Our esteemed moderator, Mr. Lamoreaux has wisely closed the thread on beeswax linings for canteens, for surely as much as could be said about the topic (and then some) has been said. But it got me to thinking about other "Winter Projects to Improve an Impression." While hardly exhausting the topic, here are three to ponder (besides doing some reading about the period and its material culture):
1.) Re-polish your buttons and brass with a cloth dipped in water and fire ashes: Brasso is a great MODERN brass cleaner, but THEY didn't have it. They made a slurry of water and ash, then a little elbow grease did the work. The good thing about this technique (aside from it being historical) is that it doesn't stain like Brasso does: when you're finished, the excess dries and then can be brushed off. A button-polishing jig helps keep the slurry off your clothes (see below).
2.) Carve a button-polishing jig (see above): this is a handy little thing to have in your knapsack for down time. You can buy them, but they're easy to carve out of any piece of flat wood. You need a hole for the button to go through (duh!) and then a channel so you can move the button away from the hole. The jig keeps the ash & water slurry off your clothes and makes the process neater.
3.) Refinish your rifle stock: The urethane finish on most repro rifles is wrong, and fixing it doesn't involve too much work. You need to disassemble your gun, then use wood stripper to take off the old finish. There are a variety of finishes to use, but Curt has a recipe I'm particularly fond of, and I'm hoping he'll re-post it here.
4.) Hand-stitch your buttonholes: if you have a commercially-made uniform item, for example, a Jargagin Federal greatcoat, it probably has machine-stiched buttonholes. While there was a machine patented at the time for doing buttonholes, the fact of the matter is that most buttonholes were hand-stitched. Machines were too expensive, and labor was cheap. That Jarnagin coat can be made a little closer to reality if you ditch the Indian Wars large eagle buttons and use the period-correct smaller eagles, close up the buttonholes so they fit the new buttons, then hand-stitch the holes. While it won't rival a Chris Sullivan or Chris Daley Federal greatcoat, it surely turns a sow's ear into at least a faux silk purse.