How To Make an Oilcloth Like an 18th Century Frontier

If you have a penchant for the very retro, take a look at how to make a waterproof oilcloth for your frontier campsite.
Jessica Miley

Oilcloths were essential textiles for Americans living on the frontier in the 18th century. These cloths, also known as enameled or American cloths, were mostly linen materials coated with boiled linseed oil to make them waterproof.

The textiles could then be used as ground covers, methods for transporting materials, crude tent components and even to make garments. This featured video shows you how to make oilcloths similar to those that would have been used in the past but in a safer way. 

The video was made by Townsend, a channel dedicated to exploring 18th-century life through cooking, clothing, live history and roleplay. The host explains that back in the day oilcloths were made using a lead oxide base that is now known to be extremely poisonous.

Today, that toxic base has been replaced by a safe mix of linseed oil, turpentine or mineral spirits, and a coloring agent made from iron oxide. The result is a textile of a dark red shade. 

To create your very own oilcloth, you need to make a very primitive oil based paint. To make this paint, you need to mix each of the ingredients and ensure they are all very well combined. 

The host uses a horsehair paintbrush to painstakingly apply the paint to both sides of a cloth that is stretched out nice and tight. The textile is then allowed to dry for up to a week.