Having problems with the lava lamp at home? Here is where you will get to know all you need to…
|If you buy my lamps you won’t need drugs… I think it will always be popular. It is like the cycle of life, it grows, breaks up, falls down and starts all over again. – Edward Craven Walker (inventor of the lava lamp)|
There are a few stories regarding the invention of the lava lamp. The version which its inventor and patent holder Edward Craven Walker (1918 – 2000 ) holds true is the one where he is at a pub in Dorset, England, and sees an old tin and glass device with an egg on top. There was a blob of wax within, floating in liquid and heated from underneath. As the device heated, the wax blob would rise, and the heat would boil the egg. It immediately caught his attention, and he went back home and set up a laboratory where he worked toward perfecting the design and changing its purpose from an egg timer to that of a display lamp. Over the next 15 years, he worked on his design and finally came up with the prototype lava lamp, which he named ‘Astro’. The company he established to sell these lamps was named Crestworth. He began marketing the lamps and they soon gained the attention of various entrepreneurs. In the late ’60s, a company called the Lava Corporation bought the U.S. rights, and began making and selling these lamps in the States. It was a worldwide hit, selling millions of units, and soon became a cultural symbol of those times. Although the demand for psychedelic decoration decreased during the ’80s, it made a comeback in the early ’90s, and lava lamps became fashionable once again. Craven Walker, along with a business partner, renamed the company to ‘Mathmos’ in 1992. He remained as a consultant there until his death in August 2000.
How It Works
Lava lamps are made of glass and filled with a clear liquid and wax. There is a small halogen bulb underneath the lamp which heats up the wax within. The exact mix of liquids in the lamp is a trade secret closely guarded by the company, but it is assumed to be a combination of paraffin, wax and oils, which do not mix together. There is a small space on the top left for the expanding gases. Since the liquids don’t mix, the wax keeps floating to the top of the glass container, where it cools and comes back down again, forming a hole. It takes about 45 minutes to heat the lamp from room temperature until the blobs of wax begin to form beautiful undulating shapes. However, care must be taken not to disturb the lamp, to prevent mixing of the liquids inside.
Problems and Solutions
- Plugging It In: Lava lamps have a polarized plug (1 wider blade). Therefore, it can go in only one way into the socket, so do not try to force it in any other way, or even use an extension cord for that matter.
- Heat Sources: It is recommended that users heat the lava lamp only by the bulb provided with the lamp and not via any other source, otherwise it can be extremely hazardous. In 2004, a man lost his life while trying to heat a lava lamp on his kitchen stove. The lamp heated too soon and the expanding gases caused an explosion, peppering the room with shards of glass. The heating time and energy required for the lamp to function have been calibrated by the manufacturers, and should not be tinkered with.
- Direct Sunlight: Exposing your lava lamp to direct sunlight or keeping it outdoors will result in the fading of the colors and hardening of the wax inside. The lamp will also take a much longer time to get going.
- Risk of Fire: Since the lamp has a mix of oils and wax, it is always susceptible to fire. Keeping it near a fireplace or sources of intense heat like ovens is simply inviting trouble. The glass globe may crack or suffer from thermal clouding due to the heat. It is best to keep your lava lamp at room temperature and indoors.
- Breakage: Lava lamps are made mostly of glass, and can break easily. Even sudden impact or pressure can cause irreparable damage. It’s best to keep your lamp out of the reach of pets and children, and always on a horizontal flat surface to avoid emulsifying the liquids within. Shaking or moving the lamp while it’s operational is also a strict no-no. In case there is a breakage, be assured that the materials within the lamp are not harmful and can be cleaned easily. Make sure to remove the pieces of glass and wax, and air your room for a while.
- Bulb Issues: Some lava lamp owners face problems with their lamp bulbs and replace them with different ones. One must make sure to only use a 40 watt bulb and no more for a lava lamp, as this is the recommended wattage by the manufacturers.
- Prolonged Usage: Make sure you do not use the lamp continuous for excessive hours. Ideally, eight hours should be the limit. The lamp needs time to cool down so that its ingredients can settle down and harden.
- Cleaning the Lamp: Clean the globe of your lava lamp once in a while, using a soft cloth and water. Make sure that you unplug it and wait for at least two hours for it to cool down.
A lava lamp is a reminder of the swinging sixties and the psychedelic seventies, a time of Cold Wars and open-air rock concerts, a time of revolution and awakening. So kick back and relax in the warm glow of its mystical light, and let your soul go free. But don’t forget to take care of it from time to time.