Lava lamps have an interesting history. The lava lamp as we know it was invented by British accountant Edward Craven Walker in 1963, after seeing a homemade egg timer fashioned from a cocktail shaker bubbling with a mysterious liquid. He wanted to improve the design, and used a light bulb for the heating source. Walker originally named the product “Astro Lamp” because of its futuristic look, and later it became better known as the “Lava Lamp” when American manufacturing rights were sold to Adolph Wertheimer and Hy Spector in 1965.
No one knows exactly why people fell in love with the low-light lamp. Perhaps it is the mesmerizing dance performed by the colorful spheres suspended in translucent liquid. Or, it could be the futuristic design and mellow glow. But one thing is for sure: how lava lamps are made is just as amazing as the lamp itself. Let’s take a deeper look into what makes these lamps work.
Three things are required for the lava lamp to work:
- Dense wax
- Translucent liquid (colored for visual effect)
Because wax is less dense than water, it will float and stay at the top of a lava lamp. Additives are mixed with the wax to increase its density making the wax drop to the bottom of the lamp where it is heated by the light bulb. The wax will then begin to expand, allowing it float. As the wax cools at the top of the lamp, it contracts, becoming denser and falling to the bottom again.
Seeing how lava lamps are made is pretty exciting. First, the glass that holds the “lava” is made from molds and must be allowed to cool slowly to ensure its strength and prevent cracking. After the glass has cooled, it is filled with the wax mixture and translucent liquid. The filled containers are sealed and heated to 160 degrees fahrenheit so that the wax melts and separates from the liquid. The base that holds the light bulb and caps are shaped by robotic arms from a circular sheet aluminum, and are later fitted to the lamps. The final step is to test, box, and make the lamps ready for shipping to customers all over the world. Check out the video to see this process in action.