Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

I've been contacted by someone who found what they believed was a pre-Lava Wave device, possibly a product made by the patent owners. Having seen the patent and the photos, I think they're correct: this may be one of the, if not THE, earliest produced Wave displays!

The patent is no. 3,613,264, filed Oct. 63, 1969 and granted Oct. 19, 1971, to Mssrs. Joseph A. Vitka and James D. Murphy, assignors to Motionetics, Inc. of Endicott, NY. The patent details the Wave cell with which we're familiar, and places it in a long rectangular base. The motion is created in a different way that we're used to: there's the usual offset pivot, but a motor drives a rotaing wedge, and the alternating high and low of its edge raises and lowers the vessel. I suspect this was a friction-heavy arrangement that put a lot of wear on the motor, hence the produced version using the revolving eccentric cam we're used to seeing. The patent also includes the bubble trap in one end cap, and says that this is some sort of safe-expansion device for changes in pressure.

The actual unit seems to have been produced by Motionetics, it carries that label. The base is a rectangular routed piece of wood, open straight through top-to-bottom, with a chunk removed where the motor mounts with a bent segment of steel plate. There is also a metal crossbar which acts as the pivot, and the vessel has a rider to rest on this, which is glued to the bottom surface. The Wave vessel's caps are larger and more square than later versions, and the wave liquid is nearly clear, probably from age and/or sun exposure. One cap has a notch which fits around the fill plug. The 8-RPM motor is dated 1969 and the label says, "Patent Pending," so I suspect this was manufactured before 1971. Who knows how long these were produced, or how and when Lava ended up taking over.

Some photos would probably help. Here is the complete "The Wave" by Motionetics, Inc.

Base from the top. This side has a U-shaped cross-section, since the ends of the Wave vessel dip below its upper edge. The pivot rod has plastic washers at either end to keep the vessel centered so it doesn't rub the wood sides and derail itself.

Base from the bottom. Quite the complex piece of woodwork, but with a really simple exterior.

Here's a close-up of the cover on the back of the motor.

And a shot of the plastic pivot rider.

This is the fill plug, with the cap notched to fit around it, presumably to hide it from view when seen from the front, very clever.

Aaand, last but not least, that wonderful vintage label! Dare you to find another of these.

In my opinion, this device is one of the coolest recent finds; an item so rare, no one even knew they existed!

The owner found this at an estate sale. They're interested in selling it, but I don't believe they're thinking "gold mine"; they're interested in seeing it go to someone who understands what it is and who values it as a rare historical beginning to a much-loved Lava Brand product. They'll be creating an account very soon and adding their comments here.

I hope you enjoy the eye candy as much as I did. If I could pay a good price, I'd love to own this thing, but I think there are several people here on OG who probably deserve it more and can give it the place of honor it deserves.

~ Jonas

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This discussion deserves to be 'Featured'.  I no longer have any rights to do this. Would someone kindly 'Feature' this one please. This is too good to be missed by any Lava/Wave fans out there!

Done! :)

ALPHA CENTAURI said:

This discussion deserves to be 'Featured'.  I no longer have any rights to do this. Would someone kindly 'Feature' this one please. This is too good to be missed by any Lava/Wave fans out there!

We are the owners of this Wave Machine that Jonas told you about. First of all we want to thank Jonas for all of his help. Jonas has told you most of how we found this but we will give you the history. We found this at an auction that we attended. The previous owners downsized and sent their belongings to the auction. We noticed this in a box and knew what it was since we had another wave machine that we previously sold. At first we thought it was homemade because it looked so different and then we noticed the label. After much research we found the company and the patent. We have tried and will continue to try to pin down the history of Motionetics but haven’t been able to find out much yet. We knew that this one was made between 1969 and 1971 because the patent was pending on the label. It was a few days later that we found a picture of a Lava Simplex box from a Caribbean model from the 90’s that had the patent number on it that matched this one so we know that this is an earlier version of them . That is really all of the history that we know about it. The only other correction is that the patent does show a wedge type drive system but this one has the more familiar cam wheel arrangement the later ones had. This one also operates OK but since there is a small air space in the chamber (probably due to evaporation?) that you need to offset it to get to to work properly. It is in remarkably good condition for being over 40 years old with only a few minor scratches on the wave chamber & can’t tell if they bent and seamed their own chamber or what as in one edge you can see what looks like a crack but there are no leaks. The wooden base appears to be walnut and was definitely not a furniture grade finish- looks to be oiled only no lacquer and not finely sanded, with a few slight nicks or scratches in it again making us think this was not a production model, but not sure of that. The wiring appears OK but would recommend checking out before use. We also don’t have a box or original packaging if there ever was any. We’ll try to post a video soon to show it in operation. It is very exciting for us and we know that someone will really appreciate it for what it is. We are willing to sell it. We are not sure whether we are going to list it on eBay or take offers. If you are interested let us know. Thank you.

^ Thanks for sharing the info TRC. What a neat story. :) Jonas has been a great curator of all things lava/glitter/wave for us and we're so grateful he's here! 

I am all too familiar with what you have there. Very nice find! I'd keep it if I were you. If you'd be interested, we can talk about refurbishing the fluids in it as I know exactly what needs to go in it.

Torrey
www.wavemotionmachines.com

Thanks Erin, you have the Power!

 

This is a great thread.

 

J
 
Erin said:

Done! :)

ALPHA CENTAURI said:

This discussion deserves to be 'Featured'.  I no longer have any rights to do this. Would someone kindly 'Feature' this one please. This is too good to be missed by any Lava/Wave fans out there!

Thanks for all the great comments. Anyone ever seen one with the wood base like this?


Mr. Hughes, have you actually seen one of these before?

TRC, the vessels were extruded in one hollow piece and then cut to length, not bent out of flat sheet.

The production ones we've seen were from extruded tubes but the what appears to be a uniform crack along one corner that doesn't leak makes us wonder if this one could have been bent and sealed. Maybe no source for tube yet when this was made? 

Jonas Clark-Elliott said:

Mr. Hughes, have you actually seen one of these before?

TRC, the vessels were extruded in one hollow piece and then cut to length, not bent out of flat sheet.

@TRC I studied the patent document on it a couple years ago. They indicated that it was a unitary polycarbonate injection molded U shaped upper portion solvent welded to a flat base. I have never seen the actual unit though. Definitely a rare vintage item.
I'd absolutely LOVE to own this unit! I'm sure I can't afford to spend what they'd be asking at the moment though. :(

Reasonable offers considered.

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