How to Make a Lichtenberg Burner With a Microwave Transformer

Lichtenberg figures are formed when high voltage electricity passes along the surface of an insulated material. You can use a microwave transformer to build a machine that will produce Lichtenberg figures.

Materials:

  1. Microwave
  2. drill
  3. pliers
  4. switch
  5. wire cutters
  6. wire nubs
  7. electrical solder
  8. soldering iron
  9. heat shrinks
  10. heat gun
  11. file
  12. short screws
  13. washers
  14. lugs
  15. baking soda
  16. water
  17. wood
  18. wires
  19. 15,000 volt GTO wire
  20. heavy clamps
  21. two copper or brass rods
  22. wire crimp
  23. connectors

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Step 1: 1. Disassembling the Microwave

  1. Take the back and the bottom of the microwave off with a drill
  2. Disconnect the microwave's capacitor with pliers
  3. Find the transformer, disconnect the wires that are attached to the microwave without cutting them

Step 2: 2. Hooking Wires

  1. On the bottom of the primary winding there are two connectors. That is where the power chord will connect.
  2. On the other side on the secondary winding there is one connector. That is one of the leads that will go to the board.
  3. The other lead will come from the ground at the base of the unit.
  4. The two long wires that stick out from the transformer will not be used. Cut them off an inch or two away from the unit and put wire nubs on the ends.
  5. Next, the connections for the power supply that will go over the two connectors on the bottom of the primary winding need to be made. Solder the connection to a wire. Once done, press the wire with the connector into one of the connectors at the bottom of the primary winding. Put a heat shrink over the connector. Shrink the heat shrink using a heat gun that is set on low.
  6. Repeat step five with the remaining connector at the bottom of the primary winding.

Step 3: 3. How to Make Cables

  1. Strip the 15,000 volt GTO wire using wire cutters about two inches from the end of the wire. Partially cut the wire through the insulation but not through the wire itself.
  2. slide the handle grip off of the heavy clamps. Put a washer on a small screw, put the screw through the hole that is on the handle of the heavy clamps. Make a loop with the stripped part of the GTO wire and put that also on the screw. After that, put on another washer, then a lock nut. Screw together tightly.
  3. solder the wire to the clamps.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 with a separate set of clamps and wire
  5. Crimp the connector that will be a part of the ground to the end of the cable.
  6. Solder around the crimp
  7. Cover the crimp and the exposed wire with a heat shrink, use a heat gun to heat the heat shrink, repeat this step three times.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 with the other set of clamps and wire
  9. Slide and shrink about four pieces of heat shrink around the exposed wire that is attached to the heavy clamps. Slide the handle grip back over the handle. Use a fifth piece of large, heavy duty shrink wrap and slide it over the handle grip and the other heat shrink. Heat the heavy duty heat shrink. Try to keep the wire as centered as possible.
  10. Repeat step 9 with the other set of clamps and wire

Step 4: 4. Hooking Leads and Cables

  1. File down the ground hole on both sides to remove its protective coating
  2. Connect the lead to the ground. Put one star washer on a short screw, then the terminal cable, then lace the screw through the ground hole, then put another star washer on the short screw, then a lock nut. Screw tightly. Put another lock nut on the screw, screw tightly.
  3. Hook up the other terminal to the secondary unit.
  4. Plug the wire that is connected to the primary winding into the switch

Step 5: 5. Using the Lichtenberg Burner on Wood

  1. Presoak the wood with a baking soda and water solution. Remove any excess water with a paper towel
  2. Place a copper rod in between each of the heavy clamps. Sharpen the ends of the copper rods into points
  3. Place the copper rods on the wood
  4. Flip the switch on the transformer
  5. Watch
  6. When satisfied with the results, turn off the transformer. Then take the heavy clamps off of the wood

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    15 Discussions

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    warpath7a1

    1 year ago on Step 5

    Ive made 2 of these actually and it's very addicting. Good job in your explanation. But one thing I want to stress to everyone out there. If you are not comfortable around electricity or fail to give it respect it demands, this thing will KILL YOU. 300mA-2 amps is not unusual for a MOT. For God's sake, BE CAREFUL. I use 2 momentary safety switches to cut the power so I CAN'T be near the project while the power is flowing. I do ask, where you got the GTO15? Ive been looking for it locally, but dont know where to look. All in all, great job though.

    3 replies
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    lamontepdJefferyharbin Layne

    Reply 22 days ago

    You can bet I will be checking my Lowe's. I need a better lead line. The leads I'm using now as a lil stiff

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    EmmC3warpath7a1

    Reply 10 months ago

    I realize I'm a bit late in the game with my input, but I found GTO15 at my local Lowe's hardware. I've also made one of these using a cheap set of jumper cables I got from Harbor Freight.

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    Alex in NZ

    2 years ago

    Neat!

    I watched the Mehdi Sagaghdar video on YouTube where he did this, but your one came first!

    Thank you very much for sharing.

    1 reply
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    PopsWisdom

    1 year ago

    Sounds like a fun project, will it make a difference on what wattage mircowave I get?

    I would Assume the transformer would be larger or smaller

    1 reply
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    warpath7a1PopsWisdom

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    The only real difference is the output amperage of the transformer. 1 of the ones I have is from a 800 watt oven. Rather small. 300 mA to 2 amps is typical. And with 100 mA being enough to kill you, ANY mistake has the potential for being deadly. The only difference it makes in your burn is how hot it burns. When you're doing these, you'll find that there is a "sweet spot" for the moisture level of the wood. After I apply the electrolyte and let it soak in, I typically do a test to see how well it will burn. It may be too wet, or I may have to reapply. Dab some off. Constantly making adjustments. But NEVER with the power on until everyone is well clear of the project. Have fun with it. It's so addicting. But please for God's sake be careful.

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    astranut

    Question 7 weeks ago on Step 5

    Which wire to use for this project?? Any specifications??

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    Randy Grim

    Question 3 months ago on Introduction

    The wire on my transformer where the lead hooks to is really small , is this right. .?

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    dant3283

    Question 5 months ago on Introduction

    How do I use two Transformers not sure how the wiring goes can you show me

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    RobertS777

    Question 6 months ago

    Can alternate electrolytes be used? If so which ones?

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    PopsWisdom

    Question 1 year ago

    Sounds like a fun project, will it make a difference on what wattage mircowave I get?

    I would Assume the transformer would be larger or smaller

    1 answer
    0
    None
    EmmC3PopsWisdom

    Answer 10 months ago

    The only difference the wattage will make is how in the speed of the burn. Higher wattage = hotter & faster burn.