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.


  1. Umut on 5 January 2020 at 8:42 pm

    What is your opinion regarding using sew machine oil vs 3-in-1? Thank you

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 7 January 2020 at 3:46 pm


      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,

  2. Tim Doran on 14 January 2020 at 6:21 am

    Sewing machine oil is very light. When I bought a bottle it was more expensive than 3 in 1 too. I would save the sewing machine oil for sewing.
    Izzy’s mum got away with using 3 in 1 but I have heard it is too thick for the moving parts of a sewing machine.

  3. Thomas Hverring on 24 June 2020 at 12:00 am

    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.

  4. davemd66 on 25 January 2021 at 8:44 pm

    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.

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 4 February 2021 at 3:12 pm


      Paul says:
      In the beginning of use the oil rapidly disappears into the rag and so you need to keep topping up with plenty of oil. Eventually, a week or so between soakings will work.


  5. Byron Stephen Wiseman on 8 February 2021 at 3:37 pm

    I have a thin airline blanket but its most likely synthetic. Will this work or better to use 100% cotton?

    Many Thanks,

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 14 April 2021 at 8:43 am

      Hi Steve,

      Paul says:
      I really don’t know as I haven’t tried this.


  6. Ryein Mukasa on 23 February 2021 at 1:53 am

    Out of curiosity… Would gun oil (oil used to lubricate firearms) work? I have about a half gallon of it that will last me the rest of my life.

  7. Slav Kochepasov on 15 June 2021 at 7:38 pm

    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.

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