This project is one in a line of projects exploring impermanence in design. This project in particular explores chaotic, one of a kind form making through barrier free molding. The final form in this instructable was my first attempt, but many iterations could easily be made by reusing the same materials for further exploration.
The forming method is easy and simple, involving only a large amount of wax, a large amount of ice, and an LED light bulb. The ice is used as a mold for the molten wax, with the LED bulb (needs to be LED because a hotter bulb will melt the lamp) cast within the form. The wax forms as a network of tendrils and acts as a translucent medium for the light to travel through.
This is a rough idea to be built upon. I realize the downfalls of the wax lamp as a final product, but it is a concept meant to be the first step in an exploration of form and material.
Step 1: What You Will Need
The main ingredients:
-A large block of paraffin wax (my local hobby shop sells them for making candles) I think I ended up using about 6-7lbs of the wax
-A whole bunch of ice (I used about 13 bags). the size and shape of the ice will effect the final form of the piece, feel free to experiment!
-An LED globe bulb and a cord/socket that will fit the bulb
-A large pot for melting wax (beware this is hard to clean post project, I bought a junk pot from goodwill for this very reason)
-A large tarp
Step 2: Step 1: Jury Rig a Large Container Out of a Tarp
Next you will either pick or create a container for your ice. I did not have a container large enough, so I cinched up the corners of a tarp with some clamps. In the end, the size and shape of your container will affect your form. Mine was relatively shallow and wide, so my lamp ended up with a flat bottom and raw tendrils on the sides. A taller thinner container would produce the opposite effect, straight sides with tendrils coming down. Experimentation is very welcome at this step.
If you are looking to make a lamp roughly the size and shape of mine, the size of the container I ended up making was about 12" deep by 36" wide by 60" long.
Step 3: Step 2: Melting the Wax
Place your parafin wax in the large pot on a stove burner and leave it at medium until the block turns entirely to liquid. There is no need to be much above the melting point, so turn it to low once the wax is melted. Just enough to keep it melted.
Step 4: Step 3: Melt Wax Onto the Bulb and Cover Stem With Duct Tape
Next, you will melt some wax onto the bulb you are using. The purpose of this will become clear if you try to stand the raw bulb, without wax, up in the ice later on. Without the wax, the sphere shape of the bulb allows it to rotate in the ice like a lazy eye, which makes keeping the stem of the bulb vertical nearly impossible.
I used a candle here to melt the wax onto the bulb, but you can also spoon liquid wax onto the bulb from you pot of liquid wax. The more uneven the covering of wax is, the better.
Once the bulb is covered with wax and is dry, wrap the stem in duct tape to protect it from moisture.
Step 5: Step 4: Fill Your Container With Ice and Insert Bulbs
Now fill up your tarp or container with ice, it took me about 13 bags, I think they were about a gallon each. Level off the top of the ice and stick your light bulbs into it. I put them in to cover about 4/5th of the sphere part of the bulb.
Step 6: Step 5: Scoop Wax Onto the Ice
Now, bring your pot of melted wax out from your kitchen and, with a smaller pot, scoop it out over the ice. start by concentrating around the bulb to be sure that it has a strong connection, then radiate out to define the larger form.
Step 7: Step 6: Wait for the Ice to Melt
It took more than a day for the ice to melt fully, but be patient. I washed my first experiment down with warm water to melt the ice, but I ruined the bulb. Do not repeat my stupidity.
Step 8: Step 7: Clean Up to Reveal the Final Form
Now, making sure your bulb and the surrounding area is entirely dry, remove the duct tape and screw on the NOT POWERED cord. Step far away from the lamp and, taking proper precautions, turn it on. If it lights up normally, you are good to move forward, but turn the power back off before you do. I turned the light back on to take these pictures, but you should avoid having the power on while working with the lamp.
Brush away any loose or weak pieces of wax and gently lift your lamp up. As you can see, I tried to make a double bulb lamp, but this did not work, stick with the single bulb.
Hanging the lamp in the air, you will see that it does not hang straight. Break off pieces on the side that is tilted down to help balance the lamp out. Use this as an opportunity to sculpt the form, I removed the lumpy bits and tried to preserve the cooler tendril bits.
Step 9: Step 8: Clean, Hang and Enjoy
Take some time to really knock of any weak bits. I hung my lamp up and it shed for a couple days before settling down, but it certainly is a neat object once it does.