For many years, oilcloth was used for waterproofing clothes, tents and even for covering pioneers wagons. You can still buy oilcloth clothing and some members of my family wear it and love it for rainy weather. Oilcloth, also known as enameled cloth or (in England) American cloth, was close-woven cotton duck or linen cloth (canvas) with a coating of boiled linseed oil. It was one of very few flexible, waterproof materials that were widely available. Oilcloth was used as an outer waterproof layer for clothing, luggage and many other uses.
Now recently I have been looking into how to make your own waterproofing materials. I have found a formula that is easy to make from readily available ingredients. This is a mixture that has multiple uses. It can be used to waterproof clothing, boots, canvas or wood. It works great on gunstocks. Even things like cloth baseball caps can be waterproofed.
The other day I made a batch of waterproofing at my house.
I melted a ½ pound of beeswax in a double boiler. Beeswax has a low melting temperature of around 150 F. A double boiler works well and is safer. But watch the wax well and make sure it doesn’t overheat.
When the wax is melted, remove it from the stove and add 4 oz of mineral spirits or turpentine and 4 oz of boiled linseed oil. This should be done outside and because the wax cools slowly, it should not be on the stove or fire when you add the liquids. Mix well and go back and stir occasionally while it is cooling so that it does not separate.
When the waterproof is set it will still be soft. I then place it in cans or jars with tight fitting lids to keep it from drying out.
To use it on cloth or leather, warm the material first if possible. This helps the waterproofing to penetrate. You can warm the material by setting it out in the sun or placing it in front of a fire. If the electricity is on you can tumble the material in a dryer or use a hair dryer to warm it.
Now take a cloth and rub the waterproofing in the material being careful to coat the seams well. You can use it on most cloth and other materials. After you put it on, give it some time to dry and penetrate. A little heat after it is rubbed in will help it penetrate. You may want to run a test on a small patch, since it can affect colors. Materials often get darker.
Try rubbing it on your gunstocks and it will give them a nice finish. It gives a nice hand rubbed finish to wood.