I guess you’ve seen this or heard about it by now. In April 2022 a Wisconsin couple was electrocuted attempting a popular but dangerous wood-burning technique ‘fractal burning art’.
Fractal burning DIY videos can be found in abundance online but few of them pay much attention to safety.
Some fractal burning art is crafted by professionals with experience as electricians and access to proper equipment. But a lot of people who attempt the technique take apart microwave ovens for the transformer or car batteries to use as power sources.
The “fractal burning” technique creates lightning-like etchings by using jumper cables and disassembled microwave oven parts to run high-voltage electricity through a piece of wood soaked in a chemical solution, usually saltwater. It yields patterns known as Lichtenberg figures, named after the physicist Georg Lichtenberg, who discovered them in 1777 as he was experimenting with static electricity.
The technique is gaining popularity through viral videos on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, but woodworking experts caution that it is extremely dangerous and can be deadly.
Tanya Rodriguez, 44, and James Carolfi, 52, were found dead in a house fire on April 6. Their bodies were in the garage of their home in Marathon County, Wisconsin.
The couple had died before the fire started, and the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office initially described the cause of their deaths and the fire as “suspicious.” The mysterious circumstances prompted weeks of arson and homicide investigation, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
The sheriff’s office, fire marshals and the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory found that Rodriguez and Carolfi died by accidental electrocution when they attempted the dangerous wood-burning technique. The couple used a disassembled microwave oven for a power supply. Authorities believe the equipment that caused the electrocutions also caused the fire, which started in the garage before it spread, the sheriff’s office said in a statement last week.
“Foul play has been ruled out, and the deaths are found to be accidental in nature and believed to be caused by electrocution from fractal wood burning,” Chief Deputy Chad Billeb said at a news conference Thursday.
At least 33 people have died from fractal burning attempts since 2016, according to the American Association of Woodturners, including an experienced electrician.
If you are considering trying the technique make sure to prepare. Here is a video where Robert Murray-Smith from The World of Thinking and Tinkering (TNT) shows how some simple add-ons can make this art technique a lot safer.
If you know anyone who is curious about this art technique please share this information with them. It could help save lives.
The World of Thinking and Tinkering – https://www.youtube.com/c/RobertMurray