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Follow These Simple Steps to Turn Your Old Bed Sheet into an Oil Cloth Tarp

Whether you are a re-enactor, practice bushcraft, or just looking to find a use for an old bed sheet, check out this tutorial in how to make an oil cloth tarp.

Like many people who practice bushcraft these days, I always catch myself wondering, “How did people used to do that?” It’s a question that never gets old and, as with many truly interesting questions, the answers always seem to generate more questions. It is a cycle of learning and knowledge that builds on itself. One project I recently took upon myself to learn was how to make an oil cloth tarp.

My interest in an oil cloth tarp grew out of interest in the longhunters of the late 18th century. These hardy men would trek out for months at a time with little more than the gear they could pack on their back. Today re-enactors pass on much of the information catalogued by these long gone adventurers. One skill longhunters had was the ability to make oil cloth.

While making my oil cloth tarp, I used this straight forward Youtube video for guidance.

The process is super simple and easy to follow. It does take a lot of time to allow the tarp to dry however. If you are interested in giving this project a shot, I would definitely encourage you to do so.

What I’ve noticed with my oil cloth tarp is while water resistant, it is more what I have heard dubbed “18th century water resistant.” It will keep you dry in the rain, but a certain amount of mist and moisture will find its way through. This is a very minor problem though, and the tarp would easily provide a comfortable place to sit out a rainstorm in need be.

Photo via author.

As I mentioned, answering questions like this oftentimes leads to more questions such as what tarp configurations to use, how did they make linseed oil, and so on. The best part of bushcraft is the learning, and we are fortunate to live in a society where knowledge is shared so freely.

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Follow These Simple Steps to Turn Your Old Bed Sheet into an Oil Cloth Tarp