Making an Oilcloth Wedge Tent

Many years ago, I went camping and discovered the importance of waterproofing ones tent.  While you can buy spray-on waterproofing chemicals, I like doing it the old-fashioned way.  When tents were made of cloth, the waterproofing process turned the material into oilcloth, which was rainproof.  The following steps below are easy to follow and can be used to give life to old canvas tents.


1 King-Sized sheet with a 250 thread count, pre-washed

2 quarts linseed oil

1 quart paint thinner


Unused paint stir stick

Iron oxide, optional

Old clothes and rubber gloves

Clothes lines

Needle and thread


  1. Pull out the hem on the king-sized sheet.
  2. Mix the 2 quarts of linseed oil and 1 quart paint thinner in a bucket.  Add a small amount of iron oxide to the mixture.  The iron oxide is optional since it only adds color.
  3. Dip the king-sized sheet in the bucket with the mixture.  Turn the fabric over and over until it is completely saturated with the linseed oil/paint thinner combination.
  4. Hang sheet over one line of the clothes line to dry.  This approach will allow the fabric to drip evenly, which means a better coverage.  The drying process will take a week or longer.
  5. After the fabric has dried, add a hand-sewn hem to each end.

Note:  Mixing this concoction is very mess so wear old clothing and gloves through the process.

A great use for this oilcloth is in the building of a wedge tent.  To create your own wedge tent is easy and requires very few items.  You will need three long branches.  Two of these branches need to be the same length with the third being much longer.  Once you have these branches, the next step is to create the tent’s frame.  Begin by tying the branches together at the top.  You are looking to create a teepee shape.  The longest branch will go out the back with the two shorter branches creating the frame for the front of the tent.  Next, fold the sheet in half so that the opposite corners meet or you form a triangle.  Carry this over to the frame and lay out one triangle on the ground and the peak of the other triangle drape over the longest branch.  Stake down each corner of the triangle to the ground using tent stakes or branches and then adjust the shape of the tent.  Once this is done, you have cover from above and below with the natural forming ground cloth and tent shade. 

Tear down of this tent is just as easy and allows you to roll up your bedding and tent material together for easy packing and/or transport.  Do not worry about taking your “tent ‘poles” with you, these are easily found in nature.