Before deciding whether the headline of this article is clickbait, please take a moment to watch the excellent video by [BigClive] below the break. And then, go to your local search engine and search the phrase “fractal burning death”. We’ll wait.
With that out of the way, we have to admit that when we saw the subject “The most deadly project on the Internet” on [bigclivedotcom]’s YouTube channel, we were a bit skeptical. It’s a big claim. But then we watched the video and did some googling. Sadly, there are over 30 documented cases of this project killing people, and more cases of permanent grievous injury.
Fractal Burning is a hobby where wood is burned by slathering wood in a conductive slurry and then applying high voltage to either side of the wood, usually using something not rated for high voltage, such as jumper cables. The High Voltage is supplied by an unmodified Microwave Oven Transformer. Other projects using MOT’s typically rip out the high voltage secondary windings and re-wind them as low voltage, high amperage transformers, and are using in Spot Welders and even arc welders.
As laid out by [BigClive], the voltages coming from an unmodified MOT, ranging from 2-3 KV (That’s between two and three thousand Volts) at a very low impedance are right up there in the “Don’t go near it!” territory.
While many in the Hacker community would have our hackles raised, many of the people who will do such projects aren’t familiar with electrical safety of any kind, but are rather more interested in the artistic effects for inclusion in woodworking projects. Surely such ones are not cavalier with their own lives on a regular basis, but the seemingly innocuous “cool” factor seems to have made this highly dangerous project seem more attractive than dangerous, especially as it gets more popular on social media platforms such as TikTok.
What’s the takeaway from all of this? As hackers who share our projects with the world, it’s on us to convey any danger that somebody else may put themselves in by following our footsteps. Surely a 60 second TikTok video isn’t enough to do that, no more than a pair of jumper cables are suitable for safely handling 2-3 kV. Perhaps such considerations will help us decide what mediums we want to use to share our projects with the world. What are your thoughts?
Of course high voltage isn’t the only way to spark a debate (or a fire). Lithium Ion batteries are known for doing the same, and these Lessons in Lithium Ion Safety are a good refresher course.
96 thoughts on “The Deadliest Project On The Internet?”
TikTok had a series of these 3 or 4 months ago. Makes for some good looking art, though obviously dangerous.
In the same bin as the milk crate challenge, or ANY tik tok challenge… (remember the tide pods??? )
This seems like it should be very easy to do safely. Just don’t be anywhere near it when it’s plugged in or turned on.
Is it really necessary to hold the thing yourself like the people who died presumably did? Why can’t you just set it up far from flammables, and turn it on from 50 feet away, perhaps with a WiFi switch so you don’t have to touch it at all when it’s life, on the off chance that somehow something manages to send HV back down the cord through some crazy unlikely mode?
Maybe if woodworking magazines had an idiot-resistant method, people would use it?
I think you are missing the point, or do not understand how this ‘fractal wood burning’ is done.
Daniel is correct – there is absolutely no need to be anywhere near the wood or high voltage. Ironically, Big Clive made a video six years ago about how to do this safely. I think he avoided mentioning it to avoid the Demonetization YouTube Ban Hammer.
But then there’s that day when it doesn’t turn on so you go down there to see why and drop dead because it did turn on but there was another problem that wasn’t obvious.
Safety is about preparing for things you expect could go wrong though that is a part of it. Safety isn’t about how you construct the environment using “safe” equipment.
Safety is about understanding the limitations of the human in the middle of it all. What their instinctive reflexes are and what could be the consequences of that. What the limits of their spatial awareness may be. What susceptibilities they have to distraction. What are the limits of their cognitive load.
Safety is an exceptionally complex thing.
Then I see people holding a wire rated at 50Volts and is carrying 2,000 volts so they are effectively connected to that wire and the only thing saving them is that they are insulated from the other polarity of the hi voltage.
But they think they are safe because of the 50volt insulation of the wire. This is so very very far from safe in every conceivable aspect.
I have work on no break loads of 127kV and there is no way that I would attempt his in a domestic environment. It wouldn’t be worth it financially anyway after the cost required safety equipment alone.
Then again you have these knuckleheads who plug 100 (x) 9 volt batteries together and draw arcs off each end with cheap Chinese 10 for a dollar clipleads.
After enough Darwin awards there won’t be anyone left stupid enough to go near a LIVE circuit they created
wtf reads magazines?
people always want the fastest means to an end.
I’ve repaired a couple of microwaves. With success and without killing myself. But it probably falls into the “it ain’t worth it” category. Definitely nothing to trifle with or to not take seriously.
30 people eh? That is quite sobering.
Jerry Pournelle and David Niven would say, “Think of it as evolution in action”, but that was a long time ago – today we just say “Darwin Award”.
Except it’s the current trend to poo poo those that give warnings.
David Niven was an actor.
Think of it as Alzheimer’s in action.
Speaking of which, being a cinephile and home theater enthusiast are arguably way saner and safer than this kind of hobby.
I’ve repaired my share of them too, though usually it was the controller board that was broken. Never the transformer or the magnetron itself. Think “Oh, this key doesn’t work anymore” or “I accidentally watered it”
I have also repaired several microwaves in my time. Working on our home micro that would make a loud zaap zaaap at startup. I figured it was all the bacon grease inside and a simple cleaning would eliminate the problem. As i was working on the unit I was explaining to the wife the hazards involved. I showed her the safety switch that prevents the oven from operating with the cover removed. I also showed her how it has two switches in the handle so if you try to operate it with something stuck in the door switch and the door open it blows the mains fuse. One of the door switches had a loose connection and the switch was burnt. I replaced the switch cleaned all contacts and the main board and assembled the unit for testing. On initial start up with a large container of water inside it went zaaap zaaap. I cut the cord off as close to the unit as I could and placed it at the curb and went and bought a new one. Moral of the story – the microwave oven is the most dangerous appliance in your home. Do not take it apart, do not repurpose the innards. The cord I cut off is the only thing to get reused. If you need a high current low voltage transformer then buy an automotive or forklift or golf cart battery charger. Do not mess with high voltages!*
*unless trained and with supervision.
Our microwave broke – probably the controller board or a relay or something – the thing was stuck on, and only tuned off when the door was opened (safety interlock was still working). Thankfully it broke right at the end of a use, so we spotted something was up when we took something out, closed the door, and it restarted.
I thought about repairing it, and then decided it was too much risk – not so much the HV risk, but of the thing breaking again and maybe catching fire.
Bleh, this is no more dangerous than any of the dozens of other varieties of high-voltage projects using microwave transformers. The videos of which AREN’T banned. Thirty deaths isn’t even statistically worth mentioning.
That’s pretty cold. ‘statistically worth mentioning’ or not, they were people: they had families, friends, jobs, lives, and they’re gone now. For them it’s 100%.
I hadn’t heard about this process before: I don’t know how many people have posted videos or how popular they are. But if the videos are so popular they’re inspiring others to try it, and if those videos demonstrate an unsafe process because the people making them don’t know any better, I’m not surprised the response is to ban them. If nothing else, TikTok et al will be looking at their liability if people keep trying this and dying.
Even one death is statistically meaningful to a corporation when it carries the risk of a lawsuit.
My only concern is that there seems to be a blanket ban by the Canadian woodworking organization. Granted according to the page I read a lot of kits are being sold as “safe” without type safety approval. Doing it with a microwave transformer yourself probably shouldn’t be actively encouraged as people are demonstrably getting hurt.
I think such a device should be allowed if it is demonstrably safe (with proper safety tests performed by something along the lines of UL)
It’s called a moral panic: “While the issues identified may be real, the claims ‘exaggerate the seriousness, extent, typicality and/or inevitability of harm.'”
>Even one death is statistically meaningful
Statistically meaningful is when you can’t reasonably exclude bad luck. Moral panics are started when you have a small number of unfortunate events and the media picks it up, starts to collect and publish stories of similar events over a short span of time, and that surge of case accounts inflates the apparent probability in the public eye. Then every self-appointed safety expert comes out to chime in how terribly dangerous it is, and the panic turns into hysteria with concerned citizens demanding bans and limitations on something which was never a serious public safety issue.
Appealing to the individual tragedy is part of what makes a moral panic – it’s a fallacy of relevance, but a very emotionally appealing. Think of the children!
Don’t say that! You’ll be banned!
Ha, ha, only serious. ;-)
Go back to your cave
The word “unfortunate” diminishes the difference between a preventable death and a death that couldn’t reasonably be prevented.
Also these people dying are probably younger people who loose practically the entirety of their lives.
Being stupid is also unfortunate. There’s only so much you can reasonably do to save people from themselves before you begin to do more harm otherwise.
Usually the line goes where you start demanding the power to ban this and that, because once given such power, people start solving “other problems” with it. Often enough the original moral panic is merely a convenient excuse.
To be fair, car accident deaths are many many times higher. We might as well be suing car companies for encouraging people to drive.
Cold or not, acting hastily over a statistically insignificant number of deaths is stupid and destructive. If everything was run this way, society wouldn’t function. So yeah, individual deaths are tragic, but as soon as you start counting the number of people who died, you are no longer talking about individual deaths, and statistical significance becomes more important than individuals. Freedom and liberty include the right to make stupid choices. Benjamin Franklin learned valuable things about electricity almost getting zapped to death by lightning. If we tried to prevent people from doing anything that might be dangerous, society would grind to a halt, technology would stagnate, and poverty would become ubiquitous. So yeah, on any scale that matters to society, they are not “statistically worth mentioning”, regardless of whether they are individually tragic events.
“‘Kindly let me help you or you will drown’, said the monkey putting the fish up the tree.” -Alan Watts
I think he also coined the the expression “A plague of saints” in reference to too many people with nothing but best intentions making a horrible mess out of everything, but that was probably someone else he was quoting.
See I’m welder and one of those people who think warning labels should be removed from things like wood chippers and make it illegal to sue if product was not used properly.
As a welder, blacksmith and hobby wood worker I’ll probably make one from a bursted microwave to incorporate into river cast pieces. Of corse I’ll probably build it into an enclosure, much like a sand blasting booth because I’m not suicidal.
Depends how many people tried it…
Not quite, there are lots of high voltage, low current applications that are a lot less dangerous. The problem here is high voltage and fairly high current. Thirty deaths driving cars is not statistically significant but thirty deaths doing some niche hobby is pretty serious. High voltage projects using microwave transformers are common but ones where you hold the high voltage leads in our hands is not too common.
I have seen video on this and it would be dangerous to someone not extremely comfortable with high voltages at dangerous currents. If I was doing this myself, I would place the electrodes with everything off and turn things on and off from the line side of the transformer. Even so, without any safety mechanism there is a high danger of accidentally leaving something energized. Most people would not know that something a simple as a damp glove or insulation not rated for the voltages involved are issues. People hand holding the electrodes are putting themselves at risk. I am very confident I could do this safely. i would not want most of my friends or family to try it.
Posting a video like this on Hackaday is probably reasonable, YouTube not so much. It is all about the audience.
> but thirty deaths doing some niche hobby is pretty serious.
Approximately 1.15 people die every year by bungee jumping.
I’ve done rocketry as a hobby. People die doing amateur rocketry as well, usually because they are ignoring safety protocols. Ignoring safety protocols isn’t part of the hobby. It’s stupid. The same applies here. I’m also highly educated in electronics/electricity (more-so than rocketry, in fact, as electronics is part of my profession). We aren’t talking about a hobby here, where holding high voltage leads in your hands is part of the hobby. We are talking about a hobby that is trivially easy to do safely, but where some idiots ignore the safety protocols. Deaths doing something stupid isn’t pretty serious. A lot of deaths result from stupidity, and it isn’t any surprise. High voltage electricity is dangerous. People know this. They may not know exactly how dangerous it is, but if they are playing with it without bothering to learn how dangerous it is, that’s stupidity, not part of their project or hobby. I started doing rocketry at 16 years old. Before I every bought my first can of gunpowder, I looked up everything I could find on handling it safely. It turns out there are a lot safety protocols I wasn’t aware of (for example, don’t put gunpowder through a plastic funnel, because it can generate static electricity causing a spark that ignites the gunpowder). The reason I didn’t blow myself up wasn’t that the hobby was perfectly safe. It was because I wasn’t stupid, so I looked up the safety information because I actually value my life. I’ve never had an accident with gunpowder or anything else with rocketry, due to this. The danger isn’t part of the hobby. The danger is caused because dumb people choosing to do things they know are dangerous without learning about the danger and how to avoid it.
So, do you need at pat on the back to go along with all the “I aint stupid” auto-affirmation?
Most MOT projects use low voltage high current
Most? How do you figure? The big feature of microwave oven transformers is that they can convert a lot of POWER, either to a great deal of current at a given voltage, or a great deal of voltage at a given current. I’d say the projects are split about evenly, with hazards at both ends, but fatality much more likely with the high voltage ones.
And you thought the HV sections of old CRTs was dangerous….
I love the discharge patterns, but I think it would be much wiser to write a simulatuon and use that to drive a laser. In fact, it sounds like there’s a real need for such a project, so folks can get their pretty lightning trees without the HV risk. Though these are probably the same people who would skimp on laser safety too…
It has been observed that it is rarely the rank newbie who has their hand destroyed by a table saw or similar piece of machinery. Newbies are still properly respectful of the equipment, at least if they’ve been trained properly. It’s the pro with years of experience who has convinced themselves that they can cheat on safety because they got away with it the last time they did so… and then there’s nothing protecting them during that one moment of inattention or that one piece which does something unexpected.
Woodworkers are generally a safety-conscious bunch. It’s a practice with many, many sharp things: even a chisel can take a pretty deep cut, and spinny death blades that can sever a digit or limb are commonplace.
Never having seen these videos, I’m curious about how experienced these people were as woodworkers (it seems pretty clear they weren’t experienced with high voltage electricity). Are we talking professional-make-my-living-at-this woodworkers? Eager enthusiasts? Weekend warriors? Or people inexperienced in both electricity and woodworking, who just saw a cool thing on TikTok and wanted to try it?
Might be that they are master woodworkers, and saw a demo of such a thing that didn’t teach the ‘obvious’ to the master Electrician doing the demo safety procedures.
In the same way the removal of rings, ties, securing your hair etc isn’t mentioned most of the time when demonstrating the sort of machine tool that will rip your fingers off if it snags that ring etc – those dangers are so foundational to using those tools that the real experts at those tool don’t think it needs mentioning every 30 seconds when demoing a more high level method – you should know it already to play with this stuff.
That said I’d expect most of them are kids eating tidepod level of people – the oooh this is trending, its cool and I’m young and indestructible lets do it! The naivety of even a very smart child…
(infact I’d suggest the smart ones are more likely to hurt themselves – understand more than enough to actually pull off something they have seen but haven’t learnt everything around the issue, so won’t know to take care of x)…
Also, intelligent people who value their safety do their stinking research before engaging in activities they know might be dangerous. If I make a video on rocketry where I demonstrate making a rocket using gunpowder (I haven’t, but maybe in the future), I shouldn’t need to assume that my viewers are so stupid or suicidal that they won’t even look up how to safely handle gunpowder, a substance that is obviously dangerous. (Now, if I’m using homemade sulfurless black powder, then I’ll discuss safety, because part of the point of using sulfurless black powder is that it is far safer than traditional black powder. But if I’m using smokeless powder… If you are too dumb or suicidal to make sure you are using an explosive substance safely, you probably shouldn’t be using the internet, let alone watching videos about it or actually trying it.)
That makes a big assumption – that the intelligent people know it might be dangerous – while with electric it is unlikely anybody with half a brain over the age of 8 could be ignorant of the risk even the smartest person will have blindspot either in their surrounding knowledge* or simply their instinct/comprehension for the danger – you know and are trying to do the right thing, but not having seen the shop safety lecture with all the gruesome injury folks have done to themselves with a moment of madness/lack of training/inattention so you react the wrong way, as you haven’t spent the time with the expert to really learn the right way to react – all that institutional knowledge.
*we are all going to learn something for the first time someday, even something stupendously fundamental seeming won’t be universally known by everyone, and if you don’t know that you don’t know something you often won’t even be able to look it up and learn about it without some guidance – which is why its important for the experts showing stuff off to at least mention somewhere that it can be dangerous!
In chemistry type processes for instance it would be easy to use the wrong container material, not everything can be safely done in glass that seem to make up most labware, and odds are in the demos you see if its not mentioned you can’t tell the material anyway. Would you know if your standard borosilicate glass will have a strong reaction to or rapidly catalyses any possible reagents you put in it? Is the container being transparent to x wavelength an issue? I know damn well despite a pretty good chemistry knowledge I couldn’t tell you for sure on many family of things (chemistry is far to vast a subject), but as I know the issue exists I can look it up, but if all I’ve seen are experts demoing something in their NOT standard glassware without mention I’d assume its fine, and have no reason to look at potential issues.
I suppose people who have a bit of experience with household electric safety imagine that high voltage isn’t that much different. I’m no expert myself, but I’m getting the picture that high voltage is an entirely different ballgame. An “insulator” at 120-240V might not be an insulator at 3000V.
You might be saying different things, depending upon your intended antecedent.
Right, but it’s not just that. An insulator at 3,000VDC might be a conductor at 3,000VAC. The big thing to remember about both high voltage and AC is that it can go further. I’ve had some personal experience with low voltage AC that was a little surprising. I worked at a hardware store for a few years, and we had some low voltage 12V lighting. One day I was doing something with one of the display fixtures, and I accidentally touched the conductors. Now, if you’ve ever jump started a car or done much with a car battery, you probably know that you can straight up hold both terminals, without feeling anything. Technically some current is flowing, but the resistance of your skin is so high that the current is incredibly low. That day at work though, I got a jolt. It was far milder than a 120V shock, but it was enough to notice and to cause discomfort. So what happened? Capacitance. My skin, instead of being such a strong resistor that it was effectively an insulator, acted as the dielectric of a capacitor. The other conductor was my blood. So the two contact points of the conductors were like capacitors, and my blood was the conductor connecting them. AC can go through capacitors (the amount depends on frequency of the AC and capacitance of the capacitors). It wasn’t dangerous (had I touched one conductor with each hand, it might have been…), but it was definitely jarring.
Now, add to that the fact that high voltages can go right through sufficiently thin insulators, and you have a recipe for death. As I’ve said in other comments though, it’s common knowledge that high voltage electricity is dangerous. If people are playing with that stuff without doing their research into how to do it safely, that’s stupidity not mere ignorance. I can understand someone playing with low voltage AC and getting hurt because it’s not common knowledge that AC can be more dangerous than DC at lower voltages (despite Edison putting so much resources into making this common knowledge, back when he was fighting with Tesla over which was better for large scale power distribution). But high voltage? There are electrical boxes all over the place in most inhabited areas that say things like, “Danger, High Voltage”. It’s impossible to grow up in a first world country and not know that high voltage is dangerous.
I doubt you had 12V capacitively coupling through your skin and shocking you. Human bodies have a capacitance around 100-200pF. At 60Hz that’d be an impedance of around 13 Mohms. If you had the full 12V across that impedance, the current would be just under 1uA, which I doubt you could feel. Dry skin resistance of 10-100k would be much more significant.
I used to tell people (induction training) that you’re dealing with something that can travel at almost the speed of light, travel though entirely solid objects like metals, is totally invisible, makes no sound, can leap several feet through the air and kill you instantly.
The results look to me to be a poor Lichtenberg figure, but in wood vs acrylic or glass.
Thanks for bringing the dangers of this project up to the top. The mention in the last Hackaday Links was a bit cavalier, and I’d rather be overly alarmist about these dangers than be part of one more person dying because they thought they could handle the risk.
Seen it in action with a neon sign transformers at 15kv, but greatly reduced current and current limited, and not nearly as well impedance matched as a microwave oven transformer is to a human body. That’s the trouble. The MOT is basically ideal to kill. Don’t F with them, there’s no need.
I’ve done this with salvaged neon sign transformers a few times. They aren’t hard to come by and work just fine for the project. But I suppose they aren’t as handily available as dead microwave ovens- you might actually have to buy it on eBay. Mine were salvaged from a trash bin at a demolished restaurant, along with a couple of still functional neon letters in case I needed a glowing A or G someday.
In any case, yeah, there are safer ways of doing this project. Step one- as many have said- is not being anywhere near it when you turn it on. You’ll need to be near it once the juice is going, to reapply saltwater (it burns off fast), so you still need to be careful. Results can be pretty, but not worth risking your life over.
I prefer neon sign transformers because:
2. Crowbars on short circuit
3. Shuts down on open circuit.
4. I do not live “as close to the edge” as I used to.
Just providing some additional safety details to a previous post.
Anyone using a directly connected MOT without proper safety circuits and insulation is like young children playing with matches in the house.
A set up that I consider safe for targeted fractal burning.
1. Coolneon Neon Sign Power Supply – NG A410EL, 120 VAC in, 10kV out, 30 ma. Shuts down on open or short. AC controlled by ‘dead man’ foot switch.
2. Solid copper core DIY spark plug wires used for leads. Six inch generic spark plug boots covering taped [to make the boots fit] stand probe leads. The plug wires are enclosed in a rubber hose for protection.
3. Use on a safe, clean wood surface.
I position the probes to exercise some minor amount of control of the burn path.
2-3KV are not kilovolts. Kilovolts look like this: kV
You’re absolutely right. Good catch, thanks!
My pet peeve is the too-common use of kB when they then say “kilobits.”
My pet peevee is people who insist on “kibibits”.
Or pets that insist on “Kibbles ‘n Bits”!
I once watched an electrician modifying the mains fusebox from 25A fuses to 63A fuses and he also had to change some of the wiring for those higher currents. Rubber boots, thick rubber gloves apron and full face shield and isolated tools. And that was just 3 phase 400Vac.
A thing that people tend to skip easily is that safety is built in layers of cheese. Each slice of cheese has some holes and you may fly though a few of them, but you’re unlikely to fly though all the safety holes. And still accidents happen. Take for example the video below from Mentour Pilot. Bright red “Remove before flight” labels, missed at least 4 times by different people.
For the Lichtenberg / Fractal burning a simple extra safety feature is to have a simple (partly secluded) push button as a dead man switch, and you can only push the button to activate the circuit when you’re at a safe distance.
“push button as a dead man switch…”
Or a NOT dead man switch as the case may be.
He was working on 480V 3 phase hot?
Once you hit kilo volts it’s much worse. Experience with lower voltages is what kills you. You think you can just use a multimeter probe to test for power. Doh.
That said, it’s the current that kills ya.
That’s what we call “no break load”. You can’t turn anything off. Drop a shifting spanner onto 50kA bus bar and it explodes with the force of three sticks of gelignite. 3 phase is 415V here. No break goes to many kV.
At times you have to stand in a pit (hole in the ground) that is half full of water to repair a 415Volt underground splice while it’s raining.
Safety isn’t an aspect of your job. Safety IS your job.
Even ElectroBoom almost got himself killed by a microwave transformer.
he is an professional resitor to this
As one who has been playing with electronics from a very early age, having shocked myself a few times from the mains, inductive loads, capacitors, etc. A certain amount of healthy respect is incurred fairly quickly. A routine of not only switching things off, but also discharging them and actually checking if is in fact not still live. I prefer remote switching for things like Tesla coils and Jacob’s ladders. High frequency skin effect, high static potential, lots of currant and several hundred kV can reach further than might be expected. Most of the time I like to play with lower voltages but we all get that urge to experiment occasionally.
A good shock from a 200V camera capacitor is generally good for getting you to put safety first. I’ve only ever experienced this once, and I’ve played with camera capacitors plenty since! The small shocks are the good ones, because they are the ones that teach you to be careful when playing with more dangerous voltages, and they aren’t enough to kill you or permanently injure you.
Medium Voltage, sort of on the low end.
High Voltage is upwards of 70KV
That is entirely a matter of perspective.
For some situations, anything above 24v is high voltage. In others, it’s many kilovolts.
I think it’s entirely appropriate in this situation and most others to refer to anything above standard mains voltage as being “high voltage”, especially considering that the people that are being referred to (those using it unsafely) are neither trained to handle it properly nor are they using proper safety equipment.
I saw some 60V batteries at an electronics warehouse once. Those things scared me, because 60V DC is enough to kill a person under the wrong circumstances. It sounds low, but skin can be conductive enough for it to be dangerous or even fatal. (The really scary part was that I calculated this when I got home, and I was sitting there like, “Only 60V is enough to kill someone? That’s not even that much…”)
80V batteries are readily available at home improvement stores for cordless lawn mowers.
Our corporate definition of high voltage is the voltage above which typical skin resistance allows flow of enough current to trigger atrial fibrillation, so, about 50-ish volts. I think that’s pretty sensible: if touching it could maybe kill you, it’s high voltage.
As little a 9 Volts can kill you if it’s applied sub-dermal.
The Washington Post article needs to get clue:
“People trying the craft often pick apart microwaves or car batteries to remove the power supply”
Ain’t no power supply in a car battery. It IS a power supply. A car battery can cause a fire, but it’s really hard to electrocute yourself with one.
Not the BEV batteries…. those can be anythng from 200V to 800V.
But you are absolutely correct on lead-acid ones.
That is the point here. These YouTube videos are being presented to a public that is unlikely to have a clue. On this site, it is a reasonable project with a few warnings. Sending this out to the world at large is probably not a good idea knowing how many people have the electrical safety experience to know what is at stake here.
The neon transformer idea is a good one unfortunately everybody in YouTube land knows where to get an old microwave.
Probably meant car ignition transformer, the newer ones have a surprisingly low impedance.
I see projects where they put 200 9 volt batteries in series and manually handle connections to the stack with clip leads. Yikes. High voltage kills. Only safe way is with remote control and contained within a cabinet with interlock switches and HV safety bleeders.
Average deadly current for DC is about 500 mA, and it causes muscle paralysis instead of locking up. Nerves work by pulsing – DC depletes the ion channel and stops the signals. A 9 Volt battery struggles to put out that much current. Add the contact resistances for each wire clip, and it should be marginally not deadly.
I’ve seen these videos. They are pretty scary!
That’s the best suggestion so far.
I’ve made plenty of these Fractal wood patterns using this set up…but use a remote to activate…never touching work area or electrodes.
That would be best but you know how people are. We all know an interlock or dead man switch would be a good idea but there is always “that guy” that will say he doesn’t have a momentary contact switch and he will remember to shut it off.
Maybe the safety warning needs to be more blunt like “you will kill yourself doing this if you do not follow this exact procedure” and then making sure the procedure makes sure you cannot contact high voltage points. To me, this would seem to be done with momentary dead man switch on the line side of the transformer at a distance from the procedure and of course you would have to make sure this was not being done on a wet lawn :)
Last time I was electrocuted, unexpectedly I might add, domestic appliance that I’d never futzed with developed a fault, I had the fortune to be standing, and standing in a position where a minor weight shift would topple me over.. So I got about a second or two worth before I threw myself to the floor… hence I would suggest, if there’s a faint risk of contacting nasty bitey kinds of ‘lectric, safety first, balance your stool on two legs or something, not too much of a naturally very stable position where you’re just gonna lock in place and fry.
Mine was when squirrels in the walls of my workshop apparently chewed through the neutral and ground lines. A piece of equipment (computer) was working because (I realized later) it was hooked to 120V and the return current path was through cabling to the motion control equipment on my CNC milling machine that was hooked into a correctly grounded circuit. The machine itself was thrashing around because the motion control equipment was designed to get 5V signals, not 120AC, and when I unplugged the cable I got 120VAC from hand to hand. I’ve gotten 120V shocks many, many times before, but I realized then that they’d previously always been across my hand, or hand to elbow, or other localized shocks. Getting 120VAC across my heart was a really unpleasant feeling and left me feeling definitely Not Right for a couple of days afterwards.
It was definitely an I’m Glad The US Uses 120V Not 220V moment.
Mine was a bad UPS on a server. Got 60V AC between the network coax shield and the case of a workstation.
The UPS was putting out 60V AC on hot and -60V AC on neutral and ground. Fixed with a wire from the UPS ground terminal and a cold water pipe (was plugged into grounded outlet). Then a new UPS.
Even it that were years ago, I would seek a medical examination. A human hart is a “go / no go” thing it can carry damage for along time. The damage may be correctable or risk of premature death can be reduced but only while you”re still alive.
Oh, and “electrocuted” is the fatal version of electric shock.
I have a friend who was camping in a tent and a nearby tree was hit by lightning. The tree exploded and she ended up with burns – she now has scars on her back that look exactly like fractal wood burning example.
Like the saying goes…
“Scars are like tattoos, but with better backstories”
“You won’t believe what happens next!”
PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS! My close friend died from exactly this, one minor mistake is all it takes you can be the most careful you think you’re being but there’s a reason this is labeled dangerous, because it is. The fact that there is an article encouraging this makes me sick to my stomach. I hope no one tries this as it is definitely not worth your life. I understand low voltage isn’t as risky, but please do not use microwave transformers, taking these things apart is incredibly unpredictable.
Let’s not forget that 10 people have died from eating Tide pods as well.
I’ve been fracking wood with these types of transformers for close to 10 years now. And add another 15 years to that working in the neon sign business.
Can these transformer kill you? Yes
There’s a wrong way an a right way to do it. Obviously not everyone needs the power of the Internet.
I do fractal burning and take the dangers very seriously. I have microwave transformers…started crafting with them…but now prefer to use the safer neon light transformer.
Sadly we live in an age with a glut of information and a vacuum of knowledge and common sense. In the past, hackers (when it had no negative connotation)/DIYers/hobbyists progressively bootstrapped their personal KnowledgeBase and usually had some experience and contextual knowledge about what they were doing. Today, somebody sees something on the internet and says “that looks interesting – I think I will try that”. When someone with no background assumes that an “internet project” is a step-by-step project for the clueless (who might also be prone to follow instruction details that they do not understand), disaster can be nearby from 120 volts AC, power tools, high voltage, etc.
I have no idea how to solve this.
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