Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

I feel like I'm doing something way off with every batch I try to mix and make for my DIY lamps. I typically mix three bottles at a time with wax and fluid, since the last time I tried reusing leftover mixed lava wax, it wouldn't sink in pure distilled water indicating it was somehow losing density. I've had a lot of issues getting decent flow and lately anything to balance and flow at all. Last six bottles (two runs) seem to be duds and I'm trying not to get too frustrated with the process.

Any help I can get from fellow gooheads is greatly appreciated.

I'll provide my measurements from my notes from the last good trio I mixed back in April:

Fluid- 70/30 of distilled water/PG

Surf: ~2-2.5mL SLS per 750mL bottle (1.5mL for ~2000mL of fluid in the jug, 1mL per bottle prior to adding wax, 1mL when adding fluid to the bottle)

Wax: (mixed for three bottles)

225g Paraffin (6 Parts)

5 parts Brakleen

1 part Liquid Paraffin

I mix the 5:1 in a jar and from the successful run, I did a drip test and found I needed to add another 75g or so to the 550g of wax and perc/LP to get it so sink in water when melted.

My main guess is this is part of my issue with these and I should stick with the 5:1 only and just add PG or distilled water to affect the balance of the fluid only.

Used home depot stainless steel extension springs for the coils on the successful run. They're good for awhile but eventually corrode a bit.

I typically start at 400mL of fluid in each bottle since the fluid starts at a 7/3 mix, making 40mL equal to adding another 'part' of one or another. Notes reflect from balancing the one good trio batch I did a few months back that each needed at least another part of PG added to the fluid to help the wax flow. I ended up adding two extra parts of PG in each and they all three worked well for a start.

I did later end up re-balancing one of the ones I kept since the wax tended to end up at the top after not very much time at operating temperature. I just dripped more of the 5:1 perc/LP into the melted wax until at flowed downwards and stopped for awhile. That lamp works excellent.

After replicating the recipe two weeks ago, I found that not any of the 3 bottles want to flow and the wax sits on top of the coil without really sinking onto it. I did add a lot of SLS on that run since I was concerned about stickage as well as a tiny amount of white oil paint to the wax for better opacity, which I wasn't sure if that affected it.

Two nights ago, I remixed a new batch of fluid and wax and so far, all three bottles do spike on warm up, but the wax never leaves the bottom. It does bulge upwards which is promising. Added the second 40mL of PG to one of the three and have been remotely monitoring it today. Same thing. Spikes and wax stays a the bottom. I'm hoping that it's just a matter of adding no more than one final part of 40mL to get to balance, but I'm not optimistic.

If anyone knows what I might be getting wrong whether my wax is too dense, the fluid too light, too much surfactant, crappy coils, or the fact that I'm batch mixing wax to make 3 lamps at a time, let me know.

Also interested in what other people do for disposal of wax/fluid. For now I just have an empty PG jug that is the 'graveyard' for my bad fluid. Not sure what to do with the out of range wax yet.

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I've been weighing my wax, mineral oil, and perc and writing everything down and calculating my percentages. Ive found that with the relatively small amounts of material being used, even a small deviation in the recipe will change the behavior drastically. For example I usually start with about 150 grams of paraffin and start calculating how much perc and mineral oil I need based off of an exact weight of the paraffin I'm using. If I swing the paraffin/perc ratio by 2% in favor of the paraffin it will become too light. 2% in favor of perc and it becomes too heavy. Once I perfect the ratios I will post them. Hopefully with exact measurements.

it's very precise and in my opinion a lot of luck. i've attempted probably like 10 lamps at this point and have only gotten good flow out of two of them.

i will say one trick is to mix a wax that is going to be too heavy. you can always add more stuff to the water to make it denser, but if the wax floats in pure distilled water there is nothing you can do to adjust the water and you will have to start over with the wax. i figure that since i am going to be off in my measurements every single batch i make it is better to be off in that i added too much perc rather than not enough.

another thing that you can try is mix two test jars of liquid: one pure distilled water and one the heaviest fluid you am willing to use (in my case something like 85% water and 15% glycerin). after mixing the wax and letting it harden take a sample and drop it into both liquids. if it sinks in the pure water and floats in the other one you'll know that it is a viable wax because the appropriate fluid lies somewhere between the two extremes. if it doesn't then you just have to add more perc or wax and try again.

Hmm. I like the two jar test idea. I'll have to test it with some of my troublesome bottles. I might be able to make a tool that can remove a 'core' of wax out of the bottle without me having to melt the wax and drain my globe out for this.

tim said:

it's very precise and in my opinion a lot of luck. i've attempted probably like 10 lamps at this point and have only gotten good flow out of two of them.

i will say one trick is to mix a wax that is going to be too heavy. you can always add more stuff to the water to make it denser, but if the wax floats in pure distilled water there is nothing you can do to adjust the water and you will have to start over with the wax. i figure that since i am going to be off in my measurements every single batch i make it is better to be off in that i added too much perc rather than not enough.

another thing that you can try is mix two test jars of liquid: one pure distilled water and one the heaviest fluid you am willing to use (in my case something like 85% water and 15% glycerin). after mixing the wax and letting it harden take a sample and drop it into both liquids. if it sinks in the pure water and floats in the other one you'll know that it is a viable wax because the appropriate fluid lies somewhere between the two extremes. if it doesn't then you just have to add more perc or wax and try again.

Welcome to our world !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

to perfect our recipe, Kari has done over 1000+++  150ml tests batches over the last year
We have several large (5 last count?) gallon ICE Cream buckets filled with failed tests batches

With PERC, you're not going to get a good flow (if any) with just distilled water,
You need to adjust the fluid density

the PERC density effects will not last (especially if overheated when mixing)


Also bear in mind that PG is an emulsifier, and will soften the wax for flow (a good thing)
But,...Use too much and it will go cloudy

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one feeling like I'm spinning my wheels out here.

How do you do such a small test? Mini sized coil, bottle and stand?

17" / 32oz globes, then a 16.3/52oz

we are back in stock with replacement lava wax
Flow is pretty good and overheating has been addressed
took @dozemn mods to our recipe to get it right when upscaled
it is a delicate balance

ONE SHOTGLASS full of hi-temp wax per 5 gal batch will toss the formula off

Claude J said:

17" / 32oz globes, then a 16.3/52oz

After finding a coil that seemed to play nicely with my wax, I can now say had repeated success with my recipe. :)

I've balanced 6 lamp bottles to flow pretty nicely over the past two weeks. Only issues I've had were from one of the bottles I tested with a tiny dab of oil paint in the wax. Makes a chalky looking film on the wax once melted and eventually clouds my fluid every time. Also not a great look with dark colored lava.

I think 90% of the balancing issues I was having over the past several months were from bad coil / wax adhesion. With a working coil, it's a LOT easier to get them right and I have a lot more confidence making these.

Sane here

Been acid soaking them

Mattgyver92 said:

After finding a coil that seemed to play nicely with my wax, I can now say had repeated success with my recipe. :)

I've balanced 6 lamp bottles to flow pretty nicely over the past two weeks. Only issues I've had were from one of the bottles I tested with a tiny dab of oil paint in the wax. Makes a chalky looking film on the wax once melted and eventually clouds my fluid every time. Also not a great look with dark colored lava.

I think 90% of the balancing issues I was having over the past several months were from bad coil / wax adhesion. With a working coil, it's a LOT easier to get them right and I have a lot more confidence making these.

I usually get frustrated and end up buying a bunch of Claude's wax. I have 2 globes running my own recipe and it took weeks to get them right. Weighing everything and writing it all down and storing vats of bad batches. That's the routine.

I have found that often my problem was not to be patient enough. when filling the masterfluid into the bottle small air bubble sometimes get trapped especially with high density MF for metallic/glitterball lamps but it also happens with normal MF. When adding the wax too early those bubbles get caught under the wax and prevent it from sinking. Even if the balance is right there are ways to screw up and have the wax just sitting at the top of the bottle. Sometimes when adding the wax air bubbles get stuck at the wax even if I waited for the bubble in the MF to rise and disapear before.

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