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? :)

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

2 replies

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.

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.

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

1 reply

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.