Is Fractal Wood Burning Safe? Are There Safe Alternatives?

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Fractal Wood Burning
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A growing trend of wood burning has been attracting attention, but is it safe? Fractal wood burning is a method of creating lightning-like designs on wood by using high voltage.

The American Association of Woodturners recently banned references to the practice because of the danger.

Learning about fractal wood burning is essential before you try it yourself. The risk is high, and it can even be fatal.

To solve the problem, woodworking hobbyists have developed a new technique for making wooden boards look fancy.

It involves soaking wood in an electrolyte solution, attaching electrodes to either end, and then burning it. It is usually called “fractal” or “Lichtenberg” wood-burning.

As you run high-voltage electricity through the electrodes, an attractive lightning-like branching pattern appears on the wood.

It looks like lightning since that’s what it is.

Ordinary hobbyists won’t be able to create the necessary voltage, but they can do so cheaply by cannibalizing an old microwave oven for its high-voltage transformer.

It isn’t safe to remove a microwave’s transformer because there is a capacitor in there that needs to be avoided.

Taking the transformer out of a microwave for some other purpose is illegal under electrical safety regulations in Ontario, at least.

Recycling microwave transformers into Lichtenberg burners haven’t stopped the black market from flourishing.

Fractal Wood Burning Dangers

The American Association of Woodturners began receiving reports about deaths and injuries related to Lichtenberg burners in 2017.

Safety committee members concluded that the technique was simply too dangerous and too new to study or even consider.

The American Woodturner magazine banned ads for Lichtenberg devices and banned fractal-burned artwork from exhibiting at AAW events.

Local newspapers began reporting injuries and fatalities caused by microwave transformer accidents.

In June, they issued a disconsolate press release informing the world that 33 people had died since the policy was implemented in 2017.

A study conducted by two physicians in 2020 documented 24 fatalities from wood-burning accidents over four years.

However, some people have escaped Lichtenberg incidents with disgustingly mutilated hands, although they didn’t find many non-fatal accidents.

A woodworking accident involving a microwave transformer has a higher mortality rate than a lightning strike.

When a high-voltage current passes from head to foot, it is much safer than when it passes transversely through the chest from the hands.

It is not surprising that these accidents result in deaths.

Hobbyists, in other words, who have a shop space and a taste for experimentation, often fall victim to them. They used to be called “tinkerers” but are now more commonly called “makers.”

(“Matt liked making things with his hands…”) Most of the dead are male and middle-aged.

Woodworking professionals and some with high-voltage electricity credentials were among them. In the garage, with their jewelry melted, their fingers incinerated to the bone, they didn’t anticipate their spouses spotting them lying dead on FaceTime.

Internet Media Role

About every other day, while I’m in a euphoric online dissociation while scrolling through TikTok or Instagram, I’ll see a video that is so ridiculous that it briefly makes me think about spending time doing actual work (which I never do, but still).

I’m not referring to the typical dumb footage of people falling over or making awkward little dancing moves, either. I’m referring to those “hack” films where someone suggests you try toasting a steak or covering your tongue in sequins.

Those videos where someone implores the audience to do something meaningless that, at best, won’t work and, at worst, could hurt them. They resemble something Neil Buchanan would make if he went insane.

Even though those videos are annoying, I find their potential for harm to be their most troubling aspect.

Shady Practise

Not only is this false information frequently entirely unregulated, but the websites that carry it also actively promote it and, in some cases, protect it.

Last week, a YouTuber named Ann Reardon discovered that one of her videos had been banned by YouTube for breaking the site’s policy against harmful and dangerous content.

Her channel, “How To Cook That,” has gained popularity in recent months for disproving bogus viral video fads.

Reardon highlighted the widespread DIY practice of fractal wood burning, in which a powerful electrical current is run through a wet slab of wood to produce distinctive and aesthetically pleasing burn patterns, in the video titled “Debunking DEADLIEST craft hack, 34 dead.”

From several online videos, people can learn how to build the gadget required to make the designs, demonstrating how to disassemble an old microwave and reuse the transformer.

After attempting to burn wood using a method made famous on TikTok, two persons in Wisconsin perished.

Deaths Related To Fractal Wood Burning

Tanya Rodriguez, 44, and James Carolfi, 52, a married couple who were discovered dead in a house fire on April 6 in Marathon County, Wisconsin, perished by accidental electrocution, according to Marathon County authorities.

They hoped to employ fractal wood burning, a trend made famous by TikTok, to make art.

According to PEOPLE, the sheriff’s office stated that the technique involves burning “tree-like patterns onto wood” that has been bathed in a chemical solution using high voltage electricity.

According to the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation revealed that the fire originated in the garage before moving inside the house.

We think that the structure fire was probably started by the same fractal wood-burning equipment that resulted in the electrocutions.

Authorities claimed that their deaths were “accidental in nature” and that foul play had not been suspected.

Police issued a warning to others not to use the method.

“A high-voltage transformer, frequently reused from a microwave oven, is commonly used in the fractal burning process to flow current over wood products that have been soaked in a chemical solution.

Since the procedure is quite harmful, it should only be performed by qualified professionals.

Final Word

If You are still interested in wood-burning art, perhaps you should consider using safe methods as we wrote about in this article:

Wood Burning Kit – 4 Best Wood Burning Kits On Amazon

 

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