Making Lichtenberg Figures in Wood

Ever heard of a Lichtenberg Figure? It’s the branching electrical discharge you can sometimes see on an insulating material… That’s right — when the voltage is high enough — it’ll find a way. Using one of our favorite low-cost high voltage transformers from a microwave, [TheBackYardScientist] shows us how to make our own Lichtenberg Figures!

It’s actually pretty easy. All you need is an old microwave, some plywood, and water with baking soda mixed in. First, you’ll need to take the transformer out of the microwave — a simple hack we’ve covered many times before — you’ll need to wire it in a way that allows you to get a few thousand volts out of it.

Then by mixing baking soda in water, you can increase the conductivity — let the wood soak it up overnight, and now you’re ready to go! By attaching the leads to either side of the wood, it’s now conductive enough to allow the electricity to branch across the wood, burning awesome patterns as it goes — just take a look at the following video!

And if you want to get even fancier — why not put epoxy in the burn marks? Maybe even… glow in the dark epoxy!

[via reddit]

27 thoughts on “Making Lichtenberg Figures in Wood

      1. Yes but a Microwave transformer is especially dangerous due to the high current available.
        Many hobby HV projects like flyback transformers, CW multipliers, ignition coils and even messing with mains voltages have minimal risk of actually killing you.
        2kv at 500mA will FUCKING KILL YOU

    1. Give a break over something over something so minor. Even those who have been around in 07, those who weren’t would have the memory. I have found searches of Hacakaday irregular imperfection myself.

  1. Perhaps best to do this outside. I’d get in trouble. Safety? Don’t any of you remember how to make electric hot dog cooker with wood, cord and 2 nails published in CHILDREN’S BOOKS? “Be careful to unplug it before touching the hot dog.”

    1. However the books address safety correct? For most outside would be best, but I would do this in my shop, where arc welding and use of a cutting torch is routine. However the cord would be plug into my shop’s switched outlet(every experimenter’s and hacker’s shop has switched outlet right?) with the fire extinguisher.

    2. But 110VAC is really much less dangerous than the 2kV 500mA that a magnetron transformer is capable of. Especially if you’ve got your earth leakage breaker installed, which of course you do. These things are really dangerous, and will kill you with no questions asked, no second chances, without tripping the earth leakage breaker.

  2. I bought a Franceformer 9000 volt neon transformer for burning Lichtenberg figures but this one has a ground fault circuit and I am making a big ground fault so it shuts off. It has 2 white wires, on black one blue and one orange wire going to the ground fault circuit.
    Does anyone know how I can disable this ground fault circuit by cutting/, joining etc. these wires controlling the transformer?

    thanks Jim

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