Rock crystal and geode lamps are the rage but they come at a price. I was inspired by the rock crystals made by many out of Borax and wondered if I could make a rock crystal lamp out of borax crystals. This was one big learning process but I like the way it turned out. Here is how you do it.
Here was my inspiration photo. I knew I wanted more color but this small little lamp was what I was going for. By the way, this lamp has a retail price of $2,200...Yikes!
I went to my favorite thrift store and found this little $5 gem and I thought this might be the perfect lamp to try my attempt at a rock crystal lamp. You know...they almost look the same right?
- Lamp or lamp parts. You could construct a lamp from scratch but I have found it is cheaper to just buy a cheap lamp and take it apart. You also have an easy "how to" guide while you deconstruct your lamp. Important: You need a lamp with a center lamp pipe like the picture above. You also need to make sure the base is sturdy and weighted. Any size lamp will work with those two elements in place.
- 2-3 boxes of Borax (you can find it at any big box store)
- Paint bucket
- Food coloring ... lots of it.
- 1 can of clear laquer spray paint for sealing the crystal
- white pipe cleaners
- 1/2 inch PVC pipe. This needs to be sturdy. Some 1/2 pvv inch is thin and flexible. You need the thicker and sturdy kind. This will be in the center of your crystal.
- Lamp pipes (you might not need these). I, on the other hand, found out when I took my lamp apart that it didn't have a center rod. Bummer. I was able to make one on my own using these long lamp pipes.
- Scissors (not pictured)
- Large pot (or two) to boil water. I needed three.
Please read the instructions on this post. While there are borax crystal instructions a-plenty on the internet there is nothing on making a large borax crystal. I sometimes had to go back and reconsider my methods and if were to do it again I would change some things. Sometimes blog posts don't tell the fails and mistakes..today, I plan on sharing them. Also, my eight year old son had a blast with this project. If you have kids let them join and make a few crystals. Also, it might be a good idea to read through this blog post from Dans Le Townhouse first. It was my go to for help and is the best one out there for making Borax crystals. This video helped as well.
Take apart your lamp. I have done this many times and it works best if you start from the top and go down. I always use my phone to take pictures of the lamp as I take it apart. I also used colored electrical tape to mark what wire is black and what wire is white. You will have to detach the lamp cord from the socket.
I laid out the parts of the lamp that would use. The only thing I did not use was the peace sign. Not pictured is the center rod that I thought was in my lamp. This was the point where I had to go get the threaded lamp pipe. I used the lamp pipe to measure the length of my 1/2inch pvc and cut it. The PVC will be the thing the crystals form around and the lamp pipe threads through.
Next grab your cut pvc pipe and your pipe cleaners and wrap your pipe cleaners fully around the pvc pipe. To attach two pipe cleaners I just twisted them together to make one large strand. I allowed some of the ends to stick out so I could attach the clusters to the center pipe. AFter you are done it should look like this. I didn't use glue I just wrapped it really tight.
Now it is time to make the clusters of pipe cleaners. I simply followed the guidelines of this blog and this video. I attached the cluster to the end pieces that stuck out from the wrapped center pvc pipe. Important! I wish I would have made my clusters a little tighter. Do as I say and not as my pictures show. Becuase I had loose clusters, I had to heat and soak my pipecleaner clusters three times to get the form I wanted becuase there were so many gaps. Therefore, my crystals had to grow on crystals. This could be avoided with tighter pipecleaner clusters.
Add make as many clusters as you want to build your structure. Connect them to the middle pipe and then use the ends of others to link them together.
Once you get your structure made string your twine through the middle. This is what will suspend your structure in the mixture. I apologize for a non-close up of my pipe cleaner structure but I was on my own here and laying the structure down flattened the form. You can see here I have the PVC pipe down the middle and the string going through it. I placed it in the cooler to make sure it would fit BUT...my husband came home and advised against the cooler. The crystals grow as the dissovled Borax cools...an insulated container is not a good idea because it keeps your ligquid warm a paint bucket will work nicely and is listed in the materials list. Of course you will need to use cardboard to cover your bucket.
Now it is time to boil your water. I figured out the gallons to fill my container and cover the pipe cleaner structure. The amount took three pots of boiled water on my stove.
Your next step is to add the food coloring and borax. I wanted purple so I added blue and red. I added three boxes of Borax to the solution and stirred. Technically you need to add enough until the Borax will not dissolve anymore. That was two boxes for me but I added three when I wanted my crystals to fill the gaps. I poured the hot, dyed, Borax dissolved water into a glass container. I placed the pipe cleaner structure in the container, put the lid on it and let it sit for an entire day. Important: Use a paint bucket with a lid! My glass jar was done and in the trash after this little DIY. For round two I used the paint bucket and was mad at myself for not doing so to begin with. Just FYI you need alot of dye for this large of a crystal. I used a ton and it still wasn't enough. I was going for purple but purplish blue was how it turned out.
Here was my finished crystal and boy was it heavy. Make sure you have a good weight on your lamp base. Let your crystal dry and then spray it with clear laquer spray paint. This will seal your crystal from falling apart in moisture and heat. It also helps with the crystal not flake when you handle it. The above photo is the crystal after I sprayed it with the lacquer. I let it dry for about four hours after my last coat. I did two coats of lacquer.
Now it is time to get your crystal ready to assemble onto the lamp. To do this you have to clear any crystal formed in the middle. I used my knife sharpener. I think this might be the first time I have used it! The Borax crystals will not form onto the plastic so I was just clearing the debris from the string. I inserted my middle lamp cord and then reassembled my lamp exactly as it was done before...the crystal in place of the lucite peace sign.
The bottom of the crystal surrounded pvc pipe sat directly on the base of the lamp.
I used a half inch diameter washer to cover the top part of the 1/2inch PVC pipe. This is so the rest of the light fixture parts could tighten down and the lamp pipe in the middle would not be loose.
Finish assembling your lamp and it is done! I bought a new lampshade instead of recovering the old.
No, I didn't get the purple color I wanted but I do like the blue. Serenity blue is "in" ya know...
I really like how it turned out. What would I do differently? I would probably buy purple food dye and not mix red and blue together and I would definitely add a ton more. I would have made smaller pipe cleaner clusters. On another note, I could have kept the gaps and filled them with a clear or lighter craft crystal. I definitely think adding some gold paint could make it stand out even more! In the end I liked the price the best.
About the time I was making my lamp this Curbly post was posted. This would be a great way to make a geode lamp without all of the soaking of crystals. Have fun and be creative!