Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

Hi fellow lava lamp lovers,

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, but I thought I might share an experience I had repairing a lamp that might help someone else too.  I have looked at the repair strategies for old lamps where the lava was severely separated into two masses, one ultra-dense blob at the bottom, and a lighter mass at the top.  In severe cases, no “lava action” takes place and the two masses of lava never meet if simply allowed to run normally.  OG’s repair strategy for this problem is summed up in the “Wax Stuck at the Top of the Bottle” FAQ section of the Lava Library.  It says to run it and maybe give it a gentle swirl to try to force the two masses to interact, but if the separation is severe as described above and these strategies don’t work, the main strategy was to open the lamp, pour out most of the liquid and run the lamp so that the two masses, now in contact with each other, would mix. 

If you’re more of a purist like me, this procedure is rather unappealing and you’d prefer something less invasive.  I have a procedure that, if it hasn’t been reported anywhere else, might be helpful.  I did this procedure with the red lava/yellow liquid 1970s Century model pictured with this post.  I don’t know if it will work with more modern models and I make no personal guarantee that anyone can duplicate my success as I have only attempted this once with the lamp pictured here (none of the other lamps I’ve found had this particular problem).  I am also not sure I'd advise trying it if there is some lava motion.  This lamp had none.  In my lamp, I had to try this a couple of times to get it right.  I have not run this lamp for about 3 months, and this picture shows about 5 hours of activity after that long period of rest.  Some of you may prefer a more thorough mixing that would involve the more invasive procedure, but usually, the lava looks less clumpy and has fewer small floating blobs with subsequent use.  I can try to run it a little more often and post other pictures if you like.  I don’t call this a miracle fix, but hopefully this procedure can help someone else save another one of these beautiful lamps or come up with other strategies to help fix this and other problems too.  This process takes a little patience and a very steady hand.

Step 1:  Run the lamp so that both masses are liquefied.  You may need to help the lighter mass out a little with a hair dryer set on hot.  When both masses of lava are liquid, VERY CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY turn the globe upside-down and let the lamp cool down completely while sitting on its top.  I had the original box to do this in, but any tall narrow box will do, just make sure it’s secured so that it won’t fall over.  If it falls over while still warm, you can probably kiss the lamp goodbye.  The box will be very top-heavy when you do this and it has to be secure for a while until things solidify.  The lamp is also hot (obviously), so be careful not to burn yourself, use rubberized gloves or something similar so you have a good grip on the globe.

Step 2:  After the globe has cooled and all the lava is COMPLETELY solid, remove the globe from the box and carefully and slowly flip it back over.  If the lava is completely solidified, you’ll have the heavy mass with the coil stuck in the top by the cap and a large disk made up of the less dense material, now floating in the water, but it will not be touching the dense mass.  All lava lamp globes have a little bit of headspace, which will keep the two pieces separated.  Also, since I did this with a Century model, the tapered shape of the bottle lodged the disk a little over halfway up the side of the bottle.  For a straight bottle like a Consort, this might be a little easier to work with because the two masses will be closer together.  The goal of these steps is to force the more dense material to be above the less dense material.

Step 3:  Take a hair dryer on hot and aim it at the LESS dense disk first, to get it to begin melting.  Since there is always a little bit of headspace, you can’t simply melt it and have it contact the heavier mass.  Just wait for it to partially melt.  The surface will begin to melt first and look glossy.  It’s helpful to keep some of it solid as it will give the denser material something to land on.

Step 4: Now start moving the heating between the less dense lava disk and the BOTTOM of the more dense material.  Avoid aiming the heat at the cap because it’s the suction at the narrow bottleneck that is keeping the dense material stuck in the top of the lamp and you don’t want it to fall--yet.  As the more dense material melts, it will drip down onto the partially melted less dense lava disk and begin to mix with it.  Keep moving the heating between the less dense material and the more dense material so that the disk remains partly melted.  As the less dense disc acquires and incorporates more of the dense material, it will begin to drip off the sides of the disk and accumulate at the bottom.  This is okay.  You can rest assured that this is proper mixing because the low density disk should also be getting thinner.  This process will take some patience. 

Step 5:  At some point, the more dense material will probably begin to slip down and ultimately fall out of the top of the lamp.  When you have about half to 2/3 of the less dense disc melted into the more dense material, this is probably okay.  You may even want to make this happen by melting the rest of the heavy material by the cap.  Some heating will have taken place here anyway because you can’t direct the heating completely.  By now, when the heavy mass at the cap falls, it will likely stick to the remains of the less dense disc and draw it down to the mixed material at the bottom, which is more of the proper density.  Things should be mixed well enough now that you can run the lamp normally to mix it the rest of the way and return it to perfect working order!  If the lighter mass breaks free and floats back to the top for some reason, simply repeat from step 1 again until all of the lava is completely incorporated.  It will probably still be a little lumpy for a few days.  Most of these older lamps tend to be partially separated anyway.

A couple of notes from my experience:  1, It can be a little scary watching the dense material splash into the liquid.  You’ll see blobs swirling around from the sudden disturbance, but as you can see in my lamp, this momentary agitation did not really emulsify the lava or damage the lamp in any significant way since most of the lava was still fairly solid. 2, If the dense material at the top by the cap melts too soon, you’ll just have two large masses stuck to each other at the bottom of the lamp, one much heavier than water, and the other quite buoyant, but when you turn on the lamp and begin heating things, the lighter mass tends to break free and float back to the top at which point you have to start over.

Please feel free to ask questions about the procedure if there's something I didn't make clear.  Sadly, I did not think to take pictures of this lamp at various stages of the procedure.  I was making things up as I went along and probably made a few mistakes before settling on this procedure.

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another option would be to pop the top, bring a pot of water on stove to boil, insert globe, lower the heat, watch it carefully ( it will get hotter than 125Deg normal operation on lamp base), all the lava is floating and any bubbles removed, shut off the heat, then let cool naturally.

You know I could have tried both on my centuries as either probably would have worked but I just don't have the patience to do so lol.

you sdhould of, that goo flows nicely and not in bubbles when properly working
kero48 said:

You know I could have tried both on my centuries as either probably would have worked but I just don't have the patience to do so lol.

^^ To late lol but maybe on my next find where the lava is seperated.

That's completely understandable, haha!  When I have one that's not working properly, I want it fixed immediately or before.  It can be rather agonizing when most of a repair job involves waiting. I've got a couple of lamps that get a little cloudy when you run them, which is especially sad since one of my "problem children" is a squiggle Aristocrat.  There's a fine powder at the bottom around the coil that slowly makes its way up when it runs for a while.  My concern about opening the older lamps in particular had to do with the things I had heard about the chemical composition.  After looking around in the chemical formula forum the other day, I saw that these older lamps especially have a carcinogenic chemical that I have worked with in my research, carbon tetrachloride.  When I saw that, it kind of killed all the aspirations I had of popping the top off of any of my older lamps to try to improve or repair them.

kero48 said:

You know I could have tried both on my centuries as either probably would have worked but I just don't have the patience to do so lol.

I picked up a clear/red 1973 Century lamp with very serious wax separation issues. The procedure described above worked pretty well. Now I need to deal with the cloudiness of the liquid.

I got a crestworth mk I astro some years ago. The wax had serious separation problems. 

Dead easy fix. Remove cap, pour out liquid into secure container. Make sure ALL the wax is at the bottom of the bottle and heat the wax on the original base. 

Once melted stir it together with the end of a long paintbrush or stick. 

Let it cool completely. 

Add the liquid back and put the cap back on. Let the contents settle for a few hours, then run as normal. Lamp back up and running. 

Worked for me anyhow. 

The liquid was cloudy beyond repair. I was forced to dump the liquid and start fresh. I marked the level of cold liquid and carefully dumped it. Used tap water to get the level to about 3/4 full. Then mixed 1 cup water with 1/2 cup canning salt. Stirred the mixture until as much salt as would dissolve (not all of it would). Placed the 3/4 bottle uncapped on the base and heated wax until melted. Wax stayed at bottom. I then added 2/3 cup of the mixture slowly to the bottle. The wax started to dome and rise. I then slowly added a little more of the mixture until the wax rose and fell properly. Then added fresh tap water to fill the rest of the bottle up to the level I wanted. I would have added a little more salt, but it wasn't needed. Added 1 drop of yellow food coloring. Looks good with the red wax and gold base.

norush said:

I picked up a clear/red 1973 Century lamp with very serious wax separation issues. The procedure described above worked pretty well. Now I need to deal with the cloudiness of the liquid.

I'm sorry to hear you couldn't repair the lamp without opening the cap, but I'm glad to hear my procedure helped you fix the wax separation problem.

norush said:

The liquid was cloudy beyond repair. I was forced to dump the liquid and start fresh. I marked the level of cold liquid and carefully dumped it. Used tap water to get the level to about 3/4 full. Then mixed 1 cup water with 1/2 cup canning salt. Stirred the mixture until as much salt as would dissolve (not all of it would). Placed the 3/4 bottle uncapped on the base and heated wax until melted. Wax stayed at bottom. I then added 2/3 cup of the mixture slowly to the bottle. The wax started to dome and rise. I then slowly added a little more of the mixture until the wax rose and fell properly. Then added fresh tap water to fill the rest of the bottle up to the level I wanted. I would have added a little more salt, but it wasn't needed. Added 1 drop of yellow food coloring. Looks good with the red wax and gold base.

norush said:

I picked up a clear/red 1973 Century lamp with very serious wax separation issues. The procedure described above worked pretty well. Now I need to deal with the cloudiness of the liquid.

Here's the lamp now. After running 6-8 hours a few times, the fluid has gotten even clearer.

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