here is how i made my very first lava lamp. in my opinion it works better than any other lamp i have. so i thought i would share my process with everyone.
HERES WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
-gulf wax or good quality candle wax
-beeswax-makes goo opaque (optional)
-brakekleen made by CRC (perc)
-candle dye(hobby lobby or micheals) i used orange
-canning & pickling salt
-Glass measuring cup (brakekleen will melt plastic)
-2 mason jars with 1 sealing lid
-pot for boiling water deep enough for the mason jar to fit in
-food coloring (optional) i used red
-and of course your globe/bottle and lamp base( for this i used an old defective midnight series globe, base, and coil)
-beer bottle cap (undamaged)
-sharpie or tape
FOLLOW THESE STEPS AND USE EXACTLY WHAT IS LISTED AND YOULL BE FLOWING!
mark your globe or bottle for how much goo you need to put into it. (i went right up to the line where the glass starts to change its shape)
take one mason jar and a measuring cup and measure out 2 cups of water. pour that into the jar. now mark where the water line is with a sharpie or tape. pour out the water. measure 2/3 cup of perc (brakekleen) and add this to the jar with your mark. set this aside with the lid.
now take your wax and cut it into smaller pieces and place them into the other jar. make sure you have enough wax to fill the other jar up to the line measured out to 2 cups. take your pot with boiling water and set the jar into it to melt the wax. once completely melted add your candle dye, enough to desired color. you can also add beeswax to make the wax opaque. otherwise it will be translucent.
now carefully remove the wax jar from the pot and add the wax to the jar marked with the perc in it. add the wax all the way up to the line you previously marked, put on the lid and carefully swish them together. mix them well.
now your goo is done. you do not need to let it cool or test it for that matter. directly pour this into your globe or bottle (coil in place) with a funnel a little above the line you made. now let it cool all the way down. its ok if you have it on the sides of your globe or bottle it will melt down later. you may also have extra goo leftover. you can either seal the jar up and save it or toss it.
now once the goo is solid you can now start to add your distilled water. add the water until its about 3/4 full. now place the globe onto the base and heat it up until the wax is fully melted and is good and hot. (about an hour and a half) the goo should stay at the bottom. now take a teaspoon of salt and put it into the shot-glass, add distilled water to fill the rest. this is to dissolve the salt so it takes to the water easier.
with the straw used as dropper, shot-glass, and salt. keep adding a few straws full at a time. i added about every 5-10 mins. keep adding the salt and water mix until the goo starts to dome or rise up. (it does take quite a bit of salt) and quite a few times refilling the salt and water in the shot glass. but this is for good reason. so be PATIENT in adding it. you may need to pour out some water out of the globe in order to add more salt to get the saltwater mix right. but once you have a dome effect and its starting to rise you're close to being done. now slowly add more salt to the mixture until the wax starts rising about half way up the globe. it is now around the correct density. an easier way to think of the density issue is this; which i think this issue is what confuses most people... (even myself) from what ive read on this and other websites. think of it this way... this is not technical information but... the more salt you add to the water mixture, the lighter in weight your making the goo. so this is what is making the goo rise. perc makes the wax heavier, as wax itself will float in water. do not worry if you add too much salt, you can remove the water in it and replace it with distilled water only. which if too much salt is added it will make your goo too light and will float more so to the top. the trick is to basically even it out.
now let it run for about 30 mins. now its time to add your liquid dish soap. for the results i got i added 2 drops right away. now let it run for about 15 more minutes every drop you add. if your wax is still staying in one blob add another drop. the soap's purpose is to help separate the blobs and help it cling to the coil. so add as you need to get the desired effect. do not add too much soap. as this will make the goo too runny. so go very slow with this one.
now its time to add your food coloring if you'd like to color your water. i used about 6-7 drops. but start with one or 2 and add as you see fit. consult a color wheel in deciding what colors to use with others if you don't already know.
cap it off with the beer bottle cap. making sure it seals well. if not the water will evaporate, and will not hold pressure. you're almost done...
and the best step of all...ENJOY!
i nailed it on the head basically the first try. i hope it works just as well for you! if you have any questions i would be more than happy to answer them. good luck and thanks for reading!
Congratulations for your success to simplify the retro-basic formula at some extent! The process of adjust the specific gravity of the ooze is really clumsy. I read carefully your instructions and could see that you doubled the measuring of the perc and wax indicated at the retro-basic formula. There the author suggest use 1/3 cup of perc to 2/3 cup of wax, you are suggesting 2/3 cup of perc to 4/3 cup of wax – no problems, of course. And you are right: the perc added to the wax serves to increase the specific gravity. And the salt added to the water gives a brine with specific gravity greater than one too.
I made some calculations some time ago taking in account the proportions of the retro-basic formula and the specific gravity (using the average specific gravity of the wax) of the resultant mix is greater than one and by this way the mix sink in the water.
Even the “coarse” measuring using cups gives specific gravity sufficiently high allowing one adjust the specific gravity balance of the two fluids to give the lava lamp effect only adding salt to the water.
By last, the greatest and most important hint of your description is to be patient, very patient!!!
João Roberto Gabbardo
P.S.: If you look my picture you will notice all ingredients of the retro-basic formula there.
Was looking at the pics. Looks like it flows well. I have a couple of questions for you. The pics you posted show what looks like a contemporary Lava Lite that is not broken in yet. There are a lot of bubbles in the lava. Did the bubbles finally work themselves out? Does it flow like an old school 70's/80's lamp with slow moving columns that undulate or is it mostly just blobs? Would love to hear back from you.
it does actually flow very well thanks. yes the bubbles did work themselves out, however they do start to come back when it has been running for several hours. it does column up when it first starts to flow and after a while it starts to break down into smaller blobs. thanks for your interest. i am still working on perfecting it, so i will keep updating things as i tinker.
I never saw that you replied to the beeswax question. So glad I stopped by today!!! Thanks for the answer about beeswax!
This lamp has a great flow. What's it like now? Has it continued to be a good lamp?
I actually never used any particular instruments for finetuning the water density: I just added a teaspoon of salt at a time, let the lamp warm up, and if the water wasn't dense enough I let it cool down and repeated. I found that an amount of 4 teaspoons for 400 ml of water worked OK.... but let the wax cool down or else the solid salt crystals will react violently with the perced wax and cause it to outgas!!!
Alternatively, I discovered another technique that seems to work fine: mix just "a little" perc with the wax (little enough to cause most of it to float) and then once the wax is hot and forms a large bubble on top of the globe, add more perc as needed. This way you can even avoid using salt or other additives! Tried it with success in my latest creation, Poison Ivy. It takes some patience to get right, but you get the advantage of having an almost entirely additive-free lamp. With this method, you can also add a bit more of wax as needed if you need to get the density down a notch.
Do you have a breakdown of quantities used? How much wax (what type and what type of dye)? How much perc? Water? Volume of any other additives? Total volume?
I realize each lamp would possibly require different ratios, but your method sound like a great starting point. Thanks!
Sorry, but it's pretty much hit or miss if you don't have a small chemical lab at your disposal. If I had a chemical lab and could naiI down the exact quantities used and the exact densities achieved I wouldn't need to resort to such DIY methods like "adding perc as needed". Each lamp is indeed, very different.
I can only describe the general technique: I initially create a relatively lightweight goo (1/4th perc to 3/4ths wax, no matter what type of wax you use that is going to be very light. I add enough fluid to reach about 2 fingers below the desired level (keep in mind that both the wax and water will expand when warm, and that adding more perc/wax will increase the volume further).
THe idea here is to have enough leeway to add perc/wax instead of fluid.
So I let everything warm up to "operating regime", and let the wax melt completely.
1. When it forms ONE big floating bubble, I drop perc directly on top of it, drop by drop if necessary.
2. The reaction is immediate: denser blobs of wax start sinking immediately.
3. I only let about half of the wax to "sink" this way, and now I have two blobs with very different densities.
4. I then wait for the heavier goo to heat up too and go re-join the lighter one on top.
5. When they recombine, the TOTAL density will decrease...hopefully near the "sweet point".
It's important that you let some space when adding the fluid, because the goo volume is going to increase at every step!
Now, if the total density just happened to be right, the lamp should start to cycle. If not, you'll need more perc, so I add just enough to cause HALF of the goo to sink, wait for it to recombine etc.
So basically it's like an "approximation by halves". (or thirds or whatever you feel more comfortable working with).
It's tedious and needs per-lamp work but you can do with really minimal materials (not even prop glycol is needed) and you'll get a salt-free and glycol-free lamp that will work directly with any distilled water.
About materials used:
I try finding candles of the desired color, so for this one I found some fully dyed high-quality aloe vera candles, that were all-solid grass-green wax (not white with just a color shell). I mixed in some canning wax to make it more light in color, or else it would be too dark.
The liquid is really just distilled water with some blue/magenta stamp ink dissolved into it to give it a purplish hue, and maybe a fl.oz of diluted windshield cleaning fluid and windex (!), which I added more for the surface-tension breaking effect, else the blobs were just too strong! No salt, no prop glycol.