Introduction: Bubble Lamp

Picture of Bubble Lamp

i made this lamp in my first year of highs school, i wanted a lava lamp but without the color so it would be easier to read under its light. i reconstructed the lamp earlier this year since the first base for it wasn't i deal because when i built the lamp i didn't have the ability to weld.

i call it a bubble lamp and not a lava lamp because in its off state the "lava" sits at the top of the bottle, but as it is turned on and heated the wax sinks according to the room temperature and remains a static bubble.

you will need:
+ power plug
+ switch
+ glass bottle
+ metallic bottle holder (angle iron)
+ rubbing alcohol
+ paraffin wax
+ 30 watt globe

Step 1: Base & Switch

Picture of Base & Switch
you could go with the easier option of using a cable mounted switch. but i enjoy making mechanisms and creating more work for myself. so i went for creating a rotary switch using a brass knob from a drawer. i threaded a bolt into it and welded a washer off center to touch the switch, the video should explain.

invalid movie:

the base can be made out of whatever you want i used wood because it has a nice finish and made it much easier for me to router the shapes to create my switch.

Step 2: Bottle Holder

Picture of Bottle Holder

i made the bottle holder before i was able to weld, so i simply used 3 pieces of angle iorn and some bolts to hold it all together. there are a series of bolts the arround the base of the bottle to stop it falling through the holder.

when designing the bottle holder you should consider where and how you are going to place the light bulb holder. the light bulb should be about 5mm to right against the glass of the bottle, it needs to be close to conduct heat. if you plan on using a cylindrical bottle you may be lucky enough to find a section of steel pipe or something..

Step 3: Liquids

Picture of Liquids

go to your local chemist and ask for some rubbing alcohol and paraffin wax.
the paraffin wax makes up the bubble the rest of the liquid is rubbing alcohol, or you could use any kind of pure alcohol here. the alcohol is potentially flammable so try not to spill it on live wires ect.

there is no right or wrong mixture, so long as the bottle is mostly alcohol you lamp should work fine.

Step 4: Bubbly Reading

Picture of Bubbly Reading

enjoy your new clear bubble lamp.


surfreak (author)2010-05-09

The paraffin wax I'm familiar with is a white, waxy solid. Could you elaborate on what you mean/describe what you're using?

DRAGUA1979 (author)surfreak2016-03-20

Gulf wax in the US used for canning at times.

The nerdling (author)surfreak2011-05-31


Omni DIY (author)2010-07-24

wait wait wait... paraffin wax AND alcohol?! Around a BULB. It's cool looking don't get me wrong, but it seems like a big liability. Is there a sub for the alcohol at least?

lime3D (author)Omni DIY2014-10-05

Nope. That' how they work. Google it.

Omni DIY (author)lime3D2014-10-05

Clearly that is how they work... the question is whether there is something less... explody.

DRAGUA1979 (author)Omni DIY2016-03-20

You could always try nitroglycerin, it's sure to be a bang to touch it.

cdalton4 (author)2013-04-28

Love the instructions, thank you

Michael_Bell (author)2012-11-10

can you fix the video link? Vimeo does not seem to like lava lamps

The nerdling (author)2011-05-31

steampunk-ish cool

ryanninjasheep (author)2010-07-13

does it have to have a perfect base???

NinjaFixedIt (author)2010-06-23

Looks cool! Lol, the book next to the lamp: Death By Black Hole Lol!!! ROFL!

fabiyamaue (author)2009-07-19

i've tried it, didn't work...

rmart (author)2009-07-10

yeah I can't find it, could u maybe, post some how on wiring this thing up. I was wondering if u could use a "stick light" like the ones u find in a fish tank

I don't think a fluorescent bulb would be hot enough to melt the wax.

cmallouf (author)2009-07-07

nice job, I like the wooden base, and your switch, but you left out the wiring and placement for the bulb. Unless I browsed past it.

wrs715 (author)cmallouf2009-07-11

He mentioned the placement of the bulb in Step 2. I think this is a grand idea, largely because I wanted one of these beasts, but either they were too expensive, or (when I could afford it) the color scheme was completely garish. :\ This way, at least, I get to make it what I want! :D

This came up for me

invalid movie:

yeha, any idea how i can fix that? it wont embed properly..

jovino (author)rustlabs2009-07-09

<object width="400" height="300"><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><param name="movie" value="" /><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="400" height="300"></embed></object><p><a href="">switch</a> from <a href="">michael candy</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>

rustlabs (author)jovino2009-07-10

yeah, that doesn't work, tried it.

jphphotography (author)2009-07-09

I made a lava lamp like this years ago, we used mineral oil instead of paraffin wax though. Mine was actually just like a lava lamp though, you have to use 70% rubbing alcohol and 99% though. You start off with the 99% and fill it up most of the way, then add %70 which changes the density, add 70% until it looks like the mineral oil is wanting to lift off the bottom. Once you get the mixture just right it works just like a lava lamp. I coloured the oil using oil based paints ;)

toddley (author)2009-07-08

OK, I'm thinking this Instructable is from the UK. In the US, paraffin wax is a solid material.

Paraffin wax is called kerosene in most of the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

xenobiologista (author)toddley2009-07-09

I think you mean "paraffin", not "paraffin wax" is called kerosene in the US. I live in the US and I have seen "paraffin wax" used lots of times, mostly to refer to the high-molecular-weight solid paraffin that cheap candles are made of. I believe rustlabs is referring to what most US authors call "mineral oil", since "kerosene" refers to the lighter fraction which is used to fuel lamps and aeroplanes - which is also a lot more flammable. Also, you wouldn't find kerosene at a pharmacist, I don't think.

Speaking of flammability, this alcohol/mineral oil formulation can be hazardous. There are versions using water and various organic solvents which are somewhat harder to obtain, but safer. See here.

No OP is talking about sealing wax. The kind you use to seal jam jars with.

USA=Paraffin wax is solid at room temp 19c 70F

toddley (author)xenobiologista2009-07-09

Thanks for helping clarify. Sometimes I think we need a universal translator for our own language! Now if we can correct the aluminium thing, we'd be good to go! : )

Jack of Most Trades (author)2009-07-09

Hopefully rustlabs will clear this confusion up for us. Sucks to be a "people separated by a common language", don't it? ;) I'm suspecting it's what we Yanks call kerosene or perhaps the ultra-refined lamp oil called "liquid paraffin". I really like this lamp. Very nive.

DasBus (author)2009-07-09


sparx01 (author)2009-07-07

could you change the colour by adding food colouring?

lukeyj15 (author)sparx012009-07-09

our kerosene is dyed blue (AUSTRALIA)

My sphere of knowledge is more craft and food related, but I would think that you could use candle coloring for the paraffin, and food coloring for the alcohol. You might even be able to use water colors. There are other paints of course, but I would imagine that a translucent paint would be desirable. I hadn' t thought about coloring the alcohol or wax until you mentioned it. Thank you. I was thinking of trying to bottle out on a coffee mug warmer before trying to build the rest of the apparatus though.

rustlabs (author)sparx012009-07-07

yes, i probably should of mentions that, but only the colour of the alcohol, the bubble will stay clear, i tried it before on an artwork of mine.

the "lamp" section is on the far right of the attached image.

full sized image:

maruawe (author)2009-07-07

not the wood base, the lamp base, where the bottle is held.. I make a lot of stuff and don't like the bolt heads showing. (personal opinion) I will make the lamp but without bolts, a 30 watt bulb should not get hot enough to cause problems
could also use led's to illuminate the mixture in the bottle, But at what temperature do you have to have for the wax to move in the bottle...

Chicken2209 (author)2009-07-07

incase you didnt know, the movie didnt take in step one

MLB Baseball Guy (author)2009-07-07

Looks nice indeed. Lots of creative persons here!

Abhorsen (author)2009-07-07

Like it a lot. Gonna try it sometime.

maruawe (author)2009-07-07

neat! are you going to make a different base now that you can weld

jessyratfink (author)2009-07-07

Really pretty. Nice design! :D

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