DIY: Make a Waxed Canvas Camera Bag on the Cheap


Looking to put together a sexy camera bag? Already have a messenger bag you want to carry your camera in? Love the look and feel of waxed canvas bags but don’t want to fork over the money to buy one new? This tutorial is for you!

First, you’ll need to turn an ordinary messenger bag into a camera bag. It’s pretty simple: buy a bag, buy a camera bag insert, put the insert into the bag, and voilà!



Once you have your camera messenger bag, you’ll need to wax it. You’ll need:

  • Your bag (obviously)
  • A double boiler. I recommend NOT using one intended for kitchen use — it can be a mess to clean. Rig one out of old pans, coffee cans, or whatever you may have around. I used two old, aluminum camping pots that I had sitting in the basement.
  • Wax. Many places recommend a blended mixture of paraffin and bee’s wax, but I used straight paraffin, and it seems to have turned out fine. You can pick up a pound box of paraffin wax in the canning section of Walmart or your local grocery store. You shouldn’t need more than one or two of the included wax bars.
  • A brush. I recommend a bristle brush between 1/2″ and 1″…up to 1-1/2″. Any smaller and it would take to long; much larger, and it would be too unwieldy and messy. I used a half-inch artistic brush I had sitting around.

How To


Here’s how to wax your canvas bag and make it water-resistent and durable:

  1. Put some water in the bottom portion of your double boiler and place it on your stove on HIGH (to get it boiling faster). As the water boils, add a bar or two of wax to the upper portion of your double boiler, and allow it to melt.
  2. Once the wax has started to melt, dip your brush into it, and begin painting all surfaces of your bag, paying special attention to the seams and bottom of the bag. Maybe coat the bottom a little extra well as this i the area that will be taking the brunt of the wear. Allow was to cool…it will become caked and hardened, but that is okay.
  3. Put your canvas bag into an old pillow case, and tie off the end. (This keeps the wax from getting all over the place.) Then, put it in the dryer on HIGH for about 15 to 30 minutes. This allows the wax to be evenly melted into the fabric. You can also use a hair dryer (much more of a pain with this amount of wax, but possible) or a heat gun (a bit overkill).


When your bag is finished in the dryer, pull it out and allow it to cool down. It will harden because of the wax between the fibers…this is to be expected. You can now use it as it is, work the fabric to break it in and soften it a bit, or give it another application or two of wax.

Here’s a video version of the above tutorial:

About the author: Allen Mowery is a photographer based in Central Pennsylvania. Visit his website here for more DIY goodness. This post was originally published here.

  • Dave

    Looks like a great project… after sitting in front of the computer all day, it’s nice to have projects to look forward to. I’m not a fan of camera bags with labels all over telling us they are camera bags, this project is much more appealing. Especially if if we use different configuration inserts at different times, one for flash/body/primes/wide, another set for tele/body/tc’s/grip/midrange, and perhaps one more for all the small camera gear for travel. I looked up the messenger bag, it’s $20 on ebay… they also have a nice sling type backpack that’s a little bit bigger, which may work well also. Item 110870017268 on ebay, one featured is item 110809939905.

  • J.L.

    What bag is that?

  • Scott M

    Linseed oil will work better but takes longer to dry. The original “oil cloth” is canvas treated with linseed oil aka flaxseed oil. Will last forever.

  • Sid Ceaser

    Thank goodness for camera inserts, eh? I recently wanted a more “vintage” looking bag to go along with my Hasselblad kit, and ended up getting a really nice leather satchel bag at a renaissance faire. I ordered the Tenba grey insert and it fit like a glove in the bag. Now whenever I want to grab the Hassy kit, I just slide out the insert with the kit from my shelf and drop it in the bag. Easy peasy, and looks gorgeous.

  • Allen Mowery

    Hey, Scott, thanks for the input! I’ve actually been toying with the idea of giving linseed oil a try. Might have to post my results if I give it a shot…

  • Allen Mowery

    Hey, thanks for the eBay item numbers! I had never been able to locate a bag similar to mine online and simply assumed it was some knock-off of a fake brand (double faking). I really like the backpack and might have to give that a try for a camera accessory project.

  • Allen Mowery

    @twitter-16261019:disqus: Awesome bag…AND camera! Getting kinda jealous here… :-)

  • Gregory Roberts

    Please understand the risks of using linseed oil on combustible fabrics. Just Google “linseed oil combustion” to see what can very easily happen. Please do not accidentally burn down your house.

  • Sean Lucky

    That was a great tutorial, thanks for posting! I really like that bag, and already actually own the Tenba messenger back that the insert comes from (hopefully it’s the right size). Do you have any experience doing this process on the darker fabric? I think that’s the one I want to get.

  • Sid Ceaser

    Here is a fantastic 50 page thread from Photography-on-the-net talking about this very thing; making your own afforadble DIY camera bag. There is some great info here:

  • Allen Mowery

    @facebook-532595537:disqus: I actually tried it on a black canvas backpack that I have used off and on for more than a decade. The material was still good, but the color was starting to gray a bit. I rubbed cold wax (straight from the bar) onto the backpack and then melted it with a hair dryer. The color became a rich black again with subtle character tones that were better than when it was new! However, while the backpack was water-resistent to a degree, in the end it didn’t possess the total water-resistance I had initially hoped for (although a thicker application probably could have remedied that to a greater degree).

  • Allen Mowery

    @google-3e6f30e19417e2ddc3a98cb11ca4ccb0:disqus: I actually thought about picking up some linseed oil from our local Walmart yesterday, but, after opening the container and sampling it a bit (a couple drops on the fingers), there is no way I would want to use it on a camera bag. Unlike the wax which is solid when cool, the linseed oil is just that…oil…a liquid at room temperature. I didn’t like the way it felt, and I didn’t like the never-drying greasy mess I was envisioning as the final product…especially when smeared all over lenses and camera bodies.

  • Sid Ceaser

    Thanks. But you did a darn fine job with your bag. I’ve got quite a few shoulder bags (tiny bit of a shoulder bag junkie) and the Tenba insert is a godsend. I can turn any of these bags into a nice camera bag that doesn’t scream “camera bag”. That leather bag was quite a bit more than the $20 you paid for yours, but I figured that the Hasselblad deserved a little pampering. Plus, it doubles as my day-to-day bag as well.

  • Dave
  • Slvrscoobie

    I literally got the inserts today to do this. Had not thought about waxing it though

  • Adam Roger Kearley

    If someone has no choice but to use a double boiler meant for food, it’s a good thing to keep in mind that the easiest way to remove wax from any non porous surface is to put it in the freezer.

  • Johnny

    Hey Allen, how did your bag hold up after one application? Did you end up doing a 2nd?

    I used this method on a pair of jean shorts today and the results are pretty awesome. I plan to wax a full pair of jeans and a jean jacket, but wanted to test it on a pair of shorts first. As of right now, I’m pretty excited about the outcome.

    I’m curious to know how long it lasted on your bag and if you’ve done any more experimenting and would offer any more waxing tips?


  • Susy Oviedo

    Hi Allen,
    Just wondering, does the pillowcase fully protect the dryer? I’m a little nervous trying this method, since we are renting. Thanks!

  • Kathy Dodd

    I’m doing this project today and going to use 2 pillowcases that I picked up at wal-mart. I have a nice dryer that I don’t want to mess up!