Hi all! I made an account just to share my story with you- I posted all this to the LavaLamps Subreddit. I'm hoping to get some good feedback and advice here!
My Ultimate goal here is to create an entirely from-scratch tiny lava lamp.
Chapter 1: A Total Failure.
First, the ingredients I used. Nonflammable Brake Cleaner and Gulf Wax.
I melted a brick of gulf wax, and added roughly 30% brake cleaner. According to the guides I used, if the cooled wax sinks to the bottom then the ratio is good. It sank.
I made a bottle out of a marachino cherry jar and a spring.
After cleaning it several times with hot water and dish soap, I put a drop in and some hot water, and swirled it around to coat the inside.
Using a can of Campbells Tomato Soup, a light fixture from an aquarium lamp, part of a lid from a Ball jar, and the metal base from one of those crappy solar powered garden lights that didn't freaking work, I made a base. This was the only part of the project I didn't fail at- it works and didn't burn the house down when I wired it up and plugged it in.
Now comes the failure.
Once I re-melted the wax mixture and poured it into the jar with the coil, everything seemed as fine as it could be. It just looked like a little pile of white lava. I let it cool, then poured in some distilled water and put it on a 15 watt base to test.
At first it looked fine, then the hard wax started to rise a bit without melting. Then... a little stream of white formed. In addition to that, the brake cleaner seemed to be sweating out and precipitating from the wax, collecting in a pool at the bottom.
Just a cloudy mess with brake cleaner on the bottom, flakes of gulf wax floating around, and a very sad antnee83. Total failure.
I'm guessing that maybe this particular brand of wax isn't suitable for this? I'm trying again this morning but this time with some of those wax melts that make your house smell nice- because I believe they are also paraffin wax and have a fairly low melting point.
Chapter 2: Progress, But More Failure.
I decided to ditch the gulf wax and use some other stuff I have laying around. I started with some scented wax melts, about three "cubes" worth. Same ratio of Wax/Brake Cleaner.
At first, things seemed to be going well!
It didn't have that awful foggy murky look that the Gulf Wax had, and it actually looked a lot like lava!
But then, the same thing happened as yesterday. A little pocket of Brake Cleaner was collecting at the bottom, and as soon as it broke through to the water, the rest came out of the wax as well.
By the end, all of the wax had floated to the topand stayed there.
So I thought, maybe its the soap I'm using? I emptied and cleaned the jar, then did the exact same process except this time I added no soap at all. Same result.
I thought it might even be two bad types of wax in a row, so I melted some white stick candles and tried the same thing. Same result, but whiter.
It seems like no matter what I do, the Brake Cleaner eventually precipitates out of the wax and collects at the bottom, while the wax floats to the top.
...are we SURE that brake cleaner can be used for this??
Chapter 3: Liquid Paraffin Enters The Chat!
After my dismal failures at creating lava using just paraffin wax and brake cleaner, I looked into different recipes. This one on Oozing Goo seemed promising:
Liquid paraffin 6,5g Microcrystalline paraffin 16g Paraffin wax 22.5g PERC (perchlorethylene) 32.4g approximately 20ml
So I picked up a bottle of liquid Paraffin and replaced the microcrystalline with the same amount of solid paraffin.
After melting and mixing the ingredients (I actually tripled all the portions to have extra) I popped the ball jar on a 20 watt base.
So far, it was a LOT better than my last two attempts. The Brake cleaner was no longer precipitating out of the mixture, and it looked a lot more "lava-y" than before.
Because I was ONLY focused on making a viable wax solution, I didn't bother with surf or salt or any of that. Eventually, when it looked like it was all happy to be on the bottom (but still melted) I started adding drops of briney water and a couple drops of soap.
It stayed like that, because it was stuck to the side, and had no coil. But, looking at the waxy fluid, you could see that it was exchanging hot/cooler wax up and down, like a normal lamp would. I mean, a crappy normal lamp... but still more normal than I have gotten!
So in summary. Just wax and brake cleaner ain't gonna cut it. It doesn't frigging work, so don't bother. You NEED liquid paraffin for this. I have a block of microcrystalline wax on the way, I'll be curious to see how that adds to it!
I tossed the tip of a crayon in some water, and it sank pretty rapidly. So, I made a batch with 14 crayons, some liquid paraffin, and a little less PERC (I actually think the PERC isn't needed for this, but we will see tomorrow!)
The middle is household melty smelly wax (glade). The right is the clear surf wax mixture I made yesterday, with the addition of two lime green crayons. You'll notice that the Crayon mix is wonderfully opaque, and I'm super excited to play with it tomorrow.
The green jar, after some cooling off, had a bit of stratification.
The crayon wax settled to the bottom. But, screw it. Lets pour it into a Voss bottle and see what happens!
This is freshly poured, I filled the bottle halfway and warmed it on the stove before I put the wax inside. It worked flawlessly, no sticking whatsoever, and immediately it looked like a real lava lamp, opacity and all!
After my happy dance, I let it cool off to give it a real rest. I put it on a 20w base
and waited for a few hours. Now, as it was warming up, the same stratification occurred. Crayon wax was on the bottom
but still in a liquid state... but it wasn't leaking brake cleaner so that's nice!
It took a VERY long time to warm up, but warm up it did, and started behaving like an actual lamp!
It's got a bit of bubbliness going on, so I turned it off after running it a few hours. I'll check it out again tomorrow.
As a larf, I tossed a black crayon in the melty smelly wax, and the same stratification happened.
Clearly Crayola wax is very dense, so my hypothesis is this:
I can create a lava lamp wax with just crayons (no perc at all) and possibly liquid paraffin. It definitely needs more heat than a 20w base, so I am going to have to find a bottle or jar or something to sit on one of my 40w bases to test.
But that's all for today!
Fun fact; Lavaworld usedto source wax from Crayola.
Something to consider, crayons have hardeners added to keep them from melting with normal use so that may effect their suitability. Not that I'm trying to be a downer though, lol.
I'm looking forward to seeing further results!
Wow I did not know that!! It really does make sense, the stuff looks JUST like 90's red lava in liquid form.
They stated on their site that they begin melting at 105f, and it seemed like as I was melting all the other waxes in the same pan it was happening at the same rate.
I think adding the liquid paraffin will definitely affect things. But the results are already promising!
Hello again! I made a lot of progress over the weekend that I'd like to share. This is going to be a CHONKY post, so the TLDR is *I did it but still need to balance the final creation*
Here we go!
Crayons, it turns out, have some sort of hardening agent in them (you can see it on the top of the cooled jars) that make them "crust up" when heating in the lava lamp, which means that while it will eventually heat up and flow, you'll have flaky chunks of wax that never quite melt.
I tried scraping this top layer off, re-melting, and repeating this process until there was no more "stuff" on top.
Now this did make a little bit of difference, but when mixed with paraffin, lamp oil, and perc, it still makes a very weirdly inconsistent mix. I ended up making one bottle I call [the Booger Lamp](https://imgur.com/u8eQz1h) that actually looks very cool (it has specs of dark green floating in the lava which gives it an opacity that standard mix lacks.)
I made a few other lamps with crayon mixtures with varying results. The jist of it is:
* The crayon-based lava is usually flaky due to the hard "skin" it forms during heating
* It sticks to the glass FAR more easily than standard mixes do
* It has a very strange density- it actually sinks in 100% water, but floats *very* rapidly when heated. This makes it incredibly hard to balance on its own
I am putting Crayon wax to the side for the moment, and I pretty much ran the hot water pot all weekend, cooking wax, cleaning bottles, experimenting with liquid densities etc. I made a VERY cool lamp with a Bacardi bottle. The water is cloudy, due to the fact that I can't find clear, additive free "aquarium" soap for the life of me. But the flow and color is *awesome.* Blue when cool, electric purple when hot. I love it. This is the recipe (and I've verified this over two separate batches)
> 2 parts Liquid Paraffin (lamp oil) **(26 grams)**
> 7 Parts Paraffin Wax **(160 Grams)** BTW, don't use Gulf Wax it has horrible texture and consistency
> 10 Parts Perc (NON-FLAMMABLE Brake Cleaner) **(130 grams)**
> Oil-soluble coloring (few drops of candle wax coloring, find it at crafting stores)
This will make enough for, I'd say three "standard" lamps. And dozens of tiny ones :)
Once the wax is melted, I take the wax jar out of the pot. I put a few drops of dish soap and a tablespoon or so of water in the host bottle, swirl it around, put it in the hot water pot, let it sit long enough to get hot enough that you can barely stand touching it, then **quickly** swirl and dump the excess soapy water. Then (and I cant stress this enough) **quickly** grab a funnel and pipe, and pour the hot wax in the empty bottle.
Oh, and make sure the pipe is SMALLER than the opening of the bottle. SMALLER. Otherwise, this happens.
It's important to get the end of the straw like a half inch above the bottom of the bottle. You want it to *pool* in the bottom, not *pour*. Pouring causes splashing, which causes spots of wax to stick to the side of the bottle. No good, that's a do-over.
That's the wax. The liquid is a simple mix of 70% distilled water (DO NOT USE TAP) and 30% Propelyne Glycol. I started with Distilled water and salt, but the salt is harder to work with and clouds the water.
The coil is a simple extension spring, stretched a bit and "connected" by pushing the two UNstretched ends together. This is another area where I could improve, I think the springs I'm getting are zinc coating and don't actually conduct heat very well. They currently just provide something other than glass for the wax to stick to.
Alright, so that's how you do it. Now here's a couple stabs at tiny lamps- the whole point of this!!
A little olive jar that's no bigger than a dollar bill. This is by far the smallest working lava lamp I have ever seen, but it does need some adjusting. One thing I have learned is that "Voss" shaped cylindrical bottles work well if they are very tall, but smaller lamps tend to push all their lava to the top, where surface tension is happy to keep it all there for a long period of time. I plan on messing with soap/liquid ratios to see if I can fix that.
And finally, the one I'm really keen on getting optimal flow on: A little bitty wine bottle.
I'm THIS close to making a functional, tiny lamp. I just need to get the liquid density, wattage, and soap content jusssst right.
Til next time!
If you don't like Gulf wax, what did you use for your paraffin?
I ordered 9 pounds of it online, from Michaels.