How to Fractal Burn Wood

How to Fractal Burn Wood

Have you ever seen a wooden table or craft with a cool lightning design burned into it? The wood wasn’t actually hit by lightning; instead, it was burned with intense electricity, also known as fractal wood burning. The craft itself isn’t hard—however, since you’re dealing with really high voltages of electricity, it can be very dangerous. Most woodworking professionals don’t recommend doing this at home, but it’s easy to do if you use the right equipment and take the proper precautions.[1] X Research source

Part 1 of 2:
Prepping for the Project

1
Slide on a pair of welding gloves, insulated shoes, and a face mask. You’re working with some heavy-duty electricity when you fractal burn wood, so it‘s important to protect yourself ahead of time. Grab a pair of welding gloves, along with a pair of insulating shoes, which will absorb electrical shock. [2] X Research source Slip on a face mask or respirator, as well—fractal burning creates small puffs of smoke, which you definitely don’t want to breathe in. [3] X Research source
2
Place your Lichtenberg figure wood burner near your work surface and plug it in. Your Lichtenberg wood burner essentially looks like a metal box with 2 electrical probes attached. Set this box near your work station, and arrange both probes upright in their respective slots. Place the foot pedal on the floor, and plug in the power card. [4] X Research source Don’t use a regular electrical transformer for this project—this is extremely dangerous, and you can end up getting seriously hurt.[5] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
3
Lay a piece of unblemished wood on your work surface. Any type of wood works well for this, whether it’s plywood, cherry, maple, walnut, or mahogany. Double- and triple-check that the wood is flat and steady on the surface, so it doesn’t shift while you’re burning it. [6] X Research source Since fractal burning designs are essentially scorch marks, they tend to show up better on lighter woods.
4
Mix 2 tbsp (29 g) of baking soda into 1 US qt (0.95 L) of water. Fill a bowl or container with tap water and set it near your work station. Stir in 2 spoonfuls of baking soda—this will help the wood conduct electricity, and will help you choose where your fractal designs will go. [7] X Research source
5
Spread the solution over the surface of your wood with a brush. Dip a foam or regular paint brush into the baking soda solution and spread a thin layer over part of the wood. Only use a little bit—the surface of the wood should be damp, but not sopping wet. [8] X Research source For instance, you might paint the water over the center of the wood if you’d like the fractal design to show up there. You can also paint the edges of your wood with water.
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Part 2 of 2:
Applying the Electricity

1
Pick up a probe in each hand. These probes control the electricity that goes into the wood, and help create the cool lightning effect. Don’t let these leads touch, or else you’ll create a huge electrical hazard. [9] X Research source Specialty machines will have circular parts attached above the metal parts of each probe. Always hold each probe above this circular portion, so you don’t burn or shock yourself by mistake.
2
Place the probes on 2 separate points of the damp wood. Think about how long or short you’d like your fractal design to be. If you’d prefer long, intricate burn marks, place both probes on opposite ends of the plank. If you’d prefer a shorter design, place the probes a few inches or centimeters away from one another. [10] X Research source The further apart the probes are, the longer the wood will take to burn. Make sure the probes don’t touch when you place them on the wood!
3
Press on the safety pedal to release the electricity. Double-check that the probes are touching the wood before you crank out the electricity. If everything looks good to go, press the pedal to get your design started. [11] X Research source
4
Hold the probes in place until you’re happy with the size of the design. You’ll see smoke and sparks coming off the surface of your wood—this is completely normal, and it’s how the “lightning” design forms. Watch as 2 scorch lines wiggle and burn their way across the wood until both are touching. [12] X Research source
5
Release the safety pedal and put the probes back in place once you’re done. Lift up the safety pedal before removing the probes from the wood. Once the electricity is turned off, you can place the probes back into the metal box. [13] X Research source
6
Repeat this process if you’d like to make more fractal designs. Wet the surface of the wood, if necessary, and place your probes on 2 different parts of the wood. Press down on the pedal to get the electricity going, and lift your foot off once you’ve completed your design. Enjoy your cool piece of fractal-burned wood! [14] X Research source
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Part 1 of 2:
Prepping for the Project

1
Slide on a pair of welding gloves, insulated shoes, and a face mask. You’re working with some heavy-duty electricity when you fractal burn wood, so it‘s important to protect yourself ahead of time. Grab a pair of welding gloves, along with a pair of insulating shoes, which will absorb electrical shock. [2] X Research source Slip on a face mask or respirator, as well—fractal burning creates small puffs of smoke, which you definitely don’t want to breathe in. [3] X Research source
2
Place your Lichtenberg figure wood burner near your work surface and plug it in. Your Lichtenberg wood burner essentially looks like a metal box with 2 electrical probes attached. Set this box near your work station, and arrange both probes upright in their respective slots. Place the foot pedal on the floor, and plug in the power card. [4] X Research source Don’t use a regular electrical transformer for this project—this is extremely dangerous, and you can end up getting seriously hurt.[5] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
3
Lay a piece of unblemished wood on your work surface. Any type of wood works well for this, whether it’s plywood, cherry, maple, walnut, or mahogany. Double- and triple-check that the wood is flat and steady on the surface, so it doesn’t shift while you’re burning it. [6] X Research source Since fractal burning designs are essentially scorch marks, they tend to show up better on lighter woods.
4
Mix 2 tbsp (29 g) of baking soda into 1 US qt (0.95 L) of water. Fill a bowl or container with tap water and set it near your work station. Stir in 2 spoonfuls of baking soda—this will help the wood conduct electricity, and will help you choose where your fractal designs will go. [7] X Research source
5
Spread the solution over the surface of your wood with a brush. Dip a foam or regular paint brush into the baking soda solution and spread a thin layer over part of the wood. Only use a little bit—the surface of the wood should be damp, but not sopping wet. [8] X Research source For instance, you might paint the water over the center of the wood if you’d like the fractal design to show up there. You can also paint the edges of your wood with water.
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Part 2 of 2:
Applying the Electricity

1
Pick up a probe in each hand. These probes control the electricity that goes into the wood, and help create the cool lightning effect. Don’t let these leads touch, or else you’ll create a huge electrical hazard. [9] X Research source Specialty machines will have circular parts attached above the metal parts of each probe. Always hold each probe above this circular portion, so you don’t burn or shock yourself by mistake.
2
Place the probes on 2 separate points of the damp wood. Think about how long or short you’d like your fractal design to be. If you’d prefer long, intricate burn marks, place both probes on opposite ends of the plank. If you’d prefer a shorter design, place the probes a few inches or centimeters away from one another. [10] X Research source The further apart the probes are, the longer the wood will take to burn. Make sure the probes don’t touch when you place them on the wood!
3
Press on the safety pedal to release the electricity. Double-check that the probes are touching the wood before you crank out the electricity. If everything looks good to go, press the pedal to get your design started. [11] X Research source
4
Hold the probes in place until you’re happy with the size of the design. You’ll see smoke and sparks coming off the surface of your wood—this is completely normal, and it’s how the “lightning” design forms. Watch as 2 scorch lines wiggle and burn their way across the wood until both are touching. [12] X Research source
5
Release the safety pedal and put the probes back in place once you’re done. Lift up the safety pedal before removing the probes from the wood. Once the electricity is turned off, you can place the probes back into the metal box. [13] X Research source
6
Repeat this process if you’d like to make more fractal designs. Wet the surface of the wood, if necessary, and place your probes on 2 different parts of the wood. Press down on the pedal to get the electricity going, and lift your foot off once you’ve completed your design. Enjoy your cool piece of fractal-burned wood! [14] X Research source
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