Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

I've been contacted by someone who found what they believed was a pre-Lava Wave device, possibly a product made by the patent owners. Having seen the patent and the photos, I think they're correct: this may be one of the, if not THE, earliest produced Wave displays!

The patent is no. 3,613,264, filed Oct. 63, 1969 and granted Oct. 19, 1971, to Mssrs. Joseph A. Vitka and James D. Murphy, assignors to Motionetics, Inc. of Endicott, NY. The patent details the Wave cell with which we're familiar, and places it in a long rectangular base. The motion is created in a different way that we're used to: there's the usual offset pivot, but a motor drives a rotaing wedge, and the alternating high and low of its edge raises and lowers the vessel. I suspect this was a friction-heavy arrangement that put a lot of wear on the motor, hence the produced version using the revolving eccentric cam we're used to seeing. The patent also includes the bubble trap in one end cap, and says that this is some sort of safe-expansion device for changes in pressure.

The actual unit seems to have been produced by Motionetics, it carries that label. The base is a rectangular routed piece of wood, open straight through top-to-bottom, with a chunk removed where the motor mounts with a bent segment of steel plate. There is also a metal crossbar which acts as the pivot, and the vessel has a rider to rest on this, which is glued to the bottom surface. The Wave vessel's caps are larger and more square than later versions, and the wave liquid is nearly clear, probably from age and/or sun exposure. One cap has a notch which fits around the fill plug. The 8-RPM motor is dated 1969 and the label says, "Patent Pending," so I suspect this was manufactured before 1971. Who knows how long these were produced, or how and when Lava ended up taking over.

Some photos would probably help. Here is the complete "The Wave" by Motionetics, Inc.

Base from the top. This side has a U-shaped cross-section, since the ends of the Wave vessel dip below its upper edge. The pivot rod has plastic washers at either end to keep the vessel centered so it doesn't rub the wood sides and derail itself.

Base from the bottom. Quite the complex piece of woodwork, but with a really simple exterior.

Here's a close-up of the cover on the back of the motor.

And a shot of the plastic pivot rider.

This is the fill plug, with the cap notched to fit around it, presumably to hide it from view when seen from the front, very clever.

Aaand, last but not least, that wonderful vintage label! Dare you to find another of these.

In my opinion, this device is one of the coolest recent finds; an item so rare, no one even knew they existed!

The owner found this at an estate sale. They're interested in selling it, but I don't believe they're thinking "gold mine"; they're interested in seeing it go to someone who understands what it is and who values it as a rare historical beginning to a much-loved Lava Brand product. They'll be creating an account very soon and adding their comments here.

I hope you enjoy the eye candy as much as I did. If I could pay a good price, I'd love to own this thing, but I think there are several people here on OG who probably deserve it more and can give it the place of honor it deserves.

~ Jonas

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Speechless... @_@

I think your place is a place of honor, Jonas. Your house is like a museum.

I hope they at least get a grand for that...

I don't know what they'll get, and whether it'll be sold privately, or on eBay. Thanks for the vote, Loren - I do try for a museum theme.I collect anything I think is cool, not just Lava.

I have only one Wave remaining, a rare test model from the 90s with yellow waves under a pink sky, which I have on a Soundwave base instead of the original Adriatic base. My others died a sad evaporative death via years spent in a storage unit. But if I had this thing, better believe I'd make a place just for it!!

How freakin cool!  It does look like the vessel from my vintage wave, but the wooden base absolutely takes this one right over the top.  It looks to be in amazing condition as well.

That is verry cool, how much does it have to do with the waves that came next was this somthing that inspired them or was it compleatly unknown.

What I want to know is about the formular and how it looks when on as it looks verry diffrent from the newer waves.

That. Is. Awesome. 

Hopefully the owner will be along shortly. I have hopes of a video of this device doing its thing, too. The patent lists the liquids as water containing a small amount of alcohol, and mineral oil containing a small amount of Freon. I broke a Wave once (a chrome Caribbean - I was ten, awful experience*) and the contents had a very petroleum-like odor.

*I feel worse now for the maids who had to figure out how to clean it up. I took it on vacation. Our motel room had a small TV on a pole with a legged foot, and I set the Wave atop the TV. When my father yanked the knob to switch it on, the vessel tipped right over, dropped about four feet, landed squarely across one of the legs and snapped in two, dumping the smelly, blue contents all over the carpet. I don't remember what we did about it, but it STANK.

wow...love the wooden base! do you think there is any way to recolor it? (please excuse my wave machine ignorance lol :P)

As I understand it, there was a special process for inserting the fill plug. I tried to remove one carefully from an already-broken wave cell I had, and it just cracked the acrylic. I think this one is best left as-is and the fading considered part of the charm.

Couldn't agree more Jonas. 

Jonas Clark-Elliott said:

I think this one is best left as-is and the fading considered part of the charm.

I'll second that. I think it looks very cool just as it is...who else is going to have a clear/clear wave machine? It's not worth risking a break just to add some dye, I don't think.

Jonas Clark-Elliott said:

I think this one is best left as-is and the fading considered part of the charm.

I've occasionally seen late 70s Lava-Simplex Wave Machines with the blue liquid faded to clear.

Also of note: the first Lava Wave Machine, also just called "The Wave," did not use a pivot and an eccentric cam. I don't know how the inner mechanics are arranged, but the vessel rests across two T-shaped bars which extend out of holes on opposite ends of the top surface of the base. These rise and fall in opposition to tilt the vessel. One OG member, I'm sorry I forget who, has one - it has matte silver (not chrome) end caps and a matching flared base similar to, but not exactly like, the later Caribbean model.

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