Introduction: Making Lichtenberg Figures in Wood
Lichtenberg Figures! Burning fractal images into wood!
In this Instructable I will be showing you how you can burn some amazing fractal images into wood. This project is cheap and it might not even cost you anything! All you need is an old microwave. Let's get started.
Step 1: Watch the Video!
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:
- An old microwave
- 2 alligator clips
- 1/4" plywood or any other kind of wood that you would like to burn
- Baking soda
Step 3: Removing the Transformer From the Microwave
In order to burn some incredible looking fractal images into wood, you will need a very high voltage source. That is what the old microwave will be used for. Inside of the microwave there is a transformer that outputs about 2200 volts and it will need to get removed.
But before moving on I need to warn you that this project can be very dangerous and safety needs to be taken very seriously.
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 4: Wiring the Transformer
Once you have the transformer and the power cord removed the transformer can get wired up to the way we need it. There are two coils on the transformer. The 120V primary coil and the 2200V secondary coil. The power cord that was removed from the microwave will need to be connected to the two terminals located on the primary winding of the transformer (polarity does not matter).
A piece or wire with an alligator clip on one end can then get connected onto one end of the secondary winding. You will notice that the other end of the secondary winding is fastened directly to the laminations of the transformer. So another piece of wire with the other alligator clip on one end can be fasted directly onto one of the transformers mounting holes.
Also, as a high voltage warning you could even connect a large light bulb across the transformer input terminals to show when it is on.
Step 5: Mixing Baking Soda With Water
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 a 1/4 cup of baking soda in to 2L 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.
Step 6: Burning Fractal Images Into Wood
Now that we have our high voltage transformer and our water and baking soda solution, we are ready to start burning some fractal images into wood. From what I have read and tried for myself, 1/4" plywood works extremely well for this project. But I also got some incredible results with some thick pine and other types of wood. So go ahead and experiment with what ever wood you like!
This part is simple. You just NEED to be careful!
Start by brushing your baking soda+water solution onto a piece of wood. Don't soak it on or leave puddles you just want to get the top of the wood slightly damp.
Next hook up the alligator clips onto each side or the piece of wood. Most of my 1/4" pieces of plywood were cut to about 1 foot in length. Also, keep in mind that the electricity likes to travel with the wood grain so try attaching the alligator clips with the grain.
Now all you need to do is stand back and stay clear of the wood and the transformer and then plug it in. Once the wood stops burning or reaches the other side UNPLUG the transformer and remove the alligator clips from the wood.
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.
Step 7: Brushing Out the Ash
Once you are finished burning a piece (or a bunch of pieces) of wood, there will be quite a bit of ash in the burn marks. Simply get a bucket of water and a brush and scrub out all of the ash. Then just leave them out in the sun to dry!
I really like how some of them look like trees and how they all turn out in completely different ways. There are many things that you can do with these pieces of art. You can varnish them and add a frame to make a unique picture, or somehow include them in a furniture build! Get creative!
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!