Oilcloth Tarp – Fail (Take 1)

by Woodsbum

Ok, folks. I decided that I was going to make myself a nice oilcloth tarp. Not because I NEED one, but because I wanted one due to the supreme COOL factor of using one. I know that it would be heavy and completely impractical. Really, it doesn’t matter. Being able to show up and put up an oilcloth tarp would just make me incredibly happy.

Now on to the story…….

My first step was to read several forum posts and blogs about how to make oilcloth. Most of the tutorials involved either boiling some chemicals with wax or using some sort of linseed oil. Both methods talked about the destruction of the fibers in the cloth after a period of time. Then I found a method that looked like it works quite well, doesn’t destroy the fabric, and seemed to be very easy. I opted for this method.

With this tutorial printed and embedded into my brain, I went shopping.

I went to Harbor Freight and picked up one of these:

Cavas Dropcloth

Canvas Dropcloth

I also picked up several (5) jars of Sno-Seal:



The first real step was to smear Sno-Seal all over the fabric like this:

Smeared Sno-Seal

Smeared Sno-Seal

That was easy enough, so I used up about 2 (2 1/2) jars of the paste to just coat the heck out of the canvas. Being a tough and manly, man I didn’t care about wearing gloves……  (Use gloves, people) 

After scraping all the waxy substance off my hands, I then started to heat up the fabric and melt the Sno-Seal into the cloth.

Melting the Sno-Seal

Melting the Sno-Seal

It was at this point that I discovered a few things:

  1. Wash and dry the fabric first to close up the fibers.
  2. Sno-Seal melts and drips everywhere.
  3. You have to use A LOT of Sno-Seal for this method.
  4. It doesn’t work if you are not aware of 1-3.
  5. Wear gloves when smearing.

Needless to say, I don’t have an oilcloth tarp at this time. I will need to start my search for a better method in addition to taking the tarp to a laundry mat in the middle of the night to wash out the Sno-Seal, close up the fibers, and fix my mess. When my wife saw the failed attempt, she promptly told me that I was not going to be able to use our household washing facilities unless I wanted to get beat severely. I think this attempt at oilcloth making has beat me enough.

Thank you for reading through this and I will post up my next attempt. Hopefully it goes much better than this one, is less messy, and adds to the sheer awesomeness of my bushcrafting gear.

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