Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

Just been looking at the photgraphs of the French "Lavaboilers" from Jonas Clark-Eliott in the Photos section. I was fascinated to see that there are so many different ones. I've only ever seen one in the UK, a friend bought one from a car boot sale about 10 years ago, it had glass beads in the bottom, and when it warmed up, there was a sudden "eruption" of bubbles from the beads. What is the story of these lamps?. I've never seen them on general sale in the UK.

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Here are some pictures of French boilers:
Do you know what the French name for these is?. I would like to try a web search.


Yes, I'll second that - thanks for the pictures. Interesting that they are not all electric lamps in the second picture. Also from the wiring I would guess at them being 1970's made?.

I've found one similar modern lamp on sale, the "Lumi Geyser Lamp"



I know a fair bit about these, though I own but one lamp, no. 1 in the illustration. I don't know the French term, and they're vintage, not new. The Geyser lamp is a new copy of what I term a "glitterboiler". Stevemo, do you see your friend's lamp on my list?

Boilers, the basic variety, slowly fill bottom to top, "boil" violently, drain, then repeat - mine takes around 20 minutes to fill. A few types, such as nos. 12, 13 and 14, fill up and then bubble constantly.

Glitterboilers encase one of these types, usually the latter, inside a glitter lamp.

Lavaboilers throw up explosions of oil-covered air bubbles, which pop at the top, the oil coating reforming into falling globules. As the top is hidden by a foil ring, the viewer sees only big clear bubbles going up, and small colored ones coming down. The non-bead types often have indents in the glass to cause the bubbles to bounce around. The beads in other types are there to break up the bubbles to make them smaller and more numerous, so they collide constantly with the falling globules.

Fountainboilers use the rising vapors to push liquid up a pipe into a nozzle, spraying it out, and the lava geyser type has colored oil forced up in spurts into clear liquid.

The bubblers work on the same principle as a bubble-tube Christmas light: bubbles form in the "bumpers" (here, either glass beads or gravel) and then float constantly to the top.

The handboilers are operrated by picking them up and holding them.

I believe they were made in the early to mid 1970s in France, and I know at least two makers' names: F. Vaudan in Paris, and S. Vera in Cleremont-Ferrand. The glassblowing is first-rate, by someone who knows serious scientific glassblowing techniques, and they may have used a glass lathe. I believe the standard models, fountainboilers and bubblers, and inner chambers on glitterboilers contain Methylene Chloride, Freon-11 or similar. I'm not sure what's the oil or the clear liquid in the lavaboilers. The glitterboilers' glitter part probably contains a solvent like perc (perchloroethylene, a chlorinated solvent) and I'd hate to see what results when one gets broken and both solvents mix!

Thank you very much for this info. My friend's lamp would fall into the category of a "Lavaboiler". It contains glass beads, and your description of the eruption of bubbles is exactly how it behaves. It is closest to no. 3 in the "Lavaboilers with beads" in your "FrenchBoilers3DetailsFinal.bmp" image. It has newer wiring than the early 70's lamps in your other pictures, it has a 3 core flex, with the blue/brown/green/yellow colour code, with a black overall sheath, and a cord grip, suggesting it was made to comply with the 1976 safety regulations.

Once again, thanks very much for the info,

I know, from a label found on a lamp of that exact type, that those particular lavaboilers were made by one F. Vaudan of Paris. I have seen them in red, yellow (with a slight green tint) blue and orange. Am I correct that both top and bottom of the bottle have silver foil bands, and the bottle sits on the metal base and can be lifted off to access the bulb?
An update to the boilers list will be up soon, adding two vintage liquid hourglasses from France (anyone have photos of some of these?) and a few more lavaboilers, including a new style of indentations (new to me, anyway)and another purple one!
hi there - did u ever find out more regarding the boilers!?
cheers, G
I'm honoured to say I own two lava boilers, one is a tall cylindrical piece with plastic 'bubbles' and a very heavy metal base to stop it jumping the other is non-electric but bubbles when you hold it in your palm.
heyo. i managed to collect about 12-15 lava boilers over the last 8 years. i also lived in paris for 2 years which
helped incredibly, of course - the glass boilers from f.vaudans and lots of glitterlamps were rather easy to find.
2 of them exploded and left a fab mess all around, both times i had found little beads years after it happened
in some hidden corners, careful ! buth were of those with the metal stand, where the glass tube sits on top of it.
does someone know how this one sheet lavaboiler image came together ?
cheers, G

G-Force, you mean how the illustration of all boilers came together? I drew it in Windows Paint, adding boilers as I saw photos pop up on eBay. Are yours ONLY lava-type boilers? I was wondering if you might have been the seller of the many, many boilers, the radiometer, handboilers and liquid hourglass which were sold bit-by-bit on eBay France a short time ago. If so, your auctions aided me in adding Boilers Nos. 2 (red spiral), 3, 4, 8 and others to my list!

Metal stand? I assume you mean the flared metal base, these being lavaboilers w. beads made by F. Vaudan, who also made some handboilers. Another maker's name I have seen is S. Vera.

I know nothing about the history on these. Sorry. If you know anything, let me know? Feel free to contact me directly: jcefoundit@gmail.com

These are enchanting little lights (and non-lights) and i'm looking forward to perhaps adding to my existing small collection.

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