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!

Multiple Destinations on a Map – My BatchGeo Review

My love for maps began in the very early 90’s with the movie The Phantom Tollbooth. All those amazing places and regions sparked my 6 year old mind and gave me a lifelong love for abstractions of the landscape.

Tollbooth-map

My mapping story started up again a few years back when I was put in charge of a compost logistics company. I had to plot 10 ever-changing pickup routes weekly. I tried a lot of different free mapping tools online and the best by far for my purposes was BatchGeo. It’s an extraordinarily powerful mapping application that turns an excel spreadsheet into a detailed map.

customer-map

In this example, you can see that each region has its own color. In any given week, only a fraction (about 1/3) of each region actually gets a pickup. So a single day’s map looks like the following example. Each week I would manually mark the drop-off location with an X in MSpaint.

lyndenmap

The only criticism I had of BatchGeo at the time (these maps were made in January 2012) is that the letter system only brought the total possible number of labeled markers in a given category up to 26. You can get around this by  splitting a larger route in half, but that would have been very inconvenient for the pickup person. It would have been nice if the indexing system would have switched to numerals after 26. Fortunately for our unique purposes we very rarely needed more than 26 separate plots in any given map category.

Update: BatchGeo got in touch with me to inform me that my wish for a higher indexing was granted about a year ago! Now markers in a category can go all the way up to 99.

Over the 18 months of running this company, BatchGeo probably saved me over 100 hours of mapping time vs the old method the manager previous to me used, the gmaps app within google documents, now called “Google Drive.”

I don’t do as much mapping anymore, but I recently revisited BatchGeo to create this North Shore Thrift Store Tour map of all the thrift stores in North Vancouver. Annoyingly, all the roads are white, the same color as the background. As you can see it’s difficult to tell which road leads where, which is very important in the very chaotic mountainous, suburban road network of North Vancouver.

map-northshorethriftstore-tour

The only way to actually see the roads clearly is to use the “terrain” view, but this has the severe disadvantage of being much more wasteful on printer ink if you wanted to print this out. Which I always do with BatchGeo maps.

map-northshorethriftstore-tour-sattelite

I’m sure this isn’t BatchGeo’s fault, as they simply use Google Map’s API to create their maps and probably have very little control over the styling. However I imagine they could quite easily add on another of Google Maps’ lesser known layers to make the map more revealing. Here is the same area using Google Maps’ ARCgis and OSM layer views, respectively. These maps are not default on Google Maps, but you can access them using TrailForks.com, an outstanding mountain biking trail mapping site. Both are incredible views, one even has outlines of every individual building.

 

ARCgis layer, Google Maps via Trailforks.com.arcgis-map-northvancouver

OSM layer, Google Maps via Trailforks.com.

osm-map-northvancouver

Despite not meeting just a couple of my power-user wants and needs, for most situations I can comfortably recommend BatchGeo. I’ve never needed to use their paid service, as their free service has always met my needs perfectly.

Use BatchGeo for free at www.batchgeo.com.

Update: After seeing my review BatchGeo made a small change to their road styling to put some grey outlines on the smaller streets, making roads more visible. Here’s the Thrift Tour map again with the new road styling.

thrift-tour-map

 

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

How I Learned to Touch Type in Under 2 Weeks Playing World of Warcraft

I recently wrote a letter to an educator I admire who voiced the trouble he’s had learning to touch type as an adult. He still “hunts and pecks” and times in at around 30 WPM. He’s a writer, so his typing handicap is a serious hurdle for him.

I remember my dad yelling at me as a teenager for looking at the keyboard while typing. I was surprised at his reaction, since he’s actually a very relaxed man, not prone to outbursts like that whatsoever. Maybe he was overtaken by a vision of me employed scraping shit from behind horses when he saw me typing like a goon and just couldn’t handle the shame of it.

Years later, as a young adult out living on my own, I made the decision to finally learn to type right. I had tried several times, but just like quitting smoking, it was just too easy to cheat by looking at the keyboard. If you’re here hoping to learn to type, that’s probably your problem too.

So I made cheating impossible for myself. I switched keyboard layouts.

KB_United_States_Dvorak.svg

The Dvorak keyboard layout was developed to make typing more efficient and faster. It ships standard with every modern operating system.

The Obsolete Relic QWERTY

The ubiquitous QWERTY layout was literally developed to make typing as inefficient as possible. Early typists pre-QWERTY tended to jam their typewriters with their lightning-fast hands.

But no one uses typewriters anymore. QWERTY has lived on long past its best-before date on historical inertia and nothing else.

Through one day of typing, a QWERTY typist’s hands will travel 8 miles, likely far further than they will walk that day. During the same period, a Dvorak typist’s hands will only travel 1 mile. Folks with carpal tunnel or tendinitis who have switched actually find their problems clear up when switching to a Dvorak layout.

Switching my input language to Dvorak while still keeping my physical QWERTY keyboard forced me to learn to type without looking – or touch type. Switching the keys around is certainly much easier those first few days, but if your goal is learning to touch type you must resist the temptation.

Typing Bilingually

Unfortunately, you will still have to know to type on a QWERTY. Every keyboard you come in contact with away from home will be set up as QWERTY, and some mobile devices such as iPhone don’t work for touch typing due to their lack of tactic keys.

If you follow my method, you will learn to type competently on your new layout Dvorak, and will retain your ability to type on QWERTY. When looking at the screen, your brain will remember Dvorak, but while looking at the keyboard you will type in QWERTY. I know this because that’s exactly how my brain has now organized typing. I am just as fast at QWERTY as I ever was – at least when I’m looking directly at my fingers.

How I Did it in Under 2 Weeks

I accidentally rode the bullet train of learning speed by playing World of Warcraft for 2 weeks immediately upon switching to a Dvorak layout. You can actually get a 2 week free trial of this game which will be long enough to learn the keyboard layout. Or choose any other MMORPG where you are required to type quickly and semi-accurately to your team members. You can’t rely on voice chat though – you’ve got to use keyboard as your main communication mechanism!

My first day was an absolute disaster. My team mates must have thought me mentally handicapped from my awkward sentences and terrible response time.

world-of-warcraft-screenshot

Learning by Dreaming

That first evening I say awake still imagining typing behind my eyes. And I dreamed of nothing but typing all night. After that, I progressed very rapidly. I was testing at 35 WPM by the end of my WoW trial, the same speed that I was typing on QWERTY.

It’s been 4 years since I did this experiment, and I’m still touch typing on Dvorak. I type 80 WPM+, which is about as fast as I can think. It’s not going to break any records but it’s a world of difference from the hunting and pecking of my earlier years.