Lava lamps have been around for a long time for a reason, we are fascinated by their bubbling colors. Learn how to make your own!
First invented by Craven Walker in England, lava lamps were all the rage in the 60’s. With the psychedelic and free love movements everyone was enthralled with swirling colors, lights and funky décor. Though lava lamps seemed to have disappeared for a while, they are back on the market in full force and can be found in almost any department store. Though it is almost certainly true that you can purchase a lava lamp for less than it will cost to make your own, some of us just have that creative spirit that won’t be tamed. You can make your own lava lamp, but it is time consuming and you’ll have to have a bit of patience.
The first thing you will need for your lava lamp is the glass container which will hold the lava. The glass container can be almost anything as long as it has a lid or cover and is not flammable in any way. Some popular items to use for lava lamps are 40 ounce beer bottles, wine bottles, glass soda bottles, mason jars, or any other unique glass container that you may come across. Try to find glass containers that are thicker as they will withstand the temperature changes better and be less likely to crack and break.
The base for your lava lamp can also be made out of several different items. Your base should be made of metal, ceramic or some other material that is not flammable and will not melt. Small tin or brass flowerpots or decorative barrels that are large enough to house your light fixture beneath them will work well; this is what we will use for our example.
To prepare your base, you will need to carefully cut a circular hole into the bottom of the flowerpot or barrel using tin snips or a small hand saw. Next, you will need a small appliance-sized light fixture with cord assembly, which you can find at your hardware store. Drill two 1/8” screws into either side of your barrel or pot, which you will secure your light fixture to using some fine wire. Attach one end of the wire to your light fixture and wrap the other end of the wire around the screw until the wire is taut. Next, attach the other side of the light fixture with a wire to your other screw in the same way. Use a 40 watt appliance bulb and be sure that the light bulb will not be touching the sides of the container and that the light bulb faces the opening you have sawed out of the bottom.
Now you can set your glass container into the base and begin the process of filling your lava lamp.
To make your lava, you will need four ingredients; the amounts used will vary depending upon your container size, experiment until you get it right:
90% Isopropyl Alcohol
70% Isopropyl Alcohol
First, mix the candle dye color of your choice into the mineral oil. Fill your container a little less than ½ full of the 90% alcohol. Next, add the dyed mineral oil, which will serve as your lava. You won’t want to add too much lava because you won’t be able to see it move as well if it doesn’t have room to bubble. I recommend no more than an inch to two inches of lava at the bottom of the container. Next, you will pour in the 70% alcohol a little bit at a time until the lava begins to rise from the bottom of the container. Do not shake the mixture or stir it in any way!
Now, put the lid on your glass container. You may want to put some sort of decorative cover over the lid such as you see on store bought lava lamps, but this is not necessary.
Place your lava lamp on a ceramic dish or plate to protect the surface underneath the lamp from burning or heat discoloration and you are ready to plug it in. It usually takes a bit of warming up before your lava lamp will begin to bubble. Keep a close eye on your new lamp to make sure nothing goes wrong since this is an electrical device you made yourself and is probably not rated by UL!