Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

Hi All


OK, I have been reading the forums, just basically lurking about and I have some real questions and a need for opinions from all of you who passionately love these lamps....


Currently, I am in the midst of prototyping a new motion lamp... well actually several types. I have done much research, have a biochemical engineer standing by, a very experienced machinery shop in the fold, etc.


My questions are these:


Besides the obvious most important feature of working correctly, what is the single most important feature of a "Wax Type" lamp to you? Color mix? Size? Shape? Price?


How important is GRAS ("Generally Regarded As Safe") mixtures in your decision to buy? To be more specific, what would keep you from buying it? For example, Iodine is poisonous, however you still buy it with the understanding of it's proper useage and the inherent risk of having it around. Understand that I am not saying ANY mixture would be recommened for consumption, but what level of hazard is acceptable?


In a "Glitter Type" lamp, would a more complex shape be desirable, or would  just the color / motion combination be the most important?


Is the ability to easily change the contents, accepting the both the voidance of any warranty and the responsibility that any changes may render the lamp as unsafe, a major point in buying?


Is the option to have your lamps "refurbished" a major point? Would a window of opportunity to send back a lamp for service that is limited to once or twice a year be acceptable?


Now, those are the main questions.... here's the main problems.


I happen to be located in Northern Illinois.... virtually every constituent to make the lamps is local to me. The costs to make them, however, is a major issue. Here are a few reasons you haven't seen a USA manufacturer making these lamps in recent years....


You need "testing lab" certifications. UL, CE, ETL, MET, etc. The costs and ongoing procedural visits to make sure you are adhering to the standards granted are an added cost that must be rolled into the cost of the lamps.


EPA and OSHA classifications automatically place you as handling "Hazardous Materials". Waste removal now becomes a major expense, as does any safety regulations for working with these materials.


Freight and warehousing costs. If you are located close enough to your raw suppliers, your cartage costs will be less, however your facility costs such as rent, insurance, utilities will be higher. Moving farther away somewhat lessens the costs for facilities, but cartage or freight becomes higher. The farther away from your supplier also mandates more raw stock so you don't run out.


Wages. With the exception of the chemical engineering side, assembly labor is pretty much unskilled. The problem is, you need caring workers. Minimum wage doesn't tend to create much of a caring attitude in a worker. The new Health Insurance mandates are a new wrinkle in the mix as well.


Distribution. Ahh, the magic word. As Haggerty Enterprises alluded to in their response(s) elsewhere in these forums, the Big Box Retailers will only buy a product they can make a certain profit level on. You can certainly forego dealing with them, but now your costs will never really go down very much, because the old adage of "more product - less cost" comes into play. If you stay small enough for personal attention to the customer, you also have to accept sales that will always pretty much keep you small.


Lastly, I am an older person who isn't after making enough money to buy a small island off the coast of Barbados, however I do want to be able to eat 3 square meals everyday. I would be very interested in hearing any comments, suggestions, or even general observations about this subject.


Thanks for reading!

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"Besides the obvious most important feature of working correctly, what is the single most important feature of a "Wax Type" lamp to you? Color mix? Size? Shape? Price?"

1) thick wax like the old old (70's) lamps
2)any color is fine everyone likes somthing diffrent ?!?!
3)at least a 32 oz, like the lamps from the 90's ( midights and silver streaks ) although usally bigger is better.
4)shape is only half as important as it working good, but the cone shape is a common favorite.
5)cheaper is always better but many people here will say that they pay whatever it cost to get a high quality lamp these days!!
p.s. wave machine are in super high demand, 2 of the last 3 on ebay sold for around $800 for models that cost 30ish dollars in the 90's
1. Thick wax like the 90's
2. I think clear liquid/colored waxes and colored liquids/white waxes are the best looking.
3. Nothing smaller than 32oz up to 250oz Grande
4. Shapes I would say the classic Century and Midnight look
5. I think $30 for 32oz, $40-50 for 52oz, and somewhere around $100 for the 250oz.
6. 90 day replacement warranty sounds fair
7. Refurbish service would be awesome! Depending on size of lamp, $20 minimum if possible?
8. Chemicals do not concern me just as long as it wont explode
9. Although a liability issue, the screw-on cap on a Century looks much nicer, IMO. On a midnight, I am not as particular, but prefer the slip-on cap.
Thanks for the suggestions and replies!

The price point is a definite issue. For example, currently the British Pound is low against the US Dollar, but it still makes the average Mathmos Lamp the equivalent of $75 ~ $90 US. This seems to be the main sticking point with US lamps that are sold by the mass marketers. From what I can tell, Mathmos doesn't *really* mass market their lamps.... you can buy from certain venues other than Mathmos, but most would go directly to them. That price point is what allows them to have a higher quality and closer attention to detail.

The wax is another issue that is foremost in our mind. We are actually going to try several formulations, including soy wax. This is where another divergence of opinion comes into play..... some people like more transparent wax, some translucent, and some would like opaque. Depending on the dyes used, some colors could be done with one type of wax, but not another. Soy, for example, is more opaque and therefore would only be useful for one preference.

Size is one of the big points.... I don't see a smaller lamp in our vision due to the cost difference being very slight in overall materials. This is an issue for shipping costs and probably counts out the big retailers from the equation.

Shape is a definite issue as I believe the Lava patent on the glass is still valid. That being said, we really are trying to depart a ways from that iconic design. Maybe not a different state, but hopefully a different county at least.

At the moment in the project, we are at the very early stages. A basic starting design is in hand with several permutations that allows to us to start moving forward to costing for the pieces of the lamp, yet it's early enough to modify things before they are cast in stone, or glass if you will..... this is why I'm here. I appreciate the feedback and welcome all suggestions.

Wax & Gliiter type lamps are all we're looking to do, which honestly, is one heck of a lot to get started!

Again, thanks!
No offense to you but I have heard this story before. There was another one just like it not long ago. Johnny Magma. Then there are the ones before him.

Good luck though. :)
No offense taken....

I completely understand the doubt. That being said, I do hope I will get some additional input from members here. The lamps we are working on will probably only appeal to a small segment of the average motion lamp buyer, but I still like to know what features are the most important to the serious afficionados of the genre.

I cannot even offer a drawing or picture due to obvious reasons, so the doubt factor will be ever present until we have all the ducks in a row. Any input, even negative, is welcome.

I did a search for the "Johnny Magma" thread but found nothing. I would be interested in seeing that discussion if someone can point me to it.

Thanks for the reply!

Formerly with Magma Tower, he has left that company

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