Arc Lighter become Plasma Pyrography Pen

Wood burning can be quite a striking art form, but who wants to be stuck using an old-fashioned resistive heating element to char wood? You could go with laser engraving, of course, but that seems to take too much of the human touch out of it. So why not try a mini plasma pen and blow torch powered by a fancy cigarette lighter?

Arc lighters are rechargeable electronic lighters that look like a tiny stun-gun, and [NightHawkInLight] has been coming up with some interesting hacks for them. In this case, he extended the electrode leads out and mounted them to a wooden handle. The spark gap is only about 2mm, but the resulting arc is plenty hot enough to char wood with considerable precision. You’ve got to work fast, though, or the high voltage will start finding interesting paths through the char, producing Lichtenberg figures. And if a micro-scale blow torch is a tool you need, [NightHawkInLight] has got that covered too – a small brass tube with a pinched-off nozzle hooked to an aquarium pump provides the pressure for that.

Might there be other applications for this beyond pyrography? Maybe soldering or desoldering? Of non-ESD sensitive components, naturally.

21 thoughts on “Arc Lighter become Plasma Pyrography Pen

  1. I seen this video the other day and since then I thought it would be a great idea to turn this into a CNC engraver. I just wonder if it could avoid Lichtenberg figures as you suggested might be a problem.

  2. There is a color paper called Zink that is a kind of printing that uses heat to make color photos. This would be interesting to use with this… Not sure if they are still around… not that it’s old tech but their market share didn’t take off.

  3. Well this would be prefect for scarification (people getting designs on their body with scaring instead of tattoos) and I also wonder what gas/gasses could be pumped through that air hose?

    1. Well yeah, except for what happens when those electrodes touch a water-filled human. Not sure if it’d kill you (can’t see it being easier for electrons to flow across the heart than just to the other electrode) but it wouldn’t be pleasant.

      1. It is high frequency with a small electrode distance. You would probably not feel the electricity (only the pain of the burn. It is similar to a medical electro-cauterization tool. Which is often even a “monopolar” device, that means you have the second “GND” contact somewhere on the stomach and the current travels all the way through the body. Yes it stinks and sounds like a high frequency electric arc. The only pain I felt was when the doctor used it to much on one spot and obviously heated some nearby tissue which was not sufficiently anesthetized as this was a procedure done under local anesthesia.

  4. I’d drop the separate air tube and replace the electrodes with 1 mm tungsten tubes (or even hypodermic needles for a test), angle them so the jet is better shaped, fans out less, and push air through both at the same time. If you have an inert gas supply that would be even better for heating applications where you don’t want oxidising. Even with wood you don’t want to burn the carbon, you just need to drive the hydrogen and oxygen off the cellulose molecules and leave carbon.

    As for soldering, nope nope nope! For that try jamming a graphite rod into another tungsten tube and focusing an IR laser down the tube. In theory all the heat will be generated right at the tip where it is needed. If you can get a Zirconium Oxide tube that would be even better as it should conduct less heat away from the tip, but I am not sure if you can get them with an inner diameter less than 5 mm. The Zirconium Oxide tube is also a great way of having the electrode tubes for the mini plasma torch be parallel without arcing as one goes inside it and is insulated from the other so that the plasma arc is much more of a tight V shape.

      1. There’s a good reason why welding with CO2 is called MAG, not MIG (despite everyone ignoring this detail)…The CO2 is not inert, the arc rips it apart, that’s the main reason straight CO2 MAG is so smoky ;-)

        Anyway paintball stuff is usually overpriced, instead look for an old CO2 extinguisher, or if you plan on doing it more times, just buy your own (pressure tested!!!) tank and have it refilled wherever it’s cheapest, guys that do CO2 fire extinguishers usually don’t mind filling your bottle for a reasonable price.

        Warning note – a CO2 extinguisher has a siphon tube, meaning that unless it’s been removed, it will spew out liquid CO2 instead of gas when right side up, so you either have to modify it or keep it upside down when you don’t want liquid CO2…

      1. In 1808, Sir Humphry Davy, (1st Baronet PRS MRIA FGS) identified the existence of a metal base of alum, which he at first termed alumium and later aluminum.
        The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted aluminium as the standard international name for the element in 1990 but, three years later, recognized aluminum as an acceptable variant. The IUPAC periodic table now includes both spellings.

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