painters drop cloth or canvas
2 quarts of linseed oil
1 or 2 tubes
of lamp black
1. Pour linseed oil into bucket. Now apply the lamp black.
(Lamp black may be sold in two ways. One was little tubes of near liquid consistency. If you get these it takes two complete
little tubes for 2 quarts of linseed oil. The other kind is in the form of paste or powder which can be found in art supply
stores. Keep adding this until the mixture is a very dark black. The material will have to be mashed up with you stir stick
in order to disperse it.) Finally add just a splash of Japan dryer. A splash is measured by pouring it in for 3 to 4 seconds.
This helps in the drying process, so it is not totally necessary.
2. Mix ingredients together by using the stir stick. Remember to always mash
the lamp black so it
disperses. The ready color should be a very dark black.
3. The cloth should have been hemmed
on the edges. In some documentation the top and bottoms were left un-hemmed. The dimensions can vary but a "standard" is 3x6.
4. Hang the cloth in a very well ventilated area, like outside. The more
oxygen the oil gets the faster it dries. Hang the cloth and begin to paint on the mixture. When you apply the "paint" make
sure the cloth is so dark you can not see through is. If you are using the paste lamp black the best way to achieve this is
by scraping the bottom of the bucket with the paintbrush. The paste lampblack sinks to the bottom when it all has not been
5. Once you have applied the first coat it is now time to add a second one.
This is done mostly to darken up the cloth. Remember to try to make it as dark as you can.
6. Now let the cloth dry. Leave it outside no matter what. The rain will
not hurt it because after all it is oil. The drying time will vary anywhere from 3-5 days to 3-5 weeks. The higher the humidity
the greater the drying time.
7. Mid way through the drying process you can add a second coat. The author
just applies all of the 2 quarts in the first coat and the cloth stays waterproof for two years. Over time you will have to
add more oil. This can be done by adding plain linseed oil with maybe a little Japan dryer to speed the drying process.
8. Finally, if you wish to add small 1/4" grommets or sew button hole to
edge it is up to you.
You can make a cloth with no black added. All the procedures
are followed except for the lampblack steps.
The earliest documentation the author found on the oilcloths is from James
E. Hall's diary of Co. H, 31 st Virginian Infantry. After retreating from Phillippi in June of'61 at Huttonsville, (West)
Virginia he writes he was sent an oilcloth from home. In my opinion these items were much more common than thought and stated.
In the east they were probably for the most part items sent from home and not from the Depots.
From: Mountain Rifles Mess