Waterproofing a haversack -- oil vs wax?

Discussion in 'Trekking' started by David Veale, Mar 14, 2019.

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  1. Mar 14, 2019 #1

    David Veale

    David Veale

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    Just stitched myself a nice little haversack from a heavy hemp fabric, and am thinking I would like to apply some waterproofing. I tested a couple swatches, one with beeswax diluted with turpentine (essentially a homemade paste-wax; the turpentine allows it to go on easily without melting), and the other with boiled linseed oil (BLO).

    I really like the way the BLO gives the fabric some stability -- it's almost like leather. However, based on past experience with linseed oil ("teak" oil) and linseed oil based varnish on boats, I found that it doesn't hold up so well to UV light, and ultimately becomes brittle.

    I like the idea that wax treatment is easily renewed, but it doesn't seem to offer the same protection that the oil does. I'm also thinking that the BLO would help stabilize the fabric and improve wear resistance.

    Does anyone here have any experience with BLO treated fabric? Did it hold up over the years, or did it get brittle? Is it really significantly better to turn it into "paint" by adding some iron oxide powder? Am thinking that probably helps with UV degradation, but don't know for sure.

    Any and all input/experience much appreciated!
     
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  2. Mar 14, 2019 #2

    Black Hand

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    Use molten beeswax and a warm oven (180-200F) to impregnate the fabric (a cookie sheet works well), then a heat gun to help remove the excess. Allow to cool a little and work between your hands until the major stiffness is gone. I have a ticking bag waterproofed this way and I've not had to renew the treatment at all in 10-15 years.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  3. Mar 14, 2019 #3

    Le Loup

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    I painted my script with linseed oil, since then I have converted this script into a knapsack, as some original 18th century scripts/haversacks were. I have been using this pack for about the past 30 years. Frankly the only time the waterproofing has been of any use has been when I am on the water, on the trail there is no need. I carry my oilcloth secured under the knapsack flap closure, so it is readily retrievable if I am caught in heavy rain.
    [​IMG]
    Keith.
    PS: Please note that the boiled linseed oil commercially available is NOT the same as "boiled linseed oil".
     
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  4. Mar 15, 2019 #4

    David Veale

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    Hi Keith,

    Thanks for the response -- those are all good points! Now I've used raw linseed oil for quite a while to finish woodenware for food contact, and BLO (commercial) for non-food contact woodworking. As I understand it, the commercial BLO is simply linseed oil with a drying agent added (typically a magnesium salt if my memory serves). What is your understanding of the difference between "boiled linseed oil" and commercial oils sold as such? Is boiled linseed oil essentially raw oil that has been treated with heat but without drying agents? The raw linseed oil I use often takes months to polymerize, even near a heat source; does boiled linseed oil (not commercial) have different properties?
     
  5. Mar 15, 2019 #5

    Black Hand

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    Sunlight helps polymerize....
     
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  6. Mar 15, 2019 #6

    Loyalist Dave

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    True "boiled" linseed oil has had the citric acid changed through chemical reaction. One way was to boil the raw linseed oil with limestone chips (Which apparently stinks to high heaven) , strain it, and then add lead oxide, aka Litharge of lead, (alkaline) which is what Colonel Henry Bouquet suggested be used when making a sort of raincoat for soldiers in Bouquet's papers from the 1760's. A modern way is to heat the raw linseed oil and combine it with aqueous sodium hydroxide (lye), and then to centrifuge the oil to pull out the "soaps" that form. A modern "hack" that I've heard of is taking a handful of baking soda and tossing it into a solution of 50/50 BLO and turpentine.

    IF you don't counteract the acidity, your fabric will eventually fail. Cutting the modern BLO with turpentine or mineral spirits merely buys you time until the fabric fails.

    You can find Alkali Refined Linseed Oil intended for use with oil paintings, so it must not rot the canvas, but it isn't cheap. https://www.jacksonsart.com/en-us/j...MIg9K5o66E4QIVxkSGCh3MCQaUEAQYBCABEgJK7_D_BwE.

    You can buy a small can of modern oil based paint, and thin it out about 4:1 BLO to the paint, and depending on the alkalinity of the modern paint, you may be able to balance out the BLO acidity. I have had some success by doing this for painting fabric for spatter-dashers and full gaitors. But it's a crap-shoot if you get the right balance or not. (I got lucky) Straight over-the-counter, modern oil based paint has waaaay too many drying agents, and will make the fabric very hard and very brittle.

    Blackhand's suggestion about wax works quite well, I do it myself. I have such a bag that I use, rolled inside my blanket when I tie up my tumpline. This prevents the small odds and ends from wandering away when I unroll the tumpline, and protects them from the elements if I have to don my blanket as a match-coat. ;)

    LD
     
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  7. Mar 15, 2019 #7

    Nyckname

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  8. Mar 15, 2019 #8

    David Veale

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    This is actually one of the videos that made me wonder about using linseed oil, because he talks about a ruined piece (at about minute 7 in the video) of treated cloth. While he has theories that being out in the weather may have actually washed out some of the acid making compounds, it doesn't sound like the issue was fully understood at the time of this video. Has anyone here experienced deterioration of a linseed treated fabric? Any thoughts on the hypothesis of exposure weather washing out the acid producing component?
     
  9. Mar 16, 2019 #9

    Loyalist Dave

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    YES....over time my golden, BLO painted pack got darker and darker, as it oxidized. It was only faintly "tacky" in very hot weather. Well after time it tore. Took about a year to fail. Same for a military haversack (which I should not have waterproofed anyway). ;)

    The BLO polymerizes so the idea that the acid, which is sealed against the fibers away from moisture, would somehow then be washed away by moisture, is (imho) just plain silly. He didn't know how acidic his BLO was on his "old" piece of oil cloth, and doesn't know the pH of the BLO on his shelter tarp on the frame. ;) Likely he had really acidic BLO in the first piece of cloth.

    In the video, he mentions Calcium Carbonate as a pigment. CaCO3 is a base. Lead Oxide is a base. I think what they used often as the pigment was a base, and they simply didn't realize they were counteracting the acidity, IF they didn't already know to process the raw linseed oil by boiling WITH limestone. They could have used Soda Ash or even ashes....how they "cleared" the BLO would then be the question.

    They used oil cloth for home decorations, as well as utilitarian applications, and we know they painted the seams and the ridge-pole locations on some linen tents (lots of stress where the cloth goes over that pole)...and technically, ALL of the oil paintings on canvas, from hundreds of years in the past leading up to the 18th century, and during the 18th century were "oil cloth". They might treat an artist's canvas with white paint prior to making the art (which would've probably used one of the above pigments (both a base)..., But artists probably knew about the acidity of BLO as many had to make their paints from scratch, so they probably processed the BLO (or bought processed BLO) in a manner that they had learned over time would not rot fabric. That knowledge was probably not some sort of trade secret. :thumb:

    LD
     
  10. Mar 16, 2019 #10

    Black Hand

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    Just buy a can of red barn paint from the hardware store (the linseed oil variety - I used the acrylic variety with success, but believe the linseed oil variety may be better) - contains oil, dryer(s) and pigment.
    Magic - oilcloth in a can with no messing around, and the color is period too.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  11. Mar 16, 2019 #11

    Spence10

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    Beeswax works perfectly to waterproof a haversack, why worry about all the possible problems with linseed oil?

    "The arts and humanities (and lets not forget the religions!) have been perpetually faced with the challenge of making simple things complicated." Jaron Lanier

    Spence
     
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  12. Mar 16, 2019 #12

    kansas_volunteer

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    Use Nikwax. It may not be HC/PC but I dare anyone to tell you differently with doing some sort of destructive laboratory test.
     
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  13. Mar 16, 2019 #13

    Black Hand

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    And then there is Beeswax - a natural product that is HC (and PC depending on when and where) that requires no special preparation to use for this application other than heat...
    :D:D:D:D:p:p:p:p

    I could design, collect materials, sew and waterproof a bag with beeswax long before one boiled a batch of linseed oil to create an oilcloth bag.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
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  14. Mar 16, 2019 #14

    tenngun

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    I’ve made water buckets from canvas, just the plain cotton from wal mart. Double sew the seams, bent wood for the top rim. Heat in the oven paint on the bees wax repeat a couple, three times and it holds water.
    A stiff bag can bee a pistol to carry at your side. But lightly waxed it stays flexible and sheds rain.
     
  15. Mar 16, 2019 #15

    Nyckname

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    That's one'f the first things apprentice seamen would learn to make. (The first was a hammock, so's they wouldn't have to sleep on the deck.)
     
  16. Mar 17, 2019 at 3:00 PM #16

    Kansas Jake

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    I wonder what the canvas water bags used by farmers and others in the 1950s and earlier were treated with or if they were just untreated canvas. They evaporated enough water to keep the water cool on a hot day.
     
  17. Mar 17, 2019 at 5:19 PM #17

    Loyalist Dave

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    I sure would like to see a period reference to a canvas bucket, as I've held off getting one for camp, Jas Townsend offering them for sale not withstanding. I can't seem to find any artwork or reference to them, though finding metal, leather, and very many wooden versions, is rather easy to do. :(


    Canvas water buckets might cool water in Kansas, or Arizona, but not in the Middle Atlantic States in August (110% humidity - super saturated- you betcha!)

    LD
     
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  18. Mar 17, 2019 at 5:19 PM #18

    Nyckname

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    Probably some were pitched, some were plain, depending on the intended use.
     
  19. Mar 17, 2019 at 5:30 PM #19

    Nyckname

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    You made it to some large body of water and bartered with a sailor.

    It wooden't (I'd say I'm sorry for that, but we'd both know I'd be lying) have a wooden bottom. Canvas all'f the way around, with rope rings at top and bottom to keep 'em open when not filled. The rings are made by unlaying a length of rope, taking one strand, and turning it into a splice on itself.
     
  20. Mar 17, 2019 at 5:55 PM #20

    Nyckname

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