"...starts from nothing, grows
possibly a little bit feminine, then a little bit masculine, then breaks
up and has children. It's a sexy thing."- Craven Walker
Singapore-born inventor Craven Walker
was having a pint in post W.W.II England. The pub's decor included a fascinating
lamp, which Craven Walker described as a "contraption made out of a cocktail
shaker, old tins and things." It was to become the starting point and inspiration
for Walker's design.
The liquid-filled inventor proceeded
to purchase the equally liquid-filled lamp, whose creator (Mr. Dunnett)
Walker later discovered had died. Walker became determined to make a better
version of the novelty item and spent the next decade and a half doing
so ( in between running an international house-swap agency and making films
about nudism ). Walker worked on improving the lamp with his company the
Crestworth Company of Dorset, England.
Initially local retail merchants
thought his lamps were ugly and disgusting. Luckily, for Craven Walker
the "Psychedelic Movement" and the "Love Generation" came to dominate 60's
merchandising in Great Britain and sales of the lava lamp soared. It was
the perfect light for modern times, Walker declared. "If you buy my lamp,
you won't need to buy drugs."
He had perfected a secret Lava recipe
of oil, wax and other solids. The original model had a large gold base
with tiny holes to simulate starlight, and a 52 oz. globe that contained
red or white Lava and yellow or blue liquid. He marketed the lamp in Europe
under the name of Astro Lamp. Two American entrepreneurs saw the lava lamp
displayed at a German trade show and bought the rights to manufacture the
lava lamp in North America. They renamed it the Lava Lite lamp and began
production in Chicago where it continues today. Craven Walker remained
working as a technical advisor to the company. Before selling his company,
sales of the lamps had exceeded seven million units. Today with over 400,000
llava amps made each year, the Lava Lite lamp is enjoying a comeback.
the Basic Lava Lamp Works - How To Make a Lava Lamp
Base: Holds a 40 watt frosted appliance
light bulb inside a reflecting cone. This cone rests on a second cone,
which houses the light bulb socket and electrical cord connection. The
electrical cord has a small in-line switch on it and a standard US 120v
Lamp: A glass container containing
two fluids, called water and lava, both trade secrets. A metal cap seals
the top of the lamp. There is a small amount of air at the very top of
the lamp. Loose at the bottom of the lamp is a small coil of wire called
Top Cap: A small plastic cover over
the top of the lamp which serves to both hide the lamp's inner cap and
Today's modern lava lamp use Borosilicate
glass that can withstand quick extremes in temperature.
When turned off and cold, the lava is
a hard lump at the bottom of the glass container and can barely be seen.
The turned on light bulb heats both
the element and the lava.
Lava expands with heat, becomes less
dense than the water, and rises to the top. Away from the heat, the lava
cools and becomes denser than the water and falls.
The lava at the bottom reheats
and begins to rise all over again and as long as the lamp is on, the lava
keeps flowing in pleasing up-and-down waves.
Initially lamps require a warm-up period
of about 30 minutes to melt the lava before going into full motion
page > Lightbulbs,
Lighting and Lamps
of Craven Walker with lava lamp by mary bellis