Fractal burning is continuing to wreak havoc, causing a death and three severe injuries in two unrelated accidents in the past two months alone. Fractal burning, also known as Lichtenberg, is the controversial process for using high-voltage electricity to create designs in wood.

In May, 35-year-old Wisconsin man Matt Schmidt lost his life while performing the technique for the first time. His wife Caitlin told the Milton Courier that Schmidt had become interested in fractal burning just a month or so before his death. She said they watched videos together about the technique - neither realizing it was dangerous.

Soon after his death, Caitlin posted a video to her Facebook page warning about its dangers. That video has been seen more than 30,000 times.

Another accident took place just last week in Utica, Michigan, in which two teenagers and their grandmother were severely injured. An 18-year-old suffered severe electrical burns to his lungs after he lost his balance and fell on a live transformer he had taken out of a microwave. He then apparently fell on his girlfriend, shocking her, who then fell onto her grandmother. Police believe confusion and chaos caused by the situation made things worse.

Both the girlfriend and grandmother are expected to be okay, but it's unclear if the 18-year-old will recover.

We've written about other fractal burning deaths over the years. In early 2019, a man in Michigan was killed.

In mid-2017, The American Association of Woodturners Safety Committee issued a policy against fractal burning, banning it from AAW events after it took the life of a craftsman in Washington.
 
“It is the policy of the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) that the process known as fractal burning is prohibited from being used in any AAW-sponsored events, including regional and national symposia, and that AAW-chartered chapters are strongly urged to refrain from demonstrating or featuring the process in chapter events,” said the policy. “Further, the process of fractal burning shall not be featured in any written or online AAW publication, except for within articles that warn against its use. AAW publications will not accept advertisements for any products or supplies directly related to the process.”
 
Our readers had a lot to say on the AAW ban. Our 2017 article was one of the most read articles of the year.
 
The fractal burning process typically uses a high-voltage transformer, often repurposed from a microwave oven, to flow current across wood items that have been soaked with a chemical solution.
 
AAW’s Safety Committee urged publication of information warning members about the dangers of the technique in the organization’s magazine, American Woodturner, in its August issue.
 
Other deaths have been referred to in online reports and in woodworking forums and by the AAW Safety Committee, but no details or confirmation of those other incidents was immediately available.

 

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