Fractal Wood Burning Death

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Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
What is fractal wood burning to start?

The report if from Detroit, not Winston Salem.
 
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Steve_Honeycutt

Chat Administartor
Steve
Corporate Member
Fractal wood burning aka Lichtenberg wood burning is applying high voltage to wood to create random burns that look like lightning strikes. I have seen voltages as high as 15,000 used. Most people create their own fractal burners with a microwave transformer or a transformer from a neon sign. This creates some really interesting patterns in the wood.
 

drw

Donn
Corporate Member
Wow, it does look cool...but the process looks really dangerous on so many levels; I'll leave it to those who know what they are doing!
 

Flute Maker

Mike
User
It is cool...I know a guy online that uses it to decorate the flutes he makes....He does a lot of them but I aint even thinking about doing it....One mistake even if you know what you are doing and it can be fatal....
 

Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
Jeff, does that price include the first 50 words of your obituary in the local paper? :D

In the right hands I'm sure it can be done safely. Unfortunately it seems there are too many of the wrong hands out there.
 

nn4jw

Jim
Senior User
Doesn't seem like the kind of thing you should be messing around with if you have a pacemaker or such medical device either.
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
I should have included my thoughts as well: Buy your own death wish for $300!


Jeff, does that price include the first 50 words of your obituary in the local paper? :D

In the right hands I'm sure it can be done safely. Unfortunately it seems there are too many of the wrong hands out there.
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
I've been wanting to try this technique for a while, but safety concerns have definitely been on my mind. I've actually been looking at the device from Conestoga Works. While expensive, I would trust it more than any home made solution I could make. Carl Jacobson on YouTube is an advocate of (and sponsored by?) Conestoga. Like any machine or tool, proper use and safety are paramount. Carl Jacobson had a YouTube Live broadcast going over some of the safety concerns with that particular unit. I like that Conestoga's device has a foot pressure switch, and the nodes are insulated and have safety guards so your fingers don't touch the business end. When I saw his device, I definitely ruled out making my own. It's worth it to me to buy something made by someone who knows what they're doing.

I would be curious to find out if the man that died was using a device he built himself (of which there are many many tutorials on how to make one).

Regardless, it's a sad reminder of what can happen, and the care and attention that should be taken using any dangerous tool.
 

ehpoole

Administrator
Ethan
Jeff, does that price include the first 50 words of your obituary in the local paper? :D

In the right hands I'm sure it can be done safely. Unfortunately it seems there are too many of the wrong hands out there.
The real problem is that there is really nothing particularly safe about working with what can be up to several tens of thousands of volts, at the high end, at comparatively high currents, depending upon the nature and size of the Lichtenberg creation you are attempting, while standing in a puddle of ionized water using a, typically, jury rigged high voltage power supply setup!

Unfortunately, many of the people who fall in love with this art — it is very seductive and mesmerizing — do not come from a background where they have any prior experience working with high tension (high voltage) power supplies that not only produce very high voltages but do so at comparatively high currents and that is an especially lethal combination if a mistake is made. Add to that mixture that typically the entire setup is homemade and jury rigged (often by way of rewinding old microwave transformers) and you add to that risk even further. Then, just because things are not crazy enough at this point, we add in water laced with ionizing conductive salts (to assist with conducting the current through the wood) that you are applying to a chunk of wood with high voltage probes/clamps on either end. And, because they do not typically sell wire with high tension rated insulation (such as high tension silicon or Teflon insulation) in the big box stores, most are getting by with common 120/240VAC electrical grade wire with insulation rated for a maximum of 600V!

In other words, it is a really cool art form and it is the sort of thing I might do if I got bored one day (albeit, only with a proper spotter), but it is not something the average person should really consider getting into unless they are being supervised by someone who can properly evaluate the safety of their setup before first use and who can act as your safety spotter while you are creating the art pieces because if you make a mistake you are going to be in desperate need of a partner who knows how to safely disable the power and/or knock you clear of the high voltage and who knows how to do CPR until they can get your heart restarted!

One’s heart (pun unintended) really goes out to the poor fellow’s friends and family. Although I’m sure he knew that what he was doing was potentially dangerous I doubt that he truly appreciated how dangerous because the combination of high voltage at high currents is really a foreign concept for most of us...a few thousand volts (at a bare minimum) up to several tens of thousands of volts at, in some cases, upwards of 30-500mA (it only takes around 10mA to stop the heart) is almost as bad as grabbing hold of the neighborhood power lines, the main difference being that you won’t be anywhere near as crispy, but either way your heart has likely stopped beating and time becomes very precious without a heartbeat! Worse still, if you should ever grab hold of a high voltage conductor, like used in this artwork, it can prove physically impossible to let go of because the voltage causes the muscles to clench very tightly and with much more force than you can will your muscles to counteract, which is what usually proves lethal as the heart will often restart from a momentary insult due to electrocution (such as hitting the conductor with the backside of your hand), but it never gets the chance to restart if the current is sustained. If your spotter then makes the mistake to try and intervene directly to pull you to safety then they too can become part of the lethal current loop, hence the need for the spotter to have a clearly defined plan of action ahead of time that first involves either killing the power or pulling you free using an insulator (such as with nylon rope, it’s also a good idea for the spotter to be wearing dry insulated gloves and boots themselves to help protect them from you).

If there is a silver lining to this gentleman’s, and his family’s, terrible loss then perhaps it may be that this might discourage some others from pursuing this art form because it is not just 60 year old adults but many teens as well who have tinkered heavily in this art in recent years. And for those who still do pursue such, please do the research, really, really, research the dangers and how to mitigate them, and use wire with appropriately rated insulation and use good insulated gloves and wear insulating shoes while experimenting so as to minimize the risks to the greatest degree practical — but, especially, when doing anything dangerous, always have a knowledgeable spotter/partner who knows in advance precisely what to do if the worst should happen so that they can save your life without endangering their own should things go very wrong — and practice that rescue routine repeatedly ahead of time so that they know exactly what to do despite being caught in a moment of intense panic themselves.

I always kind of grit my teeth when I see these blog articles that are not only written, most often, by those who don’t fully understand the risks, but which also tend to appeal to an even wider audience with even less understanding of the risks as they are now blindly following the blogger’s example. Unfortunately, the fractal nature of Lichtenberg artwork is so very mesmerizing and captivating that it can be very seducing as it can be absolutely stunning in certain media, wood being among those!

As with all hobbies and past times, be safe and always take a moment to first think through what can possibly go wrong and act to mitigate those risks as best as possible. Life is full of risk, but we need not foolishly incur unnecessary risk where such can be readily avoided or greatly reduced!
 

mbromley

Bromley
Corporate Member
Crazy to see this pop up. My neighbors brother in law died the exact same way a few months ago. Apparently he was trying to use a microwave transformer.
 

MikeH

New User
Mike
I've always thought it was really cool and wanted to try it, but I think now I'll just admire it from a distance.
 
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