Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mathmos Astro Lamp for the US

I wanted a nice lava lamp for my desk (just like the one in the photo above). Little did I know the rabbit hole this would send me down.

The Exclusivity Restriction
The Lava Lamps in the US are made by a company called Lava Lite. They bought the exclusive rights to lava lamps in the US from the UK inventor Mathmos.

The quality between the 2 is very different. Many people have described the Lava Lite as a junky inferior product with a lower wattage light bulb. The Mathmos looks much more sleek. I watched their "making of" video and was impressed with the level of detail that goes into making a lamp.

So I thought, hey, I want one of the Mathmos Lava Lamps (called Astro Lamps). That's where stuff got weird. You can not buy a Mathmos from them due to the Lava Lite exclusivity. Furthermore I could find NO website that sold them with shipping to the US. Then I went to ebay. I couldn't find a good Mathmos there either.

I got a chuckle out of this forum thread:

"If one were to get a Mathmos lava lamp into the US via a secret submarine or coke mule (seriously the Mathmos rep made it sound like the feds would beat down my door if I even thought of shipping one over)"

At this point this tipped over from a curiosity to a "I'm getting one of these bastards".

I remember back a few years ago when I wanted a Japanese papercraft model only available in Japan. After a lot of research I found a mail proxy that I shipped it to and they shipped it to me.

UK Mailer Proxy
I found a UK mailer proxy for getting the Mathmos:

Signup is 5 pounds and handling fee for the package is an additional 5 pounds.

With you get a legitimate UK address. They assign you a suite number that maps to your account. When they get the package they then send it to you via international shipping.

My UK address is very strange. I sent them a verification email to make sure I understood exactly what the address1, address2 and city were. They responded in a few hours

I then called my credit card company and told them that I was buying a product from the UK. They stayed on the phone with me as I placed the order to ensure everything went well.

Order Placed
I feel like I just threw a ton of money into the wind. I hope this goes well. {crosses fingers}

After you place an order you add to your incoming orders at ukaddress. If this works as planned I have to give ukaddress credit for a very easy and transparent process.

The last piece of the puzzle was power. I could have modded the lamp but I went the easier route and bought a 110V -> 220V up convertor and UK powerstrip:

Shipping From Mathmos to ukaddress
I got a shipping confirmation this morning. woot! It is on its way to ukaddress.

Potential Snag
It appears there is a liquid restriction on international shipping from the UK. You can not ship any liquid over a litre. That is .26 gallons. Rumor has it that ukaddress will not ship any liquids. We shall see. I'm not digging the thought of returning a product remotely. I adjusted the description of my item to say it is a lamp from a lighting vendor. Nice and generic. It will say Mathmos on the outside of the box but they do produce non-liquid items...

All this trouble over a damn lava lamp. Seriously! Where is that secret submarine when you need it?

UKAddress has received the package
This email was waiting for me this morning:
subject:Your UKAddress Order 4732 has been approved

I was then asked to go to their site to ship the package.

The cost of shipping
Wow shipping and handling is expensive. This is the cheapest option:
UPS - UPS Express Saver (3-4 Days) - £35.50 + Processing Costs: £ 5.00 = $68

Well I'm all in at this point. Let's do this! 
After I made the payment it kicked me back to their main page with no indication that the payment was successful. After a couple of minutes I received a "shipment confirmed" email.

Looked like I'm good to go. It cost almost double the price to get it but I think it is on its way. Now it just needs to make it through customs. 

It has shipped!
I just got an email with a tracking number. The package is in route. 

Arriving today
The package will arrive today. Ironically, faster than the converter so I can't use it until that arrives :(

It is good to go
It arrived safe and sound and ironically with the other 2 packages.

So there you go. I can't believe it went this smoothly. It looks great on the desk. It's been warming up for 1/2 hour so far. I can't want to see this in action.


  1. Funny how I found this I feel similar way you did. I have a pile of shit Lava Life lamp on my desk and the quality is junk. Cheap metal, chips in paint base, inside of glass base is all marked up. Part of me wants to get one just because Lava Life doesn't want me to get one. Excellent write up and pictures, nice job

  2. Am at that point now where getting a Mathmos is now my one mission in life! Great job with finding a way!

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  4. UK Address will not ship lava lamps. I ended up using a service called "Forward2me" which will ship the lamp..shipping was reasonable and I received the lamp in only a few days. I purchased the same converter mentioned in the above blog. So far everything works great. Mathmos is definitely a cut above other lava lamps.

  5. Hey Sean. I brought one back from the uk. The 220 voltage requirement is for the bulb. Rather than use a power converter, I just purchased a 110-120 volt bulb that fits the e12 or e14 sockets found on these. You can get these bulb at My spec was for a 40R14/FL-E14 40W 120/130V. The heat needed to melt the wax is determined by the wattage, and the lamps call for a 30w. I also installed a Rocco online dimmer (see samples from Dyke and Dean), and converted to a us plug. 30 min of modification and it works like a champ. Dimmer is cool as you can fine tune the light/heat to strike a good balance. Hope this helps!

  6. How much do you want for it?

    LOL... In all seriousness, this sounds like pain in the rump. It irritates me that the company who monopolizes the industry in the US makes subpar quality lamps. Good for you for going out and tackling it the way you did! Nice work!

    From a very jealous mama in Utah :-)

  7. Hi Sean! I just started researching how to get a Mathmos lava lamp shipped to the U.S. and happened upon your blog. I'm wondering how you're liking the lamp since you've had it for a while now? Also, would you be willing to order another as you did before? I'd compensate you for your time and effort (name a rate), obviously on top of the price for the lamp, as well as all other charges/fees mentioned above.

    Please let me know. Thank you.

  8. I love the lamp. I turn it on several times a week. Getting this was not guaranteed. The above process worked for me. Just make sure you don't label the item as a lava lamp when proxy shipping it. Just as a lamp.

  9. You and I are of the same breed, Sean. I get obsessed with something and I will stop at nothing to get it. Lol. Before I go down the same rabbit hole, I'm going to see if I can get a custom made one on Etsy. If I'm not happy with what they say, I'll be searching for my own UK mailing address! Have a great day! I enjoyed reading about your journey!