How to Wax Canvas with Beeswax


I've had the idea to wax my own fabric for a while now. I've experimented with Otter brand wax, a company based in Portland, on some hemp canvas that I hand dyed. Here's one of the mini backpacks that resulted:

and here's a little video of hand waxing that hemp canvas:

Although Otter brand wax is all natural I wanted to experiment with only beeswax. Pretty much everything I've researched has you combining beeswax with a petroleum based product. I've read that bees-waxed fabric is just as durable as other waxed fabric and I thought to try out a small swatch of fabric as an experiment. I found some beeswax at the local wholefoods store, Everybody's. If you don't have local beeswax to work with you can find beeswax pellets (which melt easier) here

SUPPLIES 

  • canvas fabric
  • beeswax
  • palate knife or screw driver
  • hammer
  • newspaper
  • saucepan with water
  • glass container or aluminum (use only for beeswax from now on)
  • a wooden stirring stick (use only for beeswax from now on)
  • hot pads 
  • brush (use only for beeswax from now on)
  • hair dryer

Note: Beeswax will be difficult to remove from the containers and utensils, hence "use only for beeswax from now on". 

HOW TO

Put down newspaper or paper to protect the surface you're working on. I used printer paper since it was a small swatch of fabric. The lines are a chalk pencil. That's what I use before cutting out the pattern on fabric. I wanted to see if it would still be visible after applying wax. 

Here is the large piece of wax. 

Beeswax is quite solid and hard to break apart. I used a palate knife and a hammer. It didn't work too well (because the palate knife bends), though it was enough for a sample. In the future, I might try using a screw driver or something more durable to break off pieces. 

Place water in saucepan on stove and beeswax in glass container in the saucepan. Bring water to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Stir the wax occasionally with the stirring stick until the wax is completely melted. 

Using hot pads to protect your hands, pick up the glass container and place on a hot pad close to your work surface. Use a brush to paint the beeswax on to the canvas as even as possible. Use up and down and side to side motions. It didn't turn out that even for me because the brush was too big for the glass opening so I poured the wax. Tip: use a brush that fits in the beeswax container. I ended up having to pour the wax so the result is quite uneven. 

Use a hair dryer close to the fabric to remelt the beeswax. This will help the wax penetrate into the fabric, creating a water resistant seal.

THE RESULTS

The wax is kind of uneven. You can see why using a brush that fits into the container would be helpful. The chalk disappeared into the fabric so I know not to use it before waxing fabric. I placed water on the fabric and it soaked through a little bit. This most likely has to do with the uneven wax application. More experiments are in order!


 

 

 

 

 


2 comments


  • Ananda

    Hi Heather! That is a very good question. Yes, waxing canvas makes the fabric waterproof, but not 100%. A little research revealed that when done on an industrial scale, waxed canvas is referred to as water repellent or water resistant. I believe it’s that way so the fabric can “breathe” when worn. This has gotten me curious and I might write a blog post in the future about the history of waxed canvas. So thanks again for your question, Heather!


  • Heather

    Cool to see into the process! What is the purpose of waxing fabric, is it to make it waterproof?


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