How to Wax Canvas

Originally Posted on xraylove.com, a now defunct domain.

How to Wax Canvas

by Chris Franks

Waxed Canvas

Waxing canvas, or any fabric for that matter, adds an element of water and weather resistance to that fabric.  It also changes the behavior of that fabric, making it slightly stiffer, and will darken the fabric.  Waxed fabrics have been used in many different fields, including sailing, sports, manufacturing, military and camping.  Serving purposes ranging from transportation (sails on sailing vessels), clothing, shelter and many other utilitarian functions which require a waterproof fabric, waxed fabrics are far from being replaced by “space-age” materials.

Waxed cotton canvas is one of the more popular waxed fabrics still in use today.  Canvas is a tough, plain woven fabric with a degree of water resistance by itself.  The fibers of canvas swell and expand when wet, like the wooden hull of a boat, and close the gaps between fibers, making the construction less permeable to water.  Waxing it further improves its water resistance, making it (depending on the use and construction) waterproof.

Waxed Canvas is:

  • Waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Arguably less environmentally destructive
  • Versatile
  • Tough

I would also say that it is more resource-able than many other materials sharing similar characteristics.

Waxing Recipe

A quick browse around the net will turn up a few recipes for waxing canvas.  Many of them start off by saying “rub the block of wax onto the fabric,” which is pure non-sense.  Then, they end up saying that what you should do is go get some waterproofing solution that has god-knows-what from your hardware store.  This is bogus.

Some smart New Zealanders give some good points and recipes for waxing canvas.  Most recommend a mixture of beeswax, paraffin wax, linseed oil and turpentine.  Most big industry producers like to keep their proprietary blends a-hush, but most are paraffin based, with, I imagine, some crazy blend of thinners, chemicals, solvents and weird shit.

You can make very natural and safe waxed canvas on your own from very simple ingredients and materials.

Here’s what the different elements of a waxed canvas recipe are, what purpose they serve, what ingredients will satisfy the element, and how you can use them.

Water Proofer

  • Waxes – wax is the main waterproofing element in making a waxed fabric.  Using a recipe high in wax will produce a more waterproof, more stiff and “dry” waxed fabric.
    • Beeswax – comes from bees.  You can source this inexpensively direct from honey companies and beekeepers($).  Go local!  It can also be found at Hobby Lobby($$), Ace Hardware($$$), and online($).
  • Paraffin wax – a bi-product of petroleum.  FOOD GRADE, though.  It is commonly used in the canning process, and can be found in most local grocery stores($$), hobby lobby($), and online($).
  • Oil – adding oil to your mixture can help your mixture permeate into your fabric if you’re not using a serious heat source to meld the mixture with the fabric.  It will still have a high level of waterproof-ness, but it will make a more “wet” waxed fabric.
    • Linseed Oil – you can find this at a local hardware store.  This is, so far, the only recommended oil I can find. It’s usage goes way back to early sailing days, too.  If you use it, combine it with your melted wax.

Thinner – NOT NECESSARY

  • Turpentine – Depending on your method of emulsion into the fabric, you might try using a thinner to aid in your recipe’s permeability.  WARNING: THIS WILL MAKE YOUR FABRIC FLAMMABLE!!!!  Please be aware, if you choose to use turpentine to thin your mixture, this will increase your fabric’s flammability.  Take into consideration what you will be using your waxed canvas for, and if you will be around fire.  Waxed canvas has the one-up on most space-age materials in that it is less flammable, so using a thinner, in essence, removes this trait.

My Recommended Recipe

Go for a straight blend of wax, and nothing else.  I use:

  • 50% Beeswax, 50% Paraffin Wax in my recipe.

Application

Applying the wax finish to the fabric is accomplished by HEAT! (And a paint brush)

My recipe is optimized for usage with a modern electric clothes dryer for the heat source for emulsion into the fabric.  This produces an evenly distributed, fully emulsified dry wax canvas.  It looks totally pro, and its what I use in my XRAY LOVE creations.  It will leave a wax residue in the dryer, though, so I would recommend picking up a free or cheap dryer to dedicate to this usage.  After trying the hair dryer method and solar method, I found out (by accident) that a clothes dryer works perfectly for an ALL WAX mixture to produce a dry handed waxed canvas.

If you are using oil and/or a thinner, you’re on your own at this point, but I can make a few recommendations:

  • The more wax you use, the more waterproof your fabric will be.
  • Oil and/or thinner mixtures need less heat to emulsify the mixture into the fabric.
  • Be CAREFUL with your heat sources.  Don’t catch your shit on fire.  (Your mixture, or your fabric!)
  • A common hair dryer or heat gun will suffice as an emulsifying heat source (this is what you use to “set” your mixture into the fibers of the fabric once you’ve painted it on).  These methods don’t do a totally great job, as the mixture’s distribution across the fabric is not very even.  But, if your just doing a small amount, or want to experiment, this is not a bad alternative to ruining a dryer.  I wouldn’t recommend putting a fabric with thinner into a clothes dryer.  I have also used a common household oven, but this is slightly dangerous.  This works better than the hair dryer or heat gun, but not as good as a dedicated clothes dryer.  If you try this method, put the waxed canvas on a baking sheet or pan that completely contains it!

What follows is my method for making and applying the mixture to the fabric.  Keep in mind that this method involves the use of a common household clothes dryer, and that it will leave a residue in the dryer (so try to get one just for this for cheap or free!)  The measurements are for 1 yard of canvas fabric, and can be easily computed for larger batches and more yardages.

You’ll need:

  • 1 yard of Canvas (or other fabric)
  • 5-6 ounces of beeswax
  • 5-6 ounces of paraffin wax
  • a double boiler, or a pot to melt wax in that you don’t mind ruining
  • a stove or fire to cook on
  • a paintbrush or a sponge roller
  • a drop cloth
  • a clothes dryer (will leave residue) or other heat source to emulsify wax mixture into fabric

Steps:

  • Melt the waxes together in your pot or double boiler on LOW HEAT!
  • Spread your canvas out.  If you don’t want wax on the surface below your canvas, spread a drop cloth of some sort underneath your fabric to catch wax bleeding through.
  • When your waxes have melted together, carefully transport your melting pot to your canvas.
  • Paint or roll (works best!) the wax onto the canvas with your paintbrush.  It doesn’t have to be or look perfect, but it does need to be completely and fairly evenly covered.  It’s OK if the wax starts to cool and show up white when you paint it on, as long as it will spread.
  • Throw the fabric in the clothes dryer for 45 minutes to an hour on high heat.  WILL LEAVE RESIDUE IN DRYER, but WILL PRODUCE SUPER PRO WAXED CANVAS! – or use (in order of highest danger and performance) an oven, heat gun or hair dryer.

Mega Special Afterthoughts

You can wax more than just canvas.  I’ve even waxed thin broadcloth that yields significant water-resistant results.  If you have some fabric you want to try waxing, throw it in the dryer with the wax canvas.  It will catch some of the melt-off residue, and will give you another waxed fabric in the process.

Applications?  For instance, a friend of mine dumpstered a ton of oversized (40+) blue jeans.  He tore them apart, tacked them together and made a tipi.  But, it wasn’t waterproof.  If I would have known then what I know now, I would have known that all that denim could be easily waterproofed by the waxing process.

Just think of the implications…there are mountains of fabric out there being thrown out, recycled or resold for super cheap.  Waxing could waterproof those mountains, and transform them into shelters like super quick, man.  Let’s do it Felix!

Creating and Testing the Poor Man’s Go Pro

I’ve modified a cheap smart phone into a combination GPS mapping system plus video camera that can be mounted on any sort of tube, such as bike handlebars. The design is derivative of my Mason Jar tripod from a couple years ago. 

poor-man-go-pro

poor-man-go-pro-back-view

go-pro-velcro-strap-for-safety

My original design only used 3 headbands – the 1 purple headband and 2 brown headbands pictured. Once I took the device on the road however, the plastic clip came through very loud on the microphone while filming. You’ll find the video footage of the creation process below. Jump to 4:50 to see how loud the setup is without the extra rubber bands holding it in.

About the Infinity Invader Mountain Bike

This is a hard bike to find any data on so I’m cataloguing everything I’ve been able to find out about this bike here.

Infinity Invader 2008

The Infinity Invader is a budget full suspension Costco bike. As far as I can tell, it is only sold in Canadian Costcos. According to their website the “Innovative” company is based in Vancouver BC. My burgundy model was on shelves in the year 2008 for between 200$ and 300$. A photo in a Red Flag thread from that year shows several models of Infinity bikes for sale, including this one.

infinity-invader-bicycle-crest

I got my Invader in 2011 at a small town thrift store for 100$. Frankly, I overpaid by about 70$. The components are mostly bottom of the barrel, although a few are decent mid-range quality, such as the pedals and the brifters (brakes+shifters).

An Uncommonly Bad Drivetrain

The Infinity’s drivetrain puts the “train” in trainwreck. The bottom bracket on my model has about a centimeter of play in it, which chains into a rear derailleur that is capable of bending back on itself in a way that I have never seen before or since. The only way I’ve found of making the derailleur perform acceptably is to permanently affix it onto the lowest gear with a length of cabling and never, ever shift. The Infinity Invader works much better as a 3-speed than it ever did as a 21-speed.

Fixed rear derailleur infinity invader

Saddle and Seat Post

The seat does its job fine, but the seatpost it rests on is made really poorly. Gradually the clamping bit that holds the post to the saddle will loosen itself, even when you set it at the singular angle it’s happy performing at.

velo-plush-seat-infinity-invader

What Kind of “Invasion” is This?

After owning this terrible bike for 3 years now, I mostly advise you to stay away from this one.

But honestly, I’ve had a ton of fun with it! Bikes are amazing in that even the worst bike is ten times better than no bike at all. My Invader is the ultimate beater, so I never have to worry about keeping its paint job nice or bailing and sending it into a mud puddle. Since it’s a 3-speed, I would never take it long distances but it still tears up the local trails at Mt Tzouhalem like a banshee. Some of the funnest MTB runs of my life have been on this POS.

Primarily I use the bike as a “farm bike.” Small trips through the bumpy muddy ground on our 3-acre parcel seem to be what this bike is made for. When something snaps on the bike, it’s always a short distance back to the toolbox for a quick jerry rig to coax yet another 5 miles out of it.

Fully Amphibious Human Powered Transport

I’d like to someday have a bike+canoe setup and do some island hopping around Vancouver Island. My idea is to go fully human powered over both land and sea. Wicycle.com sells ultra-compact trailers that can pull a canoe or kayak of any size. Here’s an example of an Old Town canoe being pulled along by mountain bike.

pulling-a-canoo

Then once it’s time for a water crossing, you can break the bike down and pack it into the canoe. One Old Town canoe is big enough for 2 bikes plus some cargo.

bikes_in_canoe_4

Spoke Wrench Keyring

I ride my bikes hard which result in wheels that go out of true sometimes. If you’re miles from home, an out of true wheel can stop you cold in your tracks. If you have caliper brakes the wheel won’t be able to turn anymore against the brake pads. Having a spoke wrench on you at all times will allow you to bend the wheel back into true on the fly.

I have the Avenir wrenches that only work for one size of spoke each. I accidentally discovered that they dual function as a key ring for your house keys and bike lock keys! It also means you’re less likely to lose your spoke wrench, and more likely to have it on you when you actually need it!

spoke-wrench-keyring-hanging

About the Schwinn Moab 3 Mountain Bike

According to BikePedia, the Moab 3 was manufactured between 1998 and 2002. I know this is a model 1998 because that was the only year they were colored green and black.It’s a relatively early mountain bike, built in 1998 by Schwinn and outfitted with pretty decent components. It was sold in bike shops just before the turn of the millennia for between 700$ and 800$. I purchased the one pictured recently off Craigslist.

schwinn-1998-moab3-email

A Feather Light Aluminum Frame

I actually ended up buying this bike because of its weight. The 7005 Aluminum frame is so light you can hoist it above your head with just one hand. I’ve never held such a light mountain bike – and if comments online are any indication (they often aren’t) the 7005 aluminum is extremely strong and durable despite its floaty lightness. In fact the frame is such a lightweight that I’ve had trouble climbing steep loose gravel slopes with it.

7005-aluminum frame

Handlebar Flexibility

This may indicate how inexperienced with bicycles I am, but I haven’t seen this style of handlebar before. My friend calls them “bullhorns” and the Schwinn catalog calls them “handlebar extensions.” I like them, I just hope they don’t take a core sample out of me if I crash and bail someday.

bike-cockpit

The extenders can be rotated to suit the rider, in this picture they’re pointing forwards but I’ve since turned them backwards so I can use them to “casually cruise” when I’m on pavement.

stem

Price of a Schwinn Moab 3

Bicycle Blue Book values a 16-year old Moab 3 at between $120 and $200, depending on condition. Prices will vary significantly based on your local used bike market, a bike like this might go for more at a shop. I got mine for 90$ US because the drivetrain and gearing needed some work. The problems weren’t as bad as I thought and I fixed them up without having to buy any new parts.

If you’re selling a Schwinn Moab 3 on craigslist make sure you take excellent  photos and provide a detailed description with links to Bicycle Blue Book and Bikepedia.

Additional Comments on this Bike From a Forum Thread

I asked about this bike on a bike forum and am archiving some of the more interesting discussion points here, as the original thread is not online anymore.

Looks okay, just replace those AWFUL tires.

 

Your tires they look to be in ok shape to me. They are old but if they aren’t dry rotted or anything I’d just keep using them for awhile. I’d go wider when you do get new tires but the rear frames on those older bikes are usually fairly tight. You can probably get a 2.1 or 2.2 on the front though. There are so many brand and styles it is really hard to recommend a specific tire.

 

That’s a 98 Schwinn Moab 3. And it has CURVED seatstays, indicating that it was not manufactured for bottom barrel department stores.

It’s one of the few late model “real Schwinns” manufactured with the name and distributed to specialty bike shops. New it would be more comparable to a mid-line Diamondback.

There IS a difference between the two tiers of Schwinn from the late 90s, and on into today.

One of the defining features of the high quality ones in the late 90s was that they had curved seatstays like back in the Chicago Schwinn era.

Now there WAS a Schwinn MTB that was basically a Moab made by Pacific Cycle that DIDN’T have the curved stays, and THAT ONE was shit. 

Nowadays it’s not as easy to tell. at least not just by the frame.

 

It’s a 90s platform and you are going to get 90s performance out of it . That means you are going to get department store quality. But some of these department stores bikes already have new tires and brake discs. You ever heard of a brake disc? A must have for MTBs since they can handle any surface without a problem.

 

Its a good frame with Shimano STX components on it. That’s barely a notch under the kind of performance you get from modern Deore. An upgraded Ritchey seatpost. An upgraded Kore stem. And it’s got a 90s RockShox which I ain’t mad at, at all. The rims are probably double-walled given the rest of the components.

Test Ride of a Stromer E-Bike

Yesterday I tried an E-bike for the first time. It was an absolute pleasure and I’ve been thinking about my ride ever since.

Stromer-ebike-vancouver2

How an E-bike Works

An E-bike works by sensing the amount of power you put on the pedals and supplying an extra boost to that power via an electric motor on the rear axle. The Stromer E-bike I tried will magnify your own pedal power up to 300%. It’s a complex computerized system that results in a seamlessly intuitive ride for the cyclist.

Riding an E-bike is exactly like riding an ordinary bike except that you feel like a superhero when just a bit of pressure is magnified several times to rocket you up the same hills that you would struggle up on an ordinary bike.

The Stromer E-bike

The E-bike will charge its high-capacity Lithium Ion battery in about 3 hours. On a full charge it will propel you forward 100 kilometers, or 60 miles. That’s well within most commutes, which is where I see bikes like this winning their largest user base.

At 52 pounds, it’s heavy but just light enough to be carried up a small flight of stairs. For a standard-bike comparison, my brother’s steel frame mountain bike weighs about the same.

raleigh-m40

The guys demoing the Stromer told me that its design looks “the most like an ordinary bike” of all the other E-bike designs out there. I have to agree that that it looks very much like an ordinary bike, other than the significantly thicker down tube housing the battery and the hefty rear axle where the engine lives.stromer_battery-277x300

 

The Stromer’s motor can be set to one of several drive modes. Eco is the mode that provides the minimum assistance, adding just 50% to your pedal power. Early on in my journey I set it to offer the maximum assistance, 300%. I would have gone higher if I could have – the extra power is addicting.  I know that if I used Stromer as my main bike, I would quickly lose strength in my legs because the 300% assistance is offers makes biking so wonderfully effortless, especially up hills.

My E-Bike Journey

After surrendering my government-issued ID as collateral and signing away my rights to sue Stromer if I had an accident, I started on up the hill with my head protected by the biggest helmet they had. The test track began at the Stromer tent at the Harmony Arts Festival in West Vancouver and went “up the hill.” My plan was to take the bike 1 or 2 blocks up but the ride was such an otherworldly experience that I went all the way up the hill and was disappointed when it came to an end.

e-bike-journey

I most noticed the motor’s power when accelerating from a stop sign. One easy pedal rocketed me forward through the intersection with such velocity that my body shifted backwards on my seat. I easily maintained a speed of 28 kph, completing a journey that google says should take a bike 11 minutes in 4 minutes or less. The kids I passed near the top could tell something was off, staring at me as I raced past them going up rather than down.

Stromer E-bike Conclusions

Riding the Stromer was an unforgettable experience even though that experience only lasted 15 minutes.

So will I be buying an E-bike? Short answer: no. This bike absolutely shines for commuters and I work from home therefor don’t commute. But I live up a mountain, and if I did work downtown, the Stromer E-bike would be an absolute no-brainer.

But there’s also the ever-present threat of bike theft which has yet to be taken seriously in Vancouver, one of the worst cities for bike thefts in the world. The bikes I ride now are 5th and 6th bikes I’ve owned in this city; all my previous bicycles had their locks cut and disappeared into the shady underground where hundreds of Vancouver bikes go every year. At 4000$, a stolen Stromer is a serious blow to most people’s finances, and I don’t think you can insure yourself against bike theft.

With that said, merely the option of an e-bike has changed my outlook on working downtown. Next time I see a job come up that I think I’d enjoy, I would hesitate less to extend my candidacy for it simply based on the option to commute by Stromer alone.

Links:

Stromer E-bike Website