Skull Lava Light Made From Old Lantern




About: Enjoy going camping with my wife off the back of our motorcycles. We're always having fun doing projects around our old house and teaching our daughter how to repair things.

My family and I love Lava Lamps! Whenever we see one at a yard sale or thrift store we get it. I've always wanted to make my own but never gotten around to it. The other day I was looking at this empty vodka bottle that's shaped like a skull and noticed the bottom had a square shape that looked like it was about the size of an old lantern battery. I had an old railroad lantern sitting a few feet from me so I thought I'd try it for size and it fit! I now had the inspiration and the materials for an awesome Halloween decoration!

Step 1: Materials and Supplies

1. Lava Lite - they come in different sizes and it's easiest to match the size up with the new bottle you will use.

2. Empty bottle of vodka. I can't remember the name of the brand that makes this. I've seen a bunch of these bottles around so it is easy to get a hold of one.

3. Old lantern that takes the square 6 volt battery.


1. Needle nose pliers

2. Drill with a 15/32" bit

3. Some misc pliers, screwdrivers, and wrenches

4. Wire nuts and electrical tape

5. Chop stick, packing tape, and florist wire

Step 2: Test Fit Lantern

I popped the battery cover off the back of the lantern and was lucky enough that the bottle fit right in. It's definitely important to determine if there will be any modifications needed to make it fit and balanced properly.

Step 3: Empty Lava Lite Into New Bottle

For this step it is VERY important that the Lava Lite be warm, but not hot. The wax inside the lamp needs to be able to flow out smoothly, but if it's too hot it will burn you and the wax can also break up from the movement and never congeal properly again.

I plugged the lamp in to let it start warming up. While I was waiting for that I made a little hook with the chopstick, a small piece of florist wire, and some tape. In the bottom of a Lava Lite is a wire spring that is used to break the skin of the wax that sinks back to the bottom. I wanted to make sure I transferred that over and needed a little hook to pull it out of the bottle. I have some hooks in my toolbox but I wanted to make sure I used something that didn't have any dirt or grease from other projects, so I just made this up really quickly.

Once it was warm enough for the wax inside the lamp to flow gently I carefully bent the seal at the top of the lamp and removed the cap. Pour the contents SLOWLY into the new bottle and do your best to keep from agitating it too much.

Finally, to keep to cork from popping out with expansion from the heat, I used florist wire to create a simple twist over the top, similar to a champagne cork cage.

Step 4: Dismantle Lava Lite and Assemble Lantern

While I was waiting for the lava to warm up I took the bulb socket out of the donor lamp. I put the Lava on the base of another lamp to warm it up while doing this step. Once I had the wire and socket removed the fun part of fitting it into the lantern began. The lantern will be upside down so the wire will be going in through the lens. First I removed the clear lens from the front and then disassembled the bulb sockets. This had a really neat switch that allowed you to switch it from two different bulbs in the lantern in case one bulb blew out.

I had to remove the entire switch and then drill a hole through the bottom with the 15/32" bit. Once the hole was drilled out I installed the lamp pipe from the donor and rewired to socket to the cord with new wire nuts and then taping with electrical tape.

I tested it and presto! Nice bright light. I installed the 25 watt bulb that was in the donor lamp.

Step 5: Insert Bottle Into Base

The fun part!!! The skull fit right into the base with just a little bit of pressure. Flipped the switch and let it warm up. A normal Lava Lite can sometimes take an hour to warm up completely. This took longer because the glass in the bottom is thicker than the original bottle and is also wider. I put a 40 watt bulb in to generate more heat and have been playing with the height of the socket inside the lantern to move it closer to the bottom of the skull. How hot the lamp is has a big impact on the flow, too hot and the globs get smaller and faster, too cool and the globs stay on the bottom. Experiment and get the different effect you want.

Have fun and if you liked this please vote!



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    12 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    The brand is Crystal Head - Dan Akroyd is one of the owners.

    2 replies

    3 years ago

    You can also make your own lava with either Goo Kit, or candle wax and perc. No need to sacrifice an existing lamp!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    Do you think they'd give me a few bottles to work with? Full, of course!


    4 years ago

    I love it!