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Old 11-20-2010, 04:25 PM   #1
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Don't know about you all but I love oil-skin/Tin-cloth/oil-cloth. Sadly the items that are these days made in it are not real oil-skin, there a poly-vinyl concoction that just sort of simulates it.. .

when I was a kid my grandmother had oil-skin table cloths. She made them by just basting the cloth with hot linseed oil. Unfortunately these table clothes often had a permenant tacky feel to them, the oil just never seemed to dry all the way...

I've done some poking around on the net and found discussion on making your own oil-skin but haven't found a solid bullet-proof recipe. People talk about mixing things with linseed oil like beeswax, parafin wax, pine-tar, orange-oil.

I've got an old canvas jacket I want to waterproof, so I'm off to the store today to get some linseed and beeswax... I figure I'll try them in a 3/1 linseed/wax ration, boil them up on the stove and then baste them in in thin layers using a hair dryer to keep the cloth warm and we'll see what happens.. if it doesn't work no big loss...

In the mean-time however... anyone got any oil-skin recipes that they have tried and have confidence in?

I'll let you know how my experiment goes.
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Old 11-20-2010, 06:47 PM   #2
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Similar to Bob Smalser's guidelines HERE...

For cotton duck pants used on wilderness canoe trips: 1 quart linseed oil, 3 oz gum turpentine, 1-1/4 lbs beeswax, 3 oz stockholm pine tar.

For a "slicker" jacket used in downpours during the same canoe trips: 1 quart linseed oil, 3 oz gum turpentine, 2-1/4 lbs beeswax, 5 oz stockholm pine tar.

For waterproofing heavy cotton duck Duluth packs (the packs sitting in our green canoe in this pic) we use other watersealers including Canvak (link)
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Old 11-20-2010, 07:01 PM   #3
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wow, can a jacket really absorbe that much wax?... I was thinking more along the lines of 1 quart linseed, 1/4lb bees wax... my jacket is just a short coat, that I want to use for misty night watches to keep dry... I'll do 1/2qt linseed and 1/2lb beeswax... see how it turns out, I can always add more layers later and plan to experiment with more garments in the near future.
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Old 11-20-2010, 07:09 PM   #4
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You're not looking to make a slicker then...and less than 2 lbs beeswax per 1 qt linseed oil will likely be fine. There are recipes out there using soy oil instead of the linseed, btw.
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Old 11-20-2010, 07:13 PM   #5
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This whole recipe is making a polymer from traditional materials. The present-day silicone or petrol based coatings are far superior. But, if someone has something against petrol based products, they can be happy that all the materials mentioned in these recipes come from trees, plants, or bees
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Old 11-20-2010, 08:05 PM   #6
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I think my prediliction towards natural fibers and treatments is actually more of abiase towards long-term maintenance and reliability than it is towards being "green"... granted I could carry a jug of synthetic water proofer on the boat for reproofing foul weather gear but my concern always goes towards the ultra long-term... when I run out of synthetic stuff somewhere in the south pacific or my hot welded synthetic foul weather gear pops a seem and I don't have the right tape to fix them what then... I'd rather have something that is available universally... you can find beeswax, linseed, turpentine in the most remote third world country, and I of course like the DIY bit always, something I made and can repair, that reflects my personality... not something someone else made in a factory for mass consumption.
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Old 11-20-2010, 08:34 PM   #7
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I agree with you on reasons to use traditional methods and materials. However, there are numerous CL members who are much more "green" than I will ever be and they may not even realize that this is another way of getting away from petrochemical products. It's a different mindset.

I often wonder when I meet an overtly "green" person talking "renewable" but who is wearing synthetic outdoor clothing (vs treated natural fiber), sailing with dacron sails (vs treated natural fiber) on their aluminum spars (vs wood) atop their plastic boat (vs wood) with refrigeration (vs none), mega new electronics (vs walker log, sextant, and DR), hot water (vs solar shower), a water maker (vs water collection and solar distillation), and so forth...how much do these folks really think about things being renewable?
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Old 11-20-2010, 09:44 PM   #8
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This statement is not specifically directed at CL member!

I know exactly what you mean. Most people talk a good game but live differently. They want change but want someone else to make the change or sacrifice.
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Old 11-20-2010, 10:05 PM   #9
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Oh, no I did NOT mean our Cruiserlog membership! Rather, I refer to a very few people I've met in person while at anchor etc.

It is very hard for folks to really grasp how totally engrossed we are in our society and the uses of technology and expectations of a certain level of comfort and ease. I love technology and I'm not by any stretch of the imagination very...green. I conserve where I can and I re-use what I can, but by and large that comes from my mid-west upbringing as a child of parents who grew up in Depression-era poverty.

I am always impressed with people who truly are living a low impact life whether cruising or on land. It is easier, by and far, to be low impact while cruising because we're using so much less in the way of resources in general. Also, society, to a certain extent, accepts "cruising" and "cruisers" as an acceptable leisure lifestyle. If someone was trying to live the same lifestyle on land near any city, everyone would think they were a little crazy. Similarly, liveaboards who don't travel but instead live their lives in marinas, mooring fields, and anchorages near their work/school/etc aren't thought highly of in their communities. Our first world mindset is that of consume, consume, and keep up with the Jones by golly!

So, while the Jone's are sporting their Northface Goretex, you'll be spiffy in your oilskins.
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Old 11-20-2010, 10:23 PM   #10
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you got it...

Just finished putting two coats on the front side of the jacket. It already looks great... after the first coat it was very waxy, but then I went over it with the heat gun and another thin coat and really coaxed it in... then went over it again with the dry brush and heat gun again and it looks even better... taking a breat at the moment but will probably do this last rewarm and massage a couple more times tonight... tomorrow I'll flip her and do the back... then my favorite olive colored ball cap...

... and my girlfriend is planning to make me a custom pea coat out of cotton duck soon, I'll of course have her add epauletes and hand warmer pockets to give it a bit of flare, which I'll then oil-skin as well. You just can't buy style like that...

... I'm also with you on the upbringing and values... I grew up dirt poor on a tobacco farm in KY, so have a very different value system to most of my contemporaries... I'm very much a utilitarian... people think I'm green but the fact is I'm just pragmatic, consumables were meant to be consumed and replaced... I like things that last and are sustainable for my own sake, not for their larger scale impact... That's one reason i'm on a boat... I just don't fit in with most of our culture... I'm much more at home in the Dominican Republic, Iraq, or the Phillipines, where your value in society is not based on your fiscal production but on your value production.
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Old 11-21-2010, 03:06 AM   #11
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hmm... was just down at the mil surpluse store and came across some nice short trench coats, pretty much the cut I'm looking for, which would save my g/f a lot of work... they are a poly cotton blend though... any idea how a poly cotton blend jacket would take to oil-skin'ing?
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Old 11-21-2010, 03:33 AM   #12
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60/40 per chance? That used to be the common blend for outdoor jackets prior to the early 80's. They always started out with some sort of water repellent that wore off and then you'd have to get a spray-on repellent. In theory there's not much reason to think it wouldn't work but it will depend on the percentages of cotton fiber to the poly. The cotton will absorb the oil-bases stuff whereas the poly will not. Given enough cotton it should work. Else, no. I've always wondered about the composition of the fibers--there are threads out there which are polyester which is wrapped in cotton. If that is what the old 60/40 material is made of, then the cotton on the outside will definitely absorb the oils and it will work. If the composition is otherwise...dunno.
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Old 11-21-2010, 05:17 AM   #13
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these were 55/45... so a little better ration... but still iffy, probably not worth messing with.
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Old 11-22-2010, 03:05 PM   #14
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Got the other side of the jacket done yesterday and it turned out really great. Again, this jacket isn't cut to be a slicker, but the oil-skinning will definitely make her a more pleasant night watch jacket, being cotton (sort of the carhart style) she used to get damp by the end of a misty night watch, if there was any bit of spray forget it... She's now hanging in an empty closet, with plenty of ventilation, to finish drying but alrady she is 99% dry and very supple... it's amazing how much real oil-skin resembles nice leather...

the process I used was:

1. brought raw linseed oil to a boil on a no flame stove, after about 15 minutes I added the beeswax in small chunks and stired gently while they melted. My recipe was 1qt of linseed/1lb of beeswax. This jacket being short only used about 3/5 of a qt.

2. using a heat gun on low, which was kept constantly moving I warmed the jacket and basted on a thick layer of the mixture.... as this first layer cooled the jacket looked very much like someone had poured candle wax over it. 3. 3. After the first coat I went back over the jacket with the heat gun, with with the brush, and massaged the jacket thoroughly adding a second layer as the first absorbed better.... as this coat dried the jacket looked better, rather like it has just been laquered, it was very rigid and shiny but now didn't look like it had just had wax poured over it.

4. Reheated the jacket again, and massaged it more with the brush, didn't add any more of the mixture... when it cooled it was now rigid but not shiny, but if you bent it you got distinct "cracks" that were quite obviously the wax on the surface cracking.

5. reheated the jacket and using a warm soft cloth massaged the jacket again, the rag picked up the excess and did a good job working the wax into the material. this is when the jacket really started to take on a leathery look instead of a shelacked look.

6. as the jacket cooled this last time, but before it started to get stiff, I burnished the jacket with a small dumbell plate (any thing hard and smoothe would work), and then continued to massage with with my hands till fully cooled... I worked the material really good, and worked up a good sweat. This whole process very much reminds me of tanning a hide... the important part to get a good finish is to work the material as it dries/cools to keep it supple. The jacket is now finished by all accounts and just needs to air for a few days, it has a VERY strong linseed smell... when i started this whole process I made the mistake of not turning on the over the stove vent and about an hour in was rather choking on the fumes, had to take a break and air the apartment out... so be sure you have plenty of ventilation if you try this.

I now really see why people use synthetics instead of oil-skin... not because they are superior in any way, but because of how labor intensive it is to produce a quality product... From start to end this process took probably pretty close to 8 hours, and this was only a waist length (bomber jacket sized) jacket... doing a full slicker and bibs would take a while... but what else am I going to do, watch TV??
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