Introduction: Wood Lichtenberg Figures

Warning! This project uses high voltages. Build at your own risk.

This is also my first project on Instructables so it might not be formatted too well. Sorry.

This is a really fun and simple project that almost anyone can make. You can make it for yourself or as a gift.


-Transformer (I used a 6KV Neon Sign Transformer. The higher the voltage, the thicker the stream and the more branches produced)

-Extension Cord

-Wood (I used an 8 inch by 3.5 inch piece of Poplar)



-Baking Soda



-Alligator Clips (optional)

-Scissors or Wire Stripping Tool

-Paper towels

Step 1: Preparing the Transformer

First, strip the output and input wires from the transformer.

Then strip the extension cord so the three wires are exposed. Once stripped, connect the input wires from the transformer to the wires from the extension cord. It does matter which wires are hooked up to which.

The one in the middle (should have green insulation once stripped) is the ground and is hooked up to the ground (green) wire from the transformer. The wire which comes from the left prong (the one that goes in the larger wall input) should be neutral, this hooks up to the white wire. on the transformer. The wire which comes from the right prong (the one that goes into the smaller wall input) should be live/hot, this hooks up to the red wire from the transformer.

Once the wires are hooked up, do not plug it in. You will plug it into the wall in a later step.

Step 2: Preparing the Wood

Take your glass or cup and put two tablespoons of baking soda into it. Then pour water into it until it is about 3/4 full.

Stir the mixture until it is cloudy.

Grab your sponge and soak it up in the mixture while it is still cloudy, do no let the baking soda settle to the bottom.

Softly rub the sponge onto the side of the wood which you want to have the Lichtenberg Figures.

Get your paper towels and dry the sides of the wood. Some of the mixture might have gotten on the sides.

Step 3: Burning the Wood

I placed alligator clips on the output of the transformer because the wire would not reach far enough.

I also placed a wood beam under the piece of wood which I would be burning for extra insulation.

Set the wire on each end of the wood.

Step back and plug the extension cord which was attached to the transformer into the wall.

Do not touch any part of the wood, transformer, or exposed wires while it is plugged in.

Almost instantly the wood should start burning. Once both sides are connected to each other, the figures will stop being burned into the wood. Once this has happened, unplug the transformer.

Just let the wood sit for about a minute and that is it. You should have your own wood with Lichtenberg Figures on it.

Make sure the transformer is unplugged before taking the piece of wood.

This was originally from TheBackyardScientist on YouTube. I will link his video.

Click here for TheBackyardScientist's video


Stevens+Workshop made it!(author)2017-06-25

I had a go at this using a microwave transformer. Great fun and great results... Very dangerous !!!

IMG_2604 copy.jpgIMG_2583 copy.jpgIMG_2572 copy.jpg
Natsufire+ made it!(author)2016-11-08

What's the amps/ current needed for this project in looking at a 12KV neon sign transformer but they have either 25mA or 50mA what would u recommend have the greater effect. I don't wanna buy a transformer and have it melt on me cause of he wrong current ???

rsmaudsley made it!(author)2017-05-29

This is the one I got and it works great.

ClarkC5 made it!(author)2015-09-23

So ive been wanting to use the transformer from an old microwave, the scariest part is the setting up the dang transformer. Any tips other than what you have provided. I.E. what types of insulated tools you would suggest

alissam1 made it!(author)2015-10-01

Note that I'm in no way, shape, or form a trained electrician, but I have worked on small appliances and computers around my home.

So long as you're 100% sure the microwave or whatever device you're harvesting the transformer from is unplugged from the wall, the only shock you're at all likely to get is from static.

That said, be sure to finish off the project with wire nuts and/or electrical tape to make the finished product a heck of a lot safer. Just remember to trim the bare wires (the part sticking out from the insulated 'sheathe') down so there's no bare wire coming out of the end caps.

Using wire nuts:

Using electrical tape:

bmaney made it!(author)2016-12-05

That's very wrong. There's a big capacitor that can zap you in there. Know what you're doing if you open a microwave.

NelsonStudios made it!(author)2017-02-22

I haven't seen a microwave cap with out some sort of drawdown well ever. I suppose some of the older ones might have. Don't just fear bate, share how to test the cap is down with a chunky screwdriver. Teach what you know... or don't share it.

bmaney made it!(author)2017-02-23

I didn't mean to fear bait. I'm actually worried about this. When there's a small chance that someone can get killed, I feel it's worth saying something. Most guides on the web about microwave repair will have cautions concerning discharging the cap, so I didn't feel it necessary to repeat that here. I should have said so. Here's an example:

DennisA67 made it!(author)2017-01-02

Using a microwave transformer is way too dangerous. You can find a transformer that has high voltage and less amps. It's not the volts that kill you it's the amps. Do your for safe may save your life

damienm30 made it!(author)2017-02-06

is the transformer one time use?

DreamingOrchid made it!(author)2016-12-15

What would happen if I used a welder?

DennisA67 made it!(author)2017-01-02

Wont work with a welder. You need a transformer that will take 120 volts up to 10k to 15k volts. I use a oil burner ignition transformer I bought from walmart's online for 48 plus tax.

MavthePatriot made it!(author)2017-01-26

What kind of Oil burner ignition Transformer do you use? Do you mind commenting with pictures of the work? I was thinking about getting this one.

H%26JK made it!(author)2016-12-08

Just about what I was looking for - thx :-)
Anyone know if it's
possible to control the path of the figure more discreetly? maybe doing something like
only putting conductive liquid around a certain area and then putting
something temporary and insulating on the wood in the area that I'd like
to keep clear?

NicholasS138 made it!(author)2016-12-15

let us know how your expiriment worked...

TheGreatResistor made it!(author)2016-11-27

can i use a 20kV 1.2mA supply

Murray+Elen made it!(author)2016-07-09

Warning: A 32-year old artist's death occurred on 7/2/16 in Cortland, OH burning wood like this! This is not safe. RIP Jarrett R. Hutton.

MakerIan made it!(author)2016-09-22

He was using a much more dangerous microwave oven transformer, which can put out more than .5 amps, and will not trip a safety circuit when they short.

While high voltage electricity is still dangerous, neon sign transformers are a bit safer as they tend to limit current to < 80ma.

TheAmishTerror+ made it!(author)2016-07-08

Why not just your a trickle charger for a car battery set to max quick charge as a power source?

arachnoshark made it!(author)2016-04-20

Would putting dyes (food coloring, maybe watercolor, etc) in the baking soda/water solution affect the conductivity?

quietthomas made it!(author)2016-02-25

How would one of these go on Australian 240 v 10 A?

SamanthaT18 made it!(author)2015-11-22

How much current is required? I have a 15000Ma neon sogn transformer that isnt working!

russ_hensel made it!(author)2015-08-05

So nice if you do not kill yourself. I have never had a neon transformer, perhaps I should get one now.

Laral made it!(author)2015-10-15

A neon sign transformer has a built-in shunt that limits the current to around 30mA typically, although some go up to 120mA--NOT RECOMMENDED. You can get used oil burner ignition transformers for free from dealers or repair shops. They are typically 10kV @ 23mA.

c3r3al made it!(author)2015-08-05

I got mine from a local neon sign shop for about $30 used

Laral made it!(author)2015-10-15

I forgot to add, MUCH safer too. ;-)

Laral made it!(author)2015-10-15

I was led here from Woodburning with Electricity by MrMarkinator Yours is much better. Nice and clean. Nice job.


Excellent idea for a decor. I liked it very much. I represent if it is possible to control the course of the movement of drawing)

billbucket made it!(author)2015-08-05

Please at least use electrical tape on those wires. You could actually kill yourself if you're not careful.

c3r3al made it!(author)2015-08-05

Yeah haha, I ran out of tape :P

PeterT22 made it!(author)2015-08-10

...and if your avatar pic didn't give away your gender, that comment did ;)

c3r3al made it!(author)2015-08-11

xD my avatar pic is amazeballs, who doesn't like wernher von braun in shades?

JAC_1961 made it!(author)2015-08-09

Can you tell me if this transformer will work? I know next to nothing about neon transformers. The description in the auction says that it will burn out if used for a tesla coil, etc. Thanks much!

c3r3al made it!(author)2015-08-09

I do not think it would work, you could always try finding lower power transformers in which the seller states that their transformer should work. I would say that the minimum voltage which you should look for should be 2KV (2000 volts).

I found 2 transformers on ebay in which the seller says they should be able to function properly.

JAC_1961 made it!(author)2015-08-10

Thank you, I really appreciate the help. And I will be safe.

c3r3al made it!(author)2015-08-09

If you purchase a transformer and attempt to do this project, make sure to be safe and cautious ^.^

azcreativepro made it!(author)2015-08-09

Is there a limit to the size of the pieces or wood relative to the power output of the transformer? If I wanted to do this across a 5' piece would it work?

c3r3al made it!(author)2015-08-09

I believe it should work, however I think it would be better if a higher voltage transformer was also used.

DIY+Hacks+and+How+Tos made it!(author)2015-08-05

That looks really cool!

c3r3al made it!(author)2015-08-05

Thanks ^.^

About This Instructable




More by c3r3al:Solid Rocket FuelWood Lichtenberg Figures
Add instructable to: