Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

Hi all... so, after a great deal of fascinated reading, I've decided to build a great big lava lamp. From scratch.

I've been working on gathering materials and reading up on such things as thermodynamics and expansion coefficients, and I figure there are just a few issues I'll need to work out.

First is the container. I found a 24" tall, 5.5" wide glass vase for $12 at a home-decor store downtown, that looks to be just about the exact size I want. It holds about 250oz, the same as a Lava Lite Grande. I was also lucky enough to find a glass dish at a thrift store the other day that will make for a perfect lid. So, I have my container... my biggest concerns are whether the vase will crack under the heat of the lamp below, and how to seal the lid without fogging the glass or causing the whole thing to explode. Any suggestions on how I can test the vase's heating tolerance without making a mess or setting my apartment on fire?

Left: my first Lava Lamp. Right: my second lava lamp. Center: my third lava lamp?

Second is the base. I have a metal box that's open on both ends, that will do nicely. Problem is closing up the ends... I'm thinking I'll have to use wood for the top and bottom of the base, and then mount a pot-light upside down inside. Or would this arrangement catch fire too easily?

I'll attach a 1" thick wood plate to the screwholes you see, with a 5½" hole in the center. The vase will sit in the hole, resting on brackets attached to the underside of the plate.

Third and fourth are the lava and liquid. I bought a lava lamp with separated wax on eBay the other day that I'm planning to use to experiment with formulations, and then rehabilitate when I'm done. I figure the lava can be straight paraffin wax, plus tetrachloroethylene and candle dye. For the liquid I thought I'd use PEG 3350 as the surfactant, magnesium sulfate as the specific gravity adjustment, and a trace of detergent to help the wax flow. Should I consider adding a preservative (such as sodium benzoate) to the water? Or do the MgSO4 and tetrachloroethylene do enough to prevent slimy stuff from growing inside? Should I try adding beeswax or microcrystalline wax to the lava? What would that do to the flow?

Also, what else am I missing?

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I'd use microcrystalline wax, it is one of the components of the vintage formula. I say have at it, but just be sure to run the thing in a garage or something the first few times in case it explodes.

Marcell is right if the bottle is not 'pirax' glass then it will brake.

Formular wise, as the contents is the same as a grande just goo kit it - this will be easier then trying a home brew on it.

Check out hear for gookits http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Goo-Kit-Standard-for-Lava-Lamps-from-Magm...

Check out the latest discussion on lava lamp glass and you will understand what Marcell means. http://oozinggoo.ning.com/forum/topics/pyrex-tempered-glass-bottles...

I think the best idea to build this is to basically have the same setup as you have, use a grande 100w bulb (or simmler) for the power and on a dimmer and instead of the vase you currently have get a custom made tube out of 'pirax' glass and then use a goo kit for the formula.

Pyrex. Or, more generally, either borosilicate or tempered glass.

Tim Gill said:

Marcell is right if the bottle is not 'pirax' glass then it will brake.

You know, I thought about using a Goo Kit, but I figured that would take a lot of the fun out of doing a homebrew. I'm a DIY kind of guy, after all.

Anyway, the base is coming along, but I've hit a snag for the light fixture... what type of bulb and reflector should I use? Nobody around here seems to carry 100W incandescent flood lamps--they're all halogen, and I understand you shouldn't put halogen bulbs on a dimmer. Should I just go ahead and order a 100W Grande replacement bulb, and then find a fixture to hold it?

As for the vase cracking, you're probably right... I'm hoping though that if I keep the bulb on a dimmer and turn it up gradually enough, I can get the lamp up to operating temperature without causing enough thermal stress to make it crack. Does anyone have a Grande and a thermometer, to measure how hot the bottom of a Grande gets while it's heating up?

 I would run that lamp in the bathtub for a few weeks before putting it anywhere else in the house. If it breaks at least the mess is contained...im pretty sure it will break. The only way to find out is to try it.

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