We know for a fact the Romans used leather tents. The argument can be made that they had linen too, but
the evidence says leather. That said a leather tent runs 2000-3000 dollars and many man hours to reproduce. The
Panther primitives Papilio is the right dimensions, but comes in white canvas or a "tan" color that looks just a little too
Then Leg IX had a disaster and red dye from corinthian crests messed up some tents... the result? Well they
decided they might as well paint them. Credit to Hibernicus for the testing and basic formula using the water based
Here is what we did/are doing to do our 10 tents in Legio VI.
First we Built a 2*4 Painting Jig to throw the tent over to minimize set up. If you are just doing one
tent, it may be easier just to set it up.
To the store. We went on Hib's estimate of 1 quart of stain to 3 quarts of water and it seemed to cover
well with 2-3 coats. Minwax Water Based Wood Stain, Rosewood color (a shade darker than hib's). $8.86 a quart
SKU 2742661804 Available at Lowes and True Value et al. Shake the can well before you mix it, and the use the can to
pour the water in the 5 Gallon bucket so you get all the pigment. Stir well.
Experience Note: We ultimately used 2 quarts of stain to 1 gallon water, as it took less coats to cover
well. Go 2:1 for an easier job.
We purchased a automotive spray gun (Task Force Brand) set from Lowes ($50) and we already had the compressor
to run it.
Experience Note: We used an inexpensive house sprayer on the last two tents as it painted a larger swath and
took less effort. One one tent the automotive sprayer is fine, on ten you look for better any way you can!
We used a 5 gallon bucket to mix about 2-3 cans of stain at a time. Bucket cost was about $7
Tent was set on the jig (note that the jig intentionally keeps the bottom edge of the tent off the ground, this
was so we could get the bottom edge better)
Experience Note: Let the tent sit out (set up) for a day or two before you start to let the storage wrinkles
fall out of the canvas. Better coverage and less fold lines.
We used the spray gun and plain water to mist over the tent.
Experience Note: very lightly! Allow the water to soak in 5-10 minutes so you do not get runs.
We then did the first coat. Don't panic, it looks like crap. move the spray gun back and forthslowly,
about 20-30 seconds to do one pass over the tent (NOT inlcuding the ends/Doors), and only try to cover about 6 inches per
"row". The first coat may have heavier "lines", but the second coat will kill them with a little bit of offset.
Experience Note: Keep a damp rag handy in case you get a run, just touch it lightly and it will "disappear".
sometimes if you rub too hard the dye will soak in a little deeper than the untouched areas, do not worry about this!
When it dries it just looks like leather variation. Short of spilling the bucket on the tent in one spot, there is not
a lot you can do to make it look bad!
Allow it to dry to the touch, then do a second thicker coat. When done with the thicker coat, you can again
mist with water and areas that dripped or ran to spread out the stain and avoid bad spots.
Experience Note: Bad runs that dry can be made into a darker "panel" by an extra coat of dye or two after you
do the panel lines.
Third "coat" is really more of a search for light spots. Follow it with a heavy mist coat, as the stain
is still moist enought to sink in a bit more, and the water will spread it out evenly.
Experience Note: the panther tents are very white and took more like 5 coats. Darker canves tents we made
ourselves covered in three easily. The sunforger is just a very bright canvas.
Final finish does not look perfect NOR DOES IT NEED TOO!! It does look like Dan Peterson's leather tents, which
have white spots, creases, oil spots, etc etc etc. I will experiment with brown lines later to create a panel look,
I think I can make a jig for it that will be easy to use.
Experience Note: DO THE LINES... they look awesome. In photos, you cannot tell they are not leather and
other re-enactors will walk up to look at them. No jig was neccessary, panels run about 18*18, but I intentionally made
them vary a bit.
The completed tent below is one of our $20 Uglo-papilios that we made here (got a deal on some mislabeled
canvas tarps from Harbor freight... thus the $20 price tag). You can see the rip in it that I will repair while I have
The tent in the background is a panther with waterproofing and fire resistant coatings, and has two coats.
A note here, the panther being a brighter white may take 4 coats, I think this is the one tent that used to have aftermarket
water repellent too. I will document the others as I do them.
Experience Note: Panther tents with water treatment are far harder to cover. Order untreated 10.38 ounce
sunforger. Nothing more. no fire retardent or stain resistance or water proofing. your tent will not leak.
It will swell with the dye just like it is supposed too. Trust me... it rained on us EVERYWHERE in 2008!
The inside of the tent will have to be done seperate if you want to do it. I know we use the centurio tent
as a showpiece, so it will have to be done inside and out. Double your estimates as for stain as the bleed thru is not
complete. Probably need two coats inside.
Experience Note: This was a lot of work, but the photos show how cool it looks inside. Warmer too!
Good news is you do not need to redo panel lines on the inside, as you can see them comeing thru.
I found it took more like 2 quarts of the Minwax Water based dye per tent, but I may be applying it heavier than
Leg IX did.
Experience Note: Heavier dye equals a browner tent. We did end up goining to a 2:1 water/dye ratio.
Took about 2 hours to complete the tent. (outside only)
A note on color. I think you want to use the red maple or rosewood, as the final color from those two looks
more like leather than the darker stains available. If you want to darken it up, you may mix like three quarts at a
time and make one the black walnut, but I think the redder colors look outstanding. I was surprised when I was done.
Experience Note: There was not a significant difference when we used 1 quart rosewood to 1 quart black walnut.
Mostly went back and darkened a few panels here and there after we added the lines to make them look like different leathers.
More photos to follow.