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Thread: Painted Cloth Receipt

  1. #1
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    Default Painted Cloth Receipt

    Here recently Geocities closed a number of websites. One of the lost linkages was the old Olathe Union Guard site, with a number of well researched articles by Jack Cox.

    I contacted Jack Cox, received his electronic copy of the article, and am posting the text here.

    Shortly, I'll forward the files of this and other Cox articles to several folks with active sites so they can be properly disseminated with Jack's blessing. Too often we must reinvent the wheel in the this hobby--in this case, it won't be necessary.

    Jack left the active end of the hobby several years ago, but has continued as a moderator and contributor for the Off Topic Boys forum. When he disposed of his gear, many reenactors, both young and experienced, benefited from his amazing generosity. The last of his plunder, cloth, hand sewing thread, buckles, polished cotton, canton flannel, and other things you just cannot get anymore, has continued to land in great boxes on my doorstep, each one a new Christmas gift.

    Jack is in the process of packing up his life for one more foreign deployment before he retires, this time to Italy. We wish him well, and thank him for his countless hours of research in the hobby.

    Oilcloth and Painted Accouterments
    by Jack Cox


    “Painting” was a 1800’s method of waterproofing cloth for such items as knapsacks, haversacks, belts, cartridge boxes and ground cloths. Properly done, the fabric does become very waterproof, but retains its flexibility.
    There are many different recipes for both "period accurate" oilcloth and for a modern version that looks the same, but without some of the problems of the 1850's recipe. The paint is generally applied over cotton drill or linen canvas.
    The instructions below discuss the making of ground cloths, but the same procedure applies to all painted goods.

    Modern Recipe:
    While this recipe is obviously not authentic, it produces the same look and feel as the original methods. The final product looks, feels and wears as close to the original as most of us can approximate today. However, you need to make a decision as to whether you want to "fake it" with a modern approximation when a good period recipe is available.
    Materials: Wallpaper sizing. Get it pre-mixed and ready to use. Flat black or semi-gloss interior latex paint *** Boiled linseed oil Mineral spirits paint thinner Japan dryer
    (All of these materials are available at any good paint store)
    Method:
    1. Using a roller, paint both sides of the cloth with the wallpaper sizing and let it dry. It should take an hour or less. The sizing will prevent the paint from soaking the cloth, and it will give it some "tooth" for paint adhesion.
    2. Using a roller, paint one side of the cloth with the black latex paint. Let it dry overnight.
    3. Mix 2 parts of mineral spirits with 1 part boiled linseed oil. Add Japan dryer. Use 1 oz. (2 tablespoons) per pint of paint.
    4. With a brush, paint the sized side of the cloth with the linseed oil mix. Let it dry. This may take several days, depending on temperature and humidity. It's NOT wise to let it dry in the house.
    5. Paint on two additional coats of the linseed oil mix. Let it dry between coats.
    *** There is a variation of this recipe that works very well also. Instead of using plain latex paint, mix 2 parts of latex paint with one part of boiled linseed oil. Stir it thoroughly, then follow the instructions above.


    Period Recipe:
    This recipe is an approximation, since the original recipe specified "litharge," or lead monoxide (PbO) which is extremely poisonous.
    Bright Idea: Leave out the lampblack, and you have a recipe for a nice civilian waterproof cloth.
    I strongly recommend this recipe because it is about as authentic as you can get without putting life and limb in danger.
    Materials: Boiled linseed oil Mineral spirits paint thinner (or turpentine) Lampblack (comes in tubes or dry powder) Japan dryer Corn starch
    Method:
    1. Make a sizing by boiling about a quart of water and adding cornstarch mixed in cold water until the mixture becomes a little syrupy.
    2. Paint the cloth with the cornstarch sizing and let dry.
    3. Mix one part of boiled linseed oil with one part of mineral spirits. Add lamp black until the paint is a very opaque black. Add one oz. (2 tbsp) of Japan dryer per pint.
    4. With a brush, paint the cloth with the blackened linseed oil and let dry. This can take several days.
    5. Mix one part of boiled linseed oil with two parts of mineral spirits. Add one oz. of Japan dryer per pint.
    6. With a brush, paint the cloth with the clear linseed oil mixture and let it dry. This can also take several days. Two coats of this mixture should give the results you want.
    (You can omit the cornstarch sizing if you want, but the oil-based paint will pretty much soak the cloth.)

    Confederate Ordnance Manual Recipe:
    There is a recipe from the 1863 Confederate Ordinance manual which I have not tried. Use at your own risk.
    Materials: 28 Parts lampblack 1 Part Japan varnish 73 Parts boiled Linseed oil 1 Part spirits of turpentine 1 Part litharge (substitute Japan Dryer for this.
    Litharge is lead monoxide, and is very poisonous.)
    Method:
    1. Mix the ingredients, using 1 oz. (2 tbsp) of Japan dryer per quart of paint.
    2. If you don't want the paint to totally soak the cloth, size it with cornstarch as in the period recipe above.
    3. Apply 2-3 coats until the desired sheen is obtained.
    Turpentine-base Recipe
    This recipe comes from "Young's Demonstrative Translation of Scientific Secrets - 1861." This recipe will sound familiar in materials and proportion, but uses turpentine instead of mineral spirits for a thinner. Hazard Warning: The recipe uses litharge*** (poison hazard) and the mixture is boiled (fire hazard).

    I DO NOT RECOMMEND OR ENDORSE USING THIS RECIPE.
    Materials: 1 pint of spirits of turpentine 1 to 1 1/2 pints of linseed oil 1 lb litharge
    Method:
    1. Combine all materials in a large metal bucket. Litharge reacts strongly to aluminum and zinc. Do not use an aluminum or zinc coated vessel.
    2. Boil and stir until thoroughly mixed and dissolved.
    3. Paint on the cloth.
    4. Let dry in the sun.
    This recipe will give a clear to reddish or yellowish color, depending upon the base color of the litharge. The first coats could be tinted with lamp black to make a glossy painted oilcloth.
    *** Safety data (MSDS) for litharge

    __________________
    Mrs. Lawson
    Weaver, Spinster, Strong Fast Dyes
    Knitted Goods and yarns available thlawson@bellsouth.net



    Moderator, When I remember. We got Rules here!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Port Wentworth, GA
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    Default Ms Lawson

    Thank you for posting that. Some friends and I have been discussing these reciepts and starting to do more painted canvas research and items.. this is a great benefit , and I am glad it is out there... Thank you... and thank you to Mr. Cox for letting us reap the benifits of his work and of his knowledge..
    Bobby Hughes
    Co A, 2nd Battalion Ga Sharpshooters/64th Illinois Vol Infantry "Yates' Sharpshooters"
    Savannah Republican Blues
    Co C, 3rd US Infantry
    Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum & William Scarbrough House, Savannah, GA


    "I hope to live long enough to see my surviving comrades march side by side with the Union veterans along Pennsylvania Avenue, and then I will die happy." - James Longstreet at a Memorial Day Parade in 1902.

  3. #3
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    I thought I'd seen everything in Gettysburg until 3/4/07
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    Talking

    "Receipt"

    Nice, very, very nice.
    Grumpy Rain Jonah
    visit us:
    http://www.thecommonground.proboards.com/
    "This cowardly traitor state, secure from harm, as she thought, in her central position, with hellish haste dragged her Southern sisters into the caldron of secession. Little did she dream that the hated flag would again wave over her soil, but this bright morning a thousand Union banners are floating in the breeze....” W.T. Sherman

  4. #4
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    Feb 2006
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    Default

    Thank you, Mrs. Lawson, for saving that bit of information.

    As one who has made groundcloths, two bits of caution:

    The heavier the fabric, the heavier it's going to be: You might think a painted groud cloth would be lighter than a gum blanket, that's what I thought. But only if you use a light cotton drill. Almost any weight of canvas will make the durned thing a pain to carry around (guess why I don't own any of the ground cloths I made).

    Experiment, experiment, experiment: The period recipe can produce a wild variance of results. Without the right mixture, the runny mess will never dry. So experiment with some canvas or other cloth you don't care about.

    Curt will tell you that modern linseed oil (the boiled variety) has had all its hardening spirits boiled out of it, so it never really dries. If you mixture isn't just so, you'll have a sticky ground cloth.
    Bill Cross
    Treasurer, The Rowdy Pards

    'In the end, it's the history, stupid. If you can't document it, forget about it. And no amount of tomfoolery can explain away anything that makes history (and living historians) look stupid and wrong."

  5. #5
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    Default

    Some years back, we got under water for several hours on a sand shoals. When our painted floorcloths, which *never* really dry in the Deep South, were excavated the next day, the sticky aspect of the finish was gone.

    In one of the fine boxes of plunder Jack sent me, there was a well made but sticky painted cloth belt. I buried it in sand in a sunny location for a couple of days, pulled it out and brushed the sand off. The feller who got that free belt has not issued nary a complaint.





    Oh and Grump----You're welcome. My cousins did not batt an eye when I sent out copies of Mama's Christmas Candy Receipts here lately. That word useage form is still in active use around here.
    Mrs. Lawson
    Weaver, Spinster, Strong Fast Dyes
    Knitted Goods and yarns available thlawson@bellsouth.net



    Moderator, When I remember. We got Rules here!



  6. #6
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    off the bottom of the scale
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    Default Jack's article on oilcloth and painted accoutrements

    http://44tennessee.tripod.com/articles//oilcloth.pdf

    I've found space on one of my free servers for the article as well as including a link from my links page.
    - Silas Tackitt

    "I consider him a humbug, a man of small capacity, very obstinate, not at all chivalrous, exceedingly conceited, and totally selfish." - - Lafayette McLaws about James Longstreet.

  7. #7
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    Default

    While this is up, I have a question:

    Was there a specific or desired size for a ground cloth? If I were 5-foot tall and rail thin, I could get away with a smaller size. If I were a 6-foot fat boy, I may need considerably more coverage.

    Were they made to fit the needs of the person, or was there a generic size?

    Yup, I am a fat boy. And yup, I am gonna try my hand at it this winter.
    Christopher Helvey


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  8. #8
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    Feb 2006
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    Wheaton, IL
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Scooby_308 View Post
    While this is up, I have a question:

    Was there a specific or desired size for a ground cloth? If I were 5-foot tall and rail thin, I could get away with a smaller size. If I were a 6-foot fat boy, I may need considerably more coverage.

    Were they made to fit the needs of the person, or was there a generic size?

    Yup, I am a fat boy. And yup, I am gonna try my hand at it this winter.
    I've read where they've cut stuff up to reduce the size or 'share' with a comrade...blanket, rubber blanket..... and read where tall soldier's stuck their feet out of the shelter tent and either covered them 'outdoors' with a rubber blanket or they got wet feet/lower legs when it rained....

    FWIW, the 6th Ohio Cavalry reenactors have a custom made approx 16' x 6' rubber/painted blanket that goes over you from neck to toe, around your feet, up your back side on the ground, around and over your head and face, and overlaps your neck. A couple of sticks to support the upper portion over your head and you have an instant flat tent/coverall, including your saddle/pillow. Worked out really well on the Morgan's Raid in the 'only 1 more mile' riverside camp site in a down pour. Kept everything dry. Roll it up and attach it to the pommel (the front part of the saddle) and off we went: 60 miles in 4 days.

    PS: now that I've lost 63 pounds since July, why don't you try your hand at eating right and exercising more this winter....it didn't kill me (yet).
    RJ Samp
    Horniste! Blas das Signal zum Angriffe!
    "But in the end, it's the history, stupid. If you can't document it, forget about it. And no amount of 'tomfoolery' can explain away conduct that in the end makes history (and living historians) look stupid and wrong. "

  9. #9
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    Default

    Military Issue comes in two sizes:

    Too Large
    and
    Too Small

    One contract documented size for a federal issue painted sheet was 46 x 71. Additionally, there are documented ways of compensating--including several men spooning up together and sharing multiple blankets and groundcloths. Big ol boys give off a lot of heat and tend to have lots of friends on a cold wet night.

    When going Confederate, and utilizing patterned floorcloths from homes, you do have a bit more leeway in size. Abner Martin is doing some well researched reproductions of such.
    Mrs. Lawson
    Weaver, Spinster, Strong Fast Dyes
    Knitted Goods and yarns available thlawson@bellsouth.net



    Moderator, When I remember. We got Rules here!



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Fleming County, KY.
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by RJSamp View Post
    I've read where they've cut stuff up to reduce the size or 'share' with a comrade...blanket, rubber blanket..... and read where tall soldier's stuck their feet out of the shelter tent and either covered them 'outdoors' with a rubber blanket or they got wet feet/lower legs when it rained....

    FWIW, the 6th Ohio Cavalry reenactors have a custom made approx 16' x 6' rubber/painted blanket that goes over you from neck to toe, around your feet, up your back side on the ground, around and over your head and face, and overlaps your neck. A couple of sticks to support the upper portion over your head and you have an instant flat tent/coverall, including your saddle/pillow. Worked out really well on the Morgan's Raid in the 'only 1 more mile' riverside camp site in a down pour. Kept everything dry. Roll it up and attach it to the pommel (the front part of the saddle) and off we went: 60 miles in 4 days.

    PS: now that I've lost 63 pounds since July, why don't you try your hand at eating right and exercising more this winter....it didn't kill me (yet).


    RJ,

    Lost 80 lbs, two years ago; I have put it back on over the last year while eating less! I am a firm believer that stress can do horrid things to a person. Yup, back on the diet, still working out regularly. Weight won’t budge.

    Really just wondering, was there a general size?
    Christopher Helvey


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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