- The use of a craft technique known as “fractal wood burning” is responsible for the deaths of do-it-yourselfers in the United States.
- An amateur engineer fashioned it out of a high-powered microwave transformer to construct a third rail that he called “homemade.”
- We have an electrical engineer describe the dangers involved, and we suggest a few different ways to address the problem.
What is Fractal Wood Burning?
In a nutshell, fractal wood burning is the process of cutting designs into slabs of wood using a high-voltage electrical current. This method is also known as “wood burning.” The process of using an electric current to burn shapes into wet wood. These designs generally resemble Lichtenberg figures (also known as fir trees) and lightning bolts.
In order to get started, a microwave is disassembled and the transformer is removed from it. Then, using jumper wires, they connect the live ends of the split plug to the transformer, and they connect the neutral ends to a piece of wood that has been dampened.
The result is the formation of a circuit that allows electricity to flow from the wall, through the transformer, and into the timber. Because water is an excellent conductor of electricity, this enables power to pass over it, and if the surface temperature is high enough, the dry wood underneath may be burned off.
You have what is effectively an improvised Lichtenberg machine, which is a piece of equipment used to embellish items made of wood.
Also See: Woodworking Classes Near Me
The trend of “Fractal Wood Burning”
There are many results for the term “fractal wood burning” on both TikTok and YouTube, and the hashtag #fractalwoodburning has been seen hundreds of thousands of times. Because some of these videos are uploaded without any caveats regarding the potential dangers involved, viewers may be led to believe that the process is risk-free enough to try out on their own at home. In recent years, fractal wood burning has been linked to a number of fatalities as a direct result of the inherent risks that it presents.
Following a great deal of deliberation, the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) came to the conclusion that all of its competitions should be free of the fractal wood-burning technique. In addition to articles that discourage readers from giving it a try, it has also made the decision to refrain from publishing any content that is related to fractal wood burning. Learn what fractal wood burning is, why it’s such a risky practice, and what other options are available that are less hazardous.
What is the Problem Behind DIY Fractal Wood Burning?
According to Ann Reardon, a famous YouTuber, the problem occurs when do-it-yourselfers are attempting to make fractal wood burners by using microwave converters. The actual impressions on the wet wood are made by the users by first connecting automotive jumper cables to the transformer and then using metal spikes to press into the wet wood. Because the circuit produces such a high electrical current, users of do-it-yourself Lichtenberg machines should take care to keep their hands away from any wood or metal while the device is in operation (about 2,000 volts).
Dangers of DIY Fractal Wood Burning
The end product of fractal wood burning is sure to be one of a kind and captivating, but the process itself is risky and can result in serious injury. When working with live electrical wires, the difference between life and death for a do-it-yourselfer is frequently an invisible hole in a pair of gloves.
In addition to this, it is important to take note of how powerful the microwave transformer is. Because “a transformer that may deliver several thousand volts at power levels up to 1,000 watts is exceedingly dangerous,” the power source of the microwave is encased in metal so that the user does not come into contact with it. Krein says this was done for safety reasons.
According to the findings of the AAW, fractal wood burning has been documented as having been the cause of 33 deaths between 2017 and the present. The number of individuals injured and died by fractal wood fires is likely higher than what has been documented. According to Phil McDonald, the executive director of the AAW, “While the risks of woodturning are generally widely known, the concerns of fractal burning are mostly hidden.”
Many people will tell you that anything with a voltage that is higher than 240 volts and a power level that can provide even a few hundredths of an amp is extremely dangerous, if not fatal, in an electrical situation. This is because these levels of voltage and power can provide even a few hundredths of an amp. When utilizing a transformer with 2,000 volts, even the driest skin can be penetrated by a powerful current, and a hole in a pair of gloves can also allow current to pass through.
DIY Fractal Wood Burning: Risky Methods You Can Replace
It is strongly suggested that anyone who is interested in exploring pyrography make an investment in a high-quality wood-burning tool that is tailored to their specific needs. It is possible to purchase everything from a single instrument to an entire set, with some products geared toward amateurs and others at seasoned musicians.
- BEST OVERALL: TRUArt Stage 1 Wood Pyrography Pen Set
- RUNNER-UP: Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner Wire Tip Tool
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Plaid wood burning and stencil cutting tool
- UPGRADE PICK: TRUArt Stage 2 Dual Pen Professional 60W Tool
- BEST KIT: TAMEHOM 96 PCS Wood Burning Kit