How to Make a Rag-in-a-Can Oiler

Note: Some oils spontaneously combust, see Paul’s blog post here, do not use these in the rag-in-a-can-oiler.

Equipment Needed:

  • 230g can
  • Chisel Hammer
  • Warrington Hammer (Steel Hammer)
  • Rag- 10 inches wide, length will be determined by the width of the can and or the thickness of the material (this can be an old t-shirt or a cotton blanket)
  • Screwdriver (Flat)
  • 3-In-One Oil

Use a chisel hammer in the vise and a steel hammer to remove the sharp inside edge, make sure you are resting on the metal part of the chisel hammer, not the nylon or rubber face.

If your material has a torn edge, bring it into the centre so you have rounded edges then fold the bottom edge towards the centre too, measure against your can but this should be slightly taller than the height of your can.

Fold the ends in towards the centre and begin to roll.

Put the rolled up rag into the can, check it isn’t larger than the diameter, if it is too small, keep your wrapped up rag in the vise to keep it tight and then get some spare cotton and wrap around the existing roll to bulk it up. Keep checking the size against your can, it’s better to have it slightly too big rather than too small.

Use a screwdriver to help push the rolled up rag into the can. Leave a bit of the rag protruding as this will protect your tools from coming in contact with the edge of the can.

Use the vise to push the rag down even further.

Once you are happy with the position of the rag, soak with 3-in-One oil and leave for a day. If you use it straight away there will be too much oil, so leave it to soak in for a while.

Note: Paul hasn’t found that using the oiler on his tools affects the use of finish or glue.

Similar Posts


    1. Hi,

      Thank you for your question. I passed this on to Paul and he said:

      My mother was a seamstress for 50 years and she only ever used 3-in-1 oil. I assume that it must be similar to machine oil but have never used it.

      Kind Regards,

  1. My father told me exactly the same; don’t use anything else than sewing machine oil for the sewing machine. You may be lucky, or you may not. No reason to risk it.

  2. I am curious how much oil you should apply to the rag/can. Do you just dump in the whole container, just wet the rag with it? I don’t want to over oil the rag so it turns into a mess.

  3. I agree, Ballistol looks like a good option. It harmless to your hand skin as opposite to 3-in-1 oil (some people have sensitive skin).
    I found Ballistol on Amazon at $0.90/oz. In the retail store 3-in-1 oil is $1/oz. USA prices on June 2021.
    You can get lots of reviews on youtube.

  4. A while ago Fine Woodworking did a comprehensive test of over a dozen lubricants/preservatives for hand tools and compared their efficacy in preventing rust (as well their suitability for tool use — viscous or waxy products are not that great for tools that will be handled). CRC 3-36 was tops. 3-in-1 was fair, but not nearly as effective. I live in NY where there is high humidity in the summer, and my garage workshop is not insulated, so there are extreme temperature swings from the low 20s to the high 90s F. I’m making a rag-in-a-can oiler and am leaning on using 3-36 as I have a lot of it. It does have a petroleum smell, though. It is very inexpensive. Certain gun oils are almost, but not quite as good, and much, much more expensive. The runner up in performance was Moovit. It believe it is a Canadian product. It has less of an odor. I was disappointed by the performance results of 3-in-1. But it brings me back to my childhood and smells sooo good!

Leave a Reply