How to make a lichtenberg wood burner with a microwave transformer | Pyrogravure

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Written by Jared Watson

Jarred Watson is a pyrographer with 10+ years experience and has worked with brands like BOSCH & FORD. He is always looking to learn and share his passion of wood burning with others.

In this guide, we’re exploring how to make a Lichtenberg wood burner with a microwave transformer. This DIY project can be risky but also rewarding, creating beautiful patterns on wood. We’ll cover the step-by-step process, safety tips, and other options if you prefer not to make one. Dive in to learn more about this unique craft! Whether you are a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a beginner, this guide offers something for everyone.

Is it safe to make a Lichtenberg machine at home?

Creating a Lichtenberg machine at home poses significant risks. The process involves high voltages, and any mishandling can lead to severe or fatal injuries. However, by following proper precautions and guidelines, risks can be mitigated.


A Lichtenberg machine typically uses a high-voltage power supply, often around 2000 volts, to create fractal patterns on wood[1].

How to Make a Lichtenberg Wood Burner with a Microwave Transformer?

Step 1: Gather Materials

  • Microwave Transformer: Salvage a transformer from an old microwave.
  • Insulated Wiring: Get sufficient length to connect the transformer.
  • Wood Surface: Suitable for burning.
  • Electrolyte Solution: A mixture of baking soda and water.
  • Safety Gear: Gloves, goggles, and a fire extinguisher are essential.[2]

Step 2: Extract the Transformer

  • Disassemble the Microwave: Unplug the microwave and carefully disassemble it to access the transformer[3].
  • Remove the Transformer: Detach it from the microwave safely.

Step 3: Setup the Transformer

  • Secure the Transformer: Mount the transformer on a stable surface to prevent any movement during operation.
  • Attach the Wiring: Connect the insulated wiring to the primary and secondary coils of the transformer.

Step 4: Prepare the Wood

  • Soak Wood Surface: Dampen the wood with the electrolyte solution. It allows the current to pass through, creating the Lichtenberg figures[4].

Step 5: Safety First

  • Wear Safety Gear: Put on gloves and goggles.
  • Setup in Ventilated Area: Ensure your working space is well-ventilated and clear of any flammable materials.

Step 6: Create Lichtenberg Figures

  • Power on the Transformer: Carefully turn on the transformer.
  • Burn the Wood Surface: Lightly touch the wood surface with the connected wires, ensuring your hands are clear from the contact points.
  • Observe the Formation: Watch as the high voltage burns fractal patterns, creating Lichtenberg figures, into the wood.
  • Turn Off and Disconnect: Once you achieve the desired pattern, immediately turn off the transformer and disconnect it.

Step 7: Final Touches

  • Clean the Burned Areas: After disconnecting the transformer, clean any residual burned material from the wood surface.
  • Apply Finish: Optionally, apply a suitable finish to preserve the artwork on the wood.

Important Reminders

  • Stay Vigilant: Keep a close eye on the process and never leave the apparatus unattended when powered on.
  • Have a Fire Extinguisher Ready: Always have a fire extinguisher close by in case of any unforeseen fire incidents.
  • Seek Professional Help if Needed: If unsure at any point, it’s best to consult with a professional or someone experienced in handling high-voltage equipment.

Precaution and Danger

Creating Lichtenberg figures involves inherent risks due to high voltage and the possibility of fire. Always work in a well-ventilated area away from flammable materials, use proper insulated tools, and never leave the apparatus unattended while powered on. 

Seek immediate medical attention if an accident occurs.

Alternatives to DIY Lichtenberg Machine

Exploring alternatives to a DIY Lichtenberg machine is crucial for those who prefer not to deal with the high risks associated with handling high-voltage equipment. Below are expanded insights into some alternatives:

1. Purchasing a Professionally Built Lichtenberg Machine

  • Safety: Commercially available Lichtenberg machines are built with user safety in mind, incorporating safety features that might be missing in DIY versions.
  • Reliability: These machines are typically more reliable and have undergone quality control to ensure functionality and safety.
  • Ease of Use: Designed to be user-friendly, they often come with instructions and customer support, making them suitable for beginners.

2. Using a Lichtenberg Wood Burning Kit

  • Safety and Control: These kits typically operate at lower voltages, offering a safer and more controlled way to burn wood.
  • Variety of Tips: Many kits come with a variety of tips for creating different effects and designs on wood.
  • Convenience: These kits are convenient and portable, requiring minimal setup.

3. Contracting a Professional Wood Burner

  • Expertise: Hiring a professional allows you to leverage their experience and skills to achieve high-quality results.
  • Customization: Professionals can often work with you to create custom designs tailored to your preferences.
  • Risk-Free: Avoid the risks associated with high-voltage equipment by having an expert handle the process.

4. Exploring Other Wood Burning Techniques

  • Pyrography: This art form uses a pyrography pen to burn designs into wood, allowing for detailed work[5].
  • Chemical Wood Burning: This method uses chemicals to burn patterns into wood, presenting a different approach to achieving similar effects.
  • Laser Engraving: Laser engravers can burn intricate designs into wood with precision and detail.

Final Thoughts

Crafting a Lichtenberg wood burner requires careful attention to safety due to the involvement of high voltage and fire risks. For those not comfortable with the inherent risks, purchasing a professionally built machine is strongly recommended.

For those opting to purchase the best fractal Lichtenberg machine, I recommend the professionally built Coolneon Lichtenberg Machine Kit since it’s inexpensive and comes with an instruction manual which makes it easy for amateurs and professionals to adhere to.

Making a Lichtenberg wood burner using a microwave transformer is a fascinating yet risky endeavor. This guide provides a basic overview of the process, emphasizing the significant safety precautions required due to high voltages and fire risks. For those not inclined to DIY methods, professional models are available. Whether crafting or purchasing, the resultant intricate fractal patterns offer a unique aesthetic appeal to woodworks.


  1. Sher, S., & Sher, S. (2022). Fractal Wood Burning: What You Need to Know About TikTok’s Most Dangerous DIY Trend. Bob Vila.

  2. Safety: Fractal Burning / Lichtenburg Burning. (n.d.).

  3. GeeksforGeeks. (2023). Transformer. GeeksforGeeks.


  4. November 1777: Discovery of Lichtenberg figures. (n.d.).


  5. Lewis, C. (2023). Pyrography – A Deep Dive Exploration of the Art of Wood Burning.

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