Wax on Ice Lamp




Introduction: Wax on Ice Lamp

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

Tools Needed:
-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.



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    39 Discussions

    Here's a site (there's many of them) that discuss wax hardeners... http://www.firstclasscandles.com/Candle%20Making%20Info.htm

    and an interesting article on raising the melt point of wax by using Damar resin (used in encaustic art) and imparts a varnish-like optical property. Not sure how that would work in a poured molded item. http://modernistencaustic.com/2012/01/15/damar-resin/

    Oh, that's awesome. I would love to see what that looks like!

    I used the same principle on making a silver pendant. Put dried peas in a container and poor molten silver in it.

    Great job.


    You should use a double boiler to melt the wax, instead of directly over the heat source. This will help control the temperature and keep it from catching fire.


    1 reply

    My mom used to make candles like this only in milk cartons. That was probably 50 years ago.

    this is cool. have you thought of using as a casting mold? dya think it would work if you used a translucent material (maybe a type of clear plastic or glass) then it would be really striking and a bit more practical

    That is pretty awesome! I agree that jewelry wax could be used. I would also considering trying it with hot glue gun glue, seems like that could be pretty neat, maybe throw some dye in there.

    Jewellers use special hard, high melting-point waxes for sculpting jewellery. You could try using some of that - a light bulb wouldn't melt it, and it comes in interesting colours. Not sure how expensive it is in bulk. It would also allow for some interesting abstractions, like spun threads of wax wrapped on a spindle, etc

    1 reply

    There's an instructable somewhere for making high temp wax with regular wax and melted plastic bags. It was pretty cheap as I remember.

    I hate the idea that you will lose this super cool lamp when the bulb dies. Experiment with using some kind of simple globe or such so that you can replace a burnt out bulb.

    You could make a more permanent lamp using soft plastics such as used in soft fishing baits. Check out makelure.com the project would have to be a lot smaller, though the process would be the same.

    1 reply

    Actually, I wonder if you could use this process to cast silicone rubber. Some casting materials won't set at low temperature and high humidity, but I saw at least one mention on the Smooth-On website of using Tin-Cure Silicone to make molds over frozen models.

    I really like this! The impermanence of the object is lovely, and I thought your method for making a container was neat. I will be sure to remember that for when I need a larger bath. Congratulations!

    very Fun, re-inventing a Family winter project.

    when I was 10 yrs old. we would cut top off a cardboard Milk cartons & make Cool candles just like this.

    Way to thing BIG!

    Modernization of an old theme (see the post by kserwin). That said, a very interesting take on it and clever election of materials.

    Some observations:

    --This could have been much, much smaller (Why go huge?).

    --Keeping the ice very cold and using it just before pouring the wax will deliver a better result.