Is Fractal Burning Illegal? Govt. Strict stance against it!

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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.

During my exploration of woodworking and art, I came across an intriguing but debated method known as fractal burning several years ago. Back then, this technique caught my attention due to its beauty and the buzz around it. In this piece, I’ll break down my findings, discussing its legal status, the risks involved, and why many places have tight rules about it.

Yes, fractal burning, also known as Lichtenberg burning, is indeed illegal in many jurisdictions. This was particularly surprising given the stunning patterns it can produce on wood.

Technical hindsight

  • The magic behind fractal burning lies in the use of high-voltage electricity, which creates intricate, tree-like patterns on wood surfaces.
  • To achieve this, a transformer, often repurposed from an old microwave, is used to generate the high voltage necessary for the process.

Why is the government very strict on fractal burning ?

As I delved deeper, I understood the government’s concerns. The primary reason for the strict regulations is the significant danger posed by the technique. The high voltage, if not handled correctly, can be lethal. It’s not just about creating art; it’s about ensuring safety.

Fractal burning, while producing visually stunning patterns on wood, has been a subject of concern for many governments. Here’s a deeper look into why authorities are stringent about this technique:

Safety Concerns: At the heart of the strict regulations is the genuine concern for public safety[1]. Fractal burning involves the use of high-voltage electricity. If not handled with extreme care, this can lead to severe injuries or even death. The process can be unpredictable, and even a brief lapse in attention or a minor mistake can have catastrophic consequences.


Past Incidents: There have been documented cases of both novices and experienced individuals suffering fatal electrocutions[2] while practicing fractal burning. These tragic incidents have sounded alarm bells, prompting authorities to take a closer look at the technique and its inherent dangers.

Risk of Fires: Apart from the direct threat of electrocution, there’s also a significant fire hazard. The high voltage can ignite the wood or other nearby flammable materials, leading to potential property damage and further risk to life.


Lack of Standardized Safety Protocols: Unlike many other woodworking techniques, fractal burning doesn’t have widely accepted and standardized safety protocols. This lack of a uniform safety guideline makes it challenging for individuals to ensure they’re practicing the technique safely.

Public Influence: With the rise of social media and DIY tutorials, more people are getting exposed to fractal burning. Without proper knowledge or training, they might attempt to replicate the process, unaware of the risks. Governments are concerned about the widespread dissemination of such potentially harmful information to the public.

Legal and Ethical Implications: From a legal standpoint[3], if someone were to sell or display fractal burned items without proper disclaimers or safety precautions, it could lead to potential liabilities. 

Moreover, there’s an ethical responsibility to prevent practices that can harm individuals, especially when the risks are so pronounced.


Danger involved in fractal burning

Fractal burning, also known as Lichtenberg figure burning, is a technique that has gained attention for its ability to produce intricate and mesmerizing patterns on wood. However, the process is fraught with significant dangers. Here’s a comprehensive look into the risks associated with fractal burning:

Electrocution: The most immediate and lethal danger is electrocution. Fractal burning employs high-voltage electricity, and even a brief contact with the electrical current can be fatal. The human body is a good conductor of electricity, and exposure can lead to cardiac arrest, severe burns, or other life-threatening injuries.

Fire Hazard: The process involves running electricity through the wood, which can lead to spontaneous combustion. If the wood or any nearby materials catch fire, it can quickly spread, causing property damage and posing a risk to anyone in the vicinity.

Toxic Fumes

When electricity courses through the wood, it can produce smoke and potentially toxic fumes. 

Inhaling these fumes can be harmful, leading to respiratory issues or other health complications.


Unpredictable Patterns: The very nature of fractal burning is unpredictable. The electricity will seek the path of least resistance[4] through the wood, and this can sometimes lead to unexpected flare-ups or discharges, increasing the risk of injury.

Equipment Malfunction: The equipment used, often repurposed from old microwaves or other devices, may not be designed for this kind of use. There’s a risk of equipment malfunctioning, leading to electrical shorts or other hazards.

Lack of Proper Training

Many individuals attempt fractal burning after watching online tutorials or reading about it, without proper training or understanding of electrical safety. 

This lack of knowledge can lead to mistakes and accidents.

Improper Workspace: A safe environment is crucial when working with high-voltage electricity. An unsuitable workspace, such as a damp or cluttered area, can amplify the risks.

Physical Contact with Conductive Materials: Wearing jewelry, watches, or being in contact with other conductive materials can increase the risk of electrocution. Even perspiration can enhance conductivity, making a person more susceptible to electric shocks.

Secondary Injuries: Apart from direct injuries from the process, there’s also the risk of secondary injuries. For instance, someone who gets shocked might fall and sustain injuries from the fall itself.

Accidents and deaths in past

Fractal burning, despite its allure as an art form, has a dark history marked by accidents and fatalities. The use of high-voltage electricity in an uncontrolled environment has led to tragic outcomes. Here are some documented incidents and facts related to accidents and deaths caused by fractal burning:

Woodworking Network Report: A report from the Woodworking Network[5] highlighted a particular incident where a man lost his life while attempting fractal burning in his workshop. This tragedy was one of the catalysts that led to increased scrutiny and calls for bans on the practice.

American Association of Woodturners (AAW) Warning: The AAW[6], a prominent organization in the woodworking community, has issued warnings about the dangers of fractal burning. It is said to have documented 24 deaths so far due to improper fractal burning. They have cited instances of fatalities and have strongly advised their members against the practice.

Social Media and Online Platforms: Platforms like Reddit and YouTube have seen discussions and debates around the safety of fractal burning. Several users have shared personal anecdotes of close calls, injuries, and knowledge of fatalities within their communities.

Rise of DIY Culture: The DIY culture, fueled by online tutorials and social media platforms, has led to an increase in the number of untrained individuals attempting fractal burning. This has, unfortunately, resulted in accidents, some of which have been fatal. For instance, a concerning trend on TikTok saw users trying out fractal burning, leading to warnings about the potential dangers.

Final Thoughts

Fractal burning, while artistically captivating, carries significant risks, including fatal electrocution. Given the documented accidents and deaths, extreme caution is advised, and adherence to local regulations is essential. Safety should always be the priority. Exploring safer alternatives in woodworking is highly recommended. I personally recommend Coolneon Lichtenberg Machine Kit.

Fractal burning creates stunning wood art but is fraught with dangers, including fatal electrocution. Past incidents underscore the need for extreme caution. It’s vital to follow local regulations and prioritize safety above all. For those passionate about woodworking, safer alternatives exist. One such recommended product is the Cool Neon Lichtenberg Machine Kit, which offers a blend of artistry and safety.


  1. Delbert, C. (2022, June 27). People keep dying rigging microwave transformers into DIY Wood-Burning machines. Popular Mechanics.
  2. Herb, T., Snyder, A. J., Wilson, A. M., & Caplan, M. J. (2022). Electrocution due to fractal wood burning. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 43(4), 363–368.
  3. Safety: Fractal Burning / Lichtenburg Burning. (n.d.-c).
  4. AlphaPhoenix. (2023, April 17). How does electricity find the “Path of Least Resistance”? [Video]. YouTube.
  5. Fractal burning kills another in Michigan | Woodworking Network. (2023, November 6). Woodworking Network.
  6. Safety: Fractal Burning / Lichtenburg Burning. (n.d.-d).

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