Have you ever seen a cool lightning design burned into a wooden table or craft? The wood was not struck by lightning, but rather burned by intense electricity. This is known as fractal wood burning, and while it isn’t difficult, it can be extremely dangerous due to the use of strong electrical currents. While most woodworking professionals do not recommend it, you can experiment with fractal wood burning at home using a Lichtenberg figure wood burner.
Part 1: Safe Preparation
1. Put on welding gloves, insulated shoesand a face mask. When you fractal burn wood, you’re dealing with some high-voltage electricity, so you should take precautions ahead of time. Grab a pair of welding gloves and insulating shoes to protect yourself from electrical shock. Wear a face mask or respirator as well—fractal burning produces small puffs of smoke that you don’t want to breathe in.
Pure rubber boots or shoes can protect you from electrical shock.
2. Plug in your Lichtenberg figure wood burner near your work surface. Your Lichtenberg wood burner resembles a metal box with two electrical probes attached. Place this box near your workstation and place both probes upright in their slots. Plug in the power cord and place the foot pedal on the floor.
Do not use a standard electrical transformer for this project; it is extremely dangerous and could result in serious injury.
3. Place a clean piece of wood on your work surface. You can experiment with various woods such as cherry, maple, walnut, and mahogany. Check that the wood is flat and steady on the surface so that it doesn’t shift while you’re burning it.
- Because fractal burning designs are essentially scorch marks, they are more visible on lighter woods.
- Fine grain fiber board and plywood are preferred by some artisans for this craft.
4. 1 US quart (0.95 L) water, 2 tbsp (29 g) baking soda Place a bowl or container of tap water near your workstation. 2 teaspoons baking soda will help the wood conduct electricity and help you decide where to place your fractal designs.
Wood, on its own, will not conduct electricity and create the cool lightning design that you desire. The baking soda solution allows the wood to conduct electricity, resulting in the distinct burn marks.
5. Using a brush, apply the solution to the surface of your wood. Dip a foam or regular paintbrush into the baking soda solution and apply a thin layer to a section of the wood. Use only a small amount—the surface of the wood should be damp but not sopping wet.
For example, if you want the fractal design to appear in the center of the wood, you could paint the water over it.
You can also use water to paint the edges of your wood.
Part 2: Electrical Designs
1. Take a probe in each hand. These probes regulate the electricity that enters the wood and contribute to the cool lightning effect. If these leads come into contact, a massive electrical shock will result.
Specialty machines will have circular parts attached above each probe’s metal parts. Always keep each probe above this circular portion to avoid accidentally burning or shocking yourself.
2. Place the probes at two different points on the damp wood. Place both probes on opposite ends of the plank if you want long, intricate burn marks. If you want a shorter design, space the probes apart by a few inches or centimeters. The lightning-shaped burn marks are created by touching the probes directly to the wood.
The greater the distance between the probes, the longer it will take for the wood to burn.
When you place the probes on the wood, make sure they don’t touch!
3. To turn off the electricity, depress the safety pedal. Before you turn on the power, double-check that the probes are in contact with the wood. If everything appears to be in order, press the start button to begin your design.
4. Hold the probes in place until you’re satisfied with the design’s size. Smoke and sparks will appear on the surface of your wood—this is completely normal and is how the “lightning” design forms. Observe as two scorch lines wiggle and burn their way across the wood until they touch.
5. When you’re finished, depress the safety pedal and replace the probes. Before removing the probes from the wood, press the safety pedal. After you’ve turned off the power, you can put the probes back into the metal box.
6. If you want to create more fractal designs, repeat this process. If necessary, wet the surface of the wood and place your probes on two different parts of the wood. To get the electricity going, press down on the pedal and then lift your foot once you’ve finished your design. Have fun with your fractal-burned wood!
7. When you’re finished, unplug the wood burner. Replace the probes in the metal box and make sure your foot is not on the safety pedal. Then, unplug the power cord and put your wood burner somewhere safe.
8. Remove any charred pieces from the finished wood. Place the wood under running water and scrub it with a soft-bristled brush. If you brush the wood while it’s still dry, the char dust will get stuck in the cracks.
You can do this with a toothbrush.
9. Allow the wood to dry before buffing it with fine-grit sandpaper. Place the fractal-burned wood in a dry, open area to dry completely. Then, sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper to smooth it out.
Is there a safe way to do fractal wood burning?
Without a specially designed enclosed apparatus, there is no way to make the equipment or its use safe. We warn people not to manufacture, assemble, or supply equipment that uses high-voltage energy sources, such as Lichtenberg machines. We strongly advise people not to use Lichtenberg machines or other high-voltage devices.
Can you use a car battery for fractal wood burning?
Fractal wood burning, high voltage difference design on wood. It’s simple to do with a car battery. To learn more about the “Fr…” process, click here.
What can I use to make a Lichtenberg machine?
You can construct a machine that generates Lichtenberg figures using a microwave transformer.
What are the dangers of fractal burning?
Fractal burning has killed people and has the potential to kill you. Some of those who died had prior experience with the process, while others did not. What they all have in common is that fractal burning killed them. High voltage electricity is a silent killer; the user is unaware of the danger.
What do I need for fractal burning?
Things You’ll Require
Gloves for welding.
Shoes that are insulated.
Mask for the face.
Lichtenberg wood burner figure
What do I need to electrify wood?
The Table of Contents Hide
Making fractals out of electrified wood.
You will require the following items.
Make a secure environment. 1) Your power supply. 2) Choosing the appropriate wood. 3) Increasing wood conductivity. 4) Connecting your project. 5) Finishing and cleaning.