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Burn Words into Wood with Electricity - Lichtenberg Figures

A while back I uploaded an Instructable explaining how to burn Lichtenberg figures into wood using an old microwave transformer. Now after doing a bit of experimenting I came up with a simple way that you can actually burn words into wood by using a similar method.
If you haven’t checked out my other Instructable “Making Lichtenberg Figures in Wood” you should consider checking it out because it explains some things that I will not be showing you in this video, including how to remove the transformer from an old microwave.This project is cheap and it might not cost you anything! Let's get started.

Step 1: Watch the Video!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EthIBxJ2JUM

Before you go through the rest of the steps for this project, you should definitely watch the video that I have posted above. The video will go through the entire project as well as show you some amazing clips of the wood being burned with electricity. Also, if you enjoy the video you should definitely hit the like button or even consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. Most importantly don't forget to follow me here on my Instructables page so that you can see all of my future projects!

Step 2: Parts List

You will need:

- Microwave oven transformer (setup shown in my other Instructable "Making Lichtenberg Figures in Wood")

- 3/4" plywood or any other kind of wood that you would like to burn

- Water

- Baking soda

- Finishing nails

- Small brush or cotton swab

Step 3: Preparing the Wood

To get started you will need to write down the word that you wish to burn, onto a piece of wood. The wood that I used was a piece of 3/4” plywood but you can use whatever size you like.

After that you will want to carve the letters into the surface of the wood. To do this I used the edge of a flat head screw driver. This will create little channels that will hold the water and baking soda solution only where the letters are.

Step 4: Preparing the Wood

Next you will need to get some small finishing nails and hammer them into the engraved letters spacing them at least a couple of inches apart. After hammering in all of the nails the wood is ready for burning!

Because wood is an insulator and it is not conductive, we will need to moisten up the wood so that electricity will be able to travel across it. I will be adding 2 table spoons of baking soda into a cup of water. This needs to be done because baking soda becomes an electrolyte when it gets mixed with water and it will make the water much more conductive.

Now in order to paint this solution onto the carved letters you will need a very small brush. I used a small #1 craft paint brush but the end of a cotton swab should work as well.

Step 5: Burning the Wood

Okay so now making sure that the transformer is unplugged, the terminals can be clipped onto the first two nails and some of the solution can get painted on between them. Now stand far back and plug the transformer in keeping CLEAR of the wood and the transformer. The wood will begin burning in between the two nails and will eventually meet in the middle putting off a very large arc. Once this arc happens the transformer can immediately be unplugged and this process can be repeated until the word is finished.Once finished, you can even burn along the top and the bottom of the wood to make it look even more unique!

Please do not try this if you don’t have any basic knowledge of electricity or if you don’t have any adult supervision. TOUCHING THIS CAN KILL YOU.


Once again please BE careful! Remember:

1) THE POWER PLUG MUST BE OUT of the socket during ANY handling of the equipment or connecting the wires to the wood.

2) When the power plug is IN the socket, DO NOT TOUCH or go near the equipment.

3) When the process appears to be finished, TAKE THE POWER PLUG OUT of the socket BEFORE going near or touching the equipment.

4) NEVER TOUCH the wood or equipment while the power plug is IN the socket.

5) DEATH or serious injury WILL result from not observing these precautions.

Electric shock can kill. Touching live electrical parts can cause fatal shocks or severe burns. This project can be dangerous and should not be attempted without adult supervision and adequate training. Safety must be taken very seriously if you are going to attempt this project. I am not responsible for any injury or damage. Use or this Instructable or video content is at your own risk.

Step 6: Brushing Out the Ash / Adding Stain and Finish

Now the nails can be removed and the ash can get scrubbed out of the wood with some water and a brush. After this the wood can be set outside to dry.

Once the wood was dry I brought it inside and added some wood stain followed by some wood finish. This isn't necessary but it definitely makes the pieces look very nice!

You can get really creative with this and make some interesting signs that you can hang up in your house. You could probably even burn pictures into wood by using this same method!

Well that’s it for this project! I hope that you all enjoyed this instructable as well as the video. Don’t forget to follow me here on instructables, like, share, subscribe, and to stay creative!

<p>can we use a flyback transformer outputting 20kV at 100uA </p>
There is a way to do this where you can actually hand write it and there is no variation in the thickness. The link to the YouTube video is here. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f4VIkGOToxo .copy and paste that into google.<br>
<p>Great instructable! Is it possible to burn thicker lines into the wood? Or do multiple lines at once if you want a more intricate design?</p>
<p>Thank you! I have tried doing multiple lines at once, it works but it is not successful every time. But I will definitely try and see if burning thicker lines would work as well!</p>
Wow its great <br>
<p>I did similar a few years back using a 15,000V neon sign transformer. https://flic.kr/p/dghnhu</p>
<p>Great channel , I cant wait to my old microwave to fail to make this signs</p>

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Bio: Hello and welcome! My name is Austin. I enjoy creating interesting projects and sharing my projects and ideas with all of you. Please feel free ... More »
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