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There's a reason I never make videos featuring MOTs (Microwave Oven Transformers). The high voltage, and more importantly - high current, means they are as dangerous as playing with overhead lines.
This does NOT apply to the spot welder projects where the dangerous high voltage secondary is removed completely and replaced with a few turns of heavy wire for low voltage and high current.
Seeing non-technical people playing with open transformers with car jump leads connecting them to wet salty wood outdoors or in a garage is scary, especially when they handle the low-voltage rated cables while the transformer is powered. Even worse when kids are involved.
It's made a lot worse by the number of people that have been discovered in burning garages because the transformer continued to pump out current after they were dead.
YouTube seems to be applying filtering to new videos involving associated keywords, but still has a lot of legacy videos, some of which are clearly being removed.
TikTok is doing what TikTok does and still pushing out shallow and very dangerous videos that seem to lack all safety information.
Here's a link to the page I mentioned. Be aware that it has a picture of a very badly burned hand:-
https://burncenters.com/patient-stories/marycalhoun2021/
I'm really glad Mary survived that. It was a VERY close call.
The American Association of Woodturners is taking a stance against people doing this due to the high number of deaths being reported.
https://www.woodturner.org/Woodturner/Resources/Information-/Safety/Lichtenburg-Burning
Fractal-Burning/Woodturner/Resources/Safety-Materials/Safety-Fractal-Burning-Lichtenburg-Burning.aspx?hkey=02ac1815-a0e5-4673-a646-741574ab3a76
It is possible to use these transformers for this project safely, but it does require a full understanding that you're dealing with a voltage that is exponentially more dangerous than mains voltage. The inclusion of a properly made Dead-man's switch which will require both of your hands to press momentary action buttons is a start, but doesn't protect against unexpected poking by other people's inquisitive fingers.
If doing this regularly the ideal setup would be a grounded/earthed metal cabinet with a glass window on the top for viewing the process, at least two safety switches operated by the hinged lid, some lighting to watch your creation being formed and also act as an extra warning indicator and an extract fan and duct to take the smoke outside and enhance the viewing experience.
The safety switches would also have to be mounted in a way that prevented accidental operation while leaning into the unit. For actually operating the unit you could then have a hand-held control button, or one mounted on the unit itself.
The neon sign transformer approach uses much lower current, and as such the effect requires more understanding and care to achieve, and will be much slower. But an advantage of the lower current is that a much more detailed result is achieved. It's unfortunate that the sign transformers are getting harder to find and cost a lot to buy.
I'm not saying DON'T do it. Just do it properly with suitable safety precautions and understand the hazards you're dealing with.
If you enjoy these videos you can help support the channel with a dollar for coffee, cookies and random gadgets for disassembly at:-
http://www.bigclive.com/coffee.htm
This also keeps the channel independent of YouTube's advertising algorithms allowing it to be a bit more dangerous and naughty.
#ElectronicsCreators

Let's talk about the project on the internet, that is killing the most people uh in the region of 30 dead in the usa alone, and those are only ones they've actually worked out. What happened? The ones that they've actually reported? It's wood, fracking also called lichtenberg or fractal burning, and i can show you the results of fractal burning. It looks like this. It looks very stylish.

It's where you burn patterns into wood by applying a salty solution to the surface, and then you pass electrical current through it by using high voltage to drive that burning across. I made a video about it. The video was mainly saying: here's what you shouldn't do. It was all about safety and while people are still dying so here's another video and it is largely about safety, so there are tutorials on the internet that show you how to remove a transformer from a microwave.

This is a microwave transformer and connect a plug and flex. The primary and car jump leads to the secondary. Now, noting that this does operate at 2, 000 volts 2000 volts rms under load, uh offload, it will be higher and the peak voltage will go in the region of 3, 000 to 4 000 volts, so car jump leads rated for 12 or 24. Volts are not really a good idea, also playing about with this, while the power's on is definitely not a good idea, but those projects then show how to burn the wood with the high voltage by spraying it with a mixture of baking, soda and water, and you They're they're, just up washed their hands are wet with it, their tables wet with it, and then they show you probing it in some videos, with short sticks with the electrodes in the end, just probing about in the wood, and it's like, i don't think they realize Just how dangerous this is because uh complacency will inevitably step in, and mistakes will be made.

This unit is almost silent when powered, there's, no warning when it's on, so the possibility of one day slipping up, uh having an electric shock from insulation breaking down or just the buildup of salty water. That thing i was talking about sticks, one example is a guy who was showing his family and then he said. Oh, i get a tingling sensation just before his arms went up to his chest and he was in the process of being electrocuted when somebody rise. What was happening and turned the power off? It's a bit grim the fatality rate.

If they get too complacent, it's not like working with the mains where you make electric shot and go ow, and well i'm not going to do that again. In the case of this transformer, it is the same voltage as the electric chair. It's the same voltage as the lower level overhead primary distribution, cables um. So the chances are you just won't.

Do it again full stop. So let me describe uh some of the dangers of this. Let me bring a notepad in. I could read you a story.

Do you want a story? You do want a story i'll provide a link to this as well, because it shows the things that happen so i'll link to the website, because there's a graphic picture with it. It's a horrible picture. I'm not going to put it here because it really is horrible. It shows a mutilated hand and well the karens would report the video.

If i put that up. Also, i don't want to be a scary video like that, but the story goes inspired by social media image sharing sites and online tutorials kahun decided she wanted to try a trend made popular through the internet. Wood fracking also known as lichtenberg wood, burning or fractal wood burning. This woodworking method includes using high voltage electricity to essentially shock lichtenberg patterns into wood, which some say against.

Expert advice can be achieved with a microwave transformer or car battery. I'm not sure it works. The car battery she is quoted, saying they show you pretty pictures and links that take you to tutorials until you figure out how to make your own cohoon said. So that's what i ended up doing.

I followed links until i found a guy somewhere on the internet. That showed me how to take a microwave transformer out of an old microwave and make my own wood fracking machine with battery cables and everything the story goes on every time she worked with the makeshift machine. There was someone nearby, her husband or father-in-law in case. Something went wrong but november the second her husband left to get the couple something to eat for lunch.

He hadn't been gone more than two minutes. When tragedy struck. I'm short cohen said: i'm five foot warned it was cold outside. So i decided to go out there in my pajama pants.

This often gets done outdoors because it's very smoky, it's not something you want to do in your kitchen or anything like that. So people tend to do it in garages and sheds. The machine which sat on the floor was turned off when she picked up the cables. But when she went to take a step, she tripped in her pajama, pants and accidentally turned on the electricity course through her hands, keeping her body upright and locked in a standing position.

She was unable to let go of the cables or move away from the machine. The story continues that when she woke up lying on the floor and some distance from where she'd been standing uh, she ended up getting taken into hospital and uh. Well, these two fingers are missing, the thumb is mutilated and her rest for hand is covered in burns. In this very restricted movement, it's a horrible story.

I shall link to it, so you can see the image if you wish such things. So let's talk about this microwave, oven, transformer and one of the worst things of all about doing this. There are so many bad things about this, so the windings of the microwave oven transformer, oh, incidentally, when you go into it, also note that when you're faffing around in your microwave oven, there's a big high voltage capacitor inside as well - and even it's turned off this - Can order charge for a length of time they usually have discharge resistors, never ever trust a discharge. Resistor always get a properly insulated, screwdriver and short the terminals on one of these and never ever work in a microwave oven with the power turned on.

They are possibly internally the most dangerous appliance to work on in your home. Fine, when the case is on just don't go inside, so the transformer itself has a primary. So in the uk that would be 240 volt, but in america it'd be 120 volts. So, let's say 120 to 240 volts and the primary is this visible winding here? It's got two speed terminals at this end and you can see the two soda connections for that, incidentally, other things this transformer can get used for that are safer.

Quite often you'll see people making their own spot welders out to them. What they do is they take a hacksaw and they cut off the dangerous high voltage secondary, winding uh knock all the remains of it out, and then they put a few loops of heavy wire around and as long as these are well insulated, you then have a Transformer that puts out very low voltage at high current nothing wrong with that. This is purely about the high voltage aspect, so there's the uh primary and we have the high voltage secondary, which uh is galvanically separated. This is important so with the high voltage secondary, which is reference to ground.

Let me show you that on the transformer it's this top winding that is covered in it's a large cluster of windings and there's one end of the winding and it's tapped onto the case. So that is grounded onto the metal case and the other one is this spade terminal coming out the side that is the dangerous terminal? You also have this winding here, which is just a few, turns it's a low voltage winding. It's used for the heater in the magnetron itself. I should draw that in anyway.

It's not of relevance here. It doesn't get connected so, but this is a bit with the high voltage between it scary, high voltage now things worthy of no. If you think that when you get an electric shock and keep in mind, if you're actually say, for instance, you're standing working, doing your your wood, art and stuff like that and you're standing the ground at the voltages, we're talking about here, uh, especially if you're out In a garage on a concrete floor or out in the garden uh, it's going to you're going to be well earth. It doesn't matter that you've got insulated shoes on because uh this is.

This is a high voltage coming out of this uh. Normal household shocks are nothing compared to this, but anyway, you've got your uh work me off here and somehow you come in contact with it. What's going to happen, then, is there's going to be a high current flow from this, because, if you're dealing say, for instance, you're dealing with 120 volts, if you accidentally came in contact with it, you might get a tingle, partly because uh dry skin has a very High resistance in the surface: it's not something you should depend on, but it has a layer of dead skin cells in the front that provide at least a barrier against that, and it's good typically for working up to about 50 volts beyond that it does pose a Hazard of insulation breakdown, with the voltages coming out of this there's no chance. It's just going to literally punch a hole right through your skin and into your flesh and you're very conductive inside.

It will then go through your body, including through your heart area, and it will find a path to ground and even insulated. Shoes may not actually prevent you getting a significant shock, but here's the worst bit you might have a gfci gfci. Oh, i almost misspelled that or an rcd as we call it in uk, or is it current device, gfci ground fault circuit and dropped or makes more sense, but that's how how our acronyms are. But these things measure the current flowing out and coming back in and if they see something as leaked say, for instance, uh an insulation broke down here and it leaked down to earth somewhere.

Then they'll see that some of it's not coming back and it'll trip. The circuit breaker, with a galvanically separated transformer all it sees, is the current flowing in the primary. So if you're in the secretary, which is reference to earth and the current, is zapping through your body to ground and finding its way back, that's a closed loop in there. It is not seeing it in that side, it thinks it's a normal load and the circuit protection will not trip uh, it's not a great thing.

There are, unfortunately, horrible statistics, because so many have now died from this project uh. When people come in contact with the equipment and pass current - and this is just this complacency thing - you just got over familiar with it or an unexpected scenario - occurs. The probability of death from that electrical contact is a staggering 70 and of those 30 that survive uh. They will have scars burns or just other physical problems caused by basically uh having been through the equivalent of the electric chair for a brief period of time, um or the equivalent of touching an overhead line.

That's how serious it is. So what about safety here then? Well, what i mentioned last video was a device called a dead man's handle or a dead man switch it's a box. That is wide enough that you can't just bridge the buttons, because it's got a button on their side and it's a moment traction button and the wired in series with the primary of the transformer and the only way to energize. That transformer is to pick up the box and with both hands and press both the buttons, while the energization is needed as soon as you drop that box, if something happens or as soon as you decide to go and re adjust something as soon as you take.

Your finger off one of the buttons uh it will kill the power of the transformer and render it safe um. It's worth also having a little indicator light i'll draw a traditional little indicator, light there across the primary transformer just to say: well, it's active actually times. Two, because uh one of the lamps may fail play safe, i'm not going to say, don't do it, because that would be like weaving a red flag in front of a build that would make you want to do it all. I'm going to do is say there are safer ways of doing it: the wood art that i burnt.

I did it with much lower current. I used a microwave and not a microwave, oven transfer. I used a neon sign transformer and it's much slower. It's much more fickle.

It takes a bit of experimentation, it's not as brute force as these things the microwave oven transformers, but it is that much safer because well, um. I know plenty of people had electric shocks from neon sign transformers, but the current is inherently limited by the transformer to about 30 milliamps or so, and it just tends to be a violent experience but much less fatal than uh electric chair type devices uh. So the other option is, you can get high frequency supplies. Let me grab one.

I've never really tested this, but you get high frequency electronic sound transformers that uh the high frequency itself. I mean this is not guaranteed. There's always a risk for shock. There's always risk of burns, but things like the high frequency supplies can also enhance the safety a bit by virtue of the skin effect or the fact that your muscles don't respond to the much higher frequency.

These put out, though i have to say from previous experience that uh, you may not feel the high frequency, but you sure, as heck feel the mains ripple. Yes, i shouldn't have put myself in series with a neon driver and the tube just to see. If it gave me a shock or not, it did well there you go science, so there we have it. I was going to end on a really just sarcastic comment.

There, but i'm not going to or should i, because there are going to be narcissistic experts that go down into the comments and tell me i'm an and and that you know they've been doing it this way forever and they just plug it in when they want To do it and just hold the leads in their hand and they've survived and to those people i say: try not to scream too loudly while you're dying. Oh of course you won't be able to due to respiratory paralysis, lol.

14 thoughts on “The most deadly project on the internet”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars KnightsWithoutATable says:

    Clive is right about how dangerous these are. I was an industrial electrician and I went through the training to know to not get anywhere near anything that high of voltage without high voltage training. Even with HV training and full safety equipment, it is still a very dangerous and deadly voltage range to be near. And by near, we are talking about anything closer than 5 meters.

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Thomas M Leahy says:

    * That is the name they've given to the burns people get when struck by lightning, sometimes observable in the grass at a lightning strike. Looks a bit different than what the burned wood looks like. Perhaps a giant giveaway program could have a "thinning the herd effect- might be a good thing
    (kidding). Thanks for the video!
    TTFN. *

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars staples4335 says:

    The best shocks i've had is testing insulation resistance on 4 core 240mm2 Aluminium XLPE distribution network cables. Tester set at 2500v, but would charge the cables upto over 3000v, some runs a few hundred metres long. They would act like a big capacitor. After testing you would have to earth the cables out to drain off the voltage. But sometimes would get distracted or forget. Go to bolt the cables back together and would get one hell off a crack! Would have sore arms for a few hrs after lol. Good times.

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Daniel says:

    The capacitor in them can kill you even when they're unplugged. Same thing goes for big old fashioned CRT televisions and monitors. My grandfather used to work on CRT displays and they'd discharge the caps with old screwdrivers but you could only do so many before there wasn't enough shaft left.

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Endy Mallorn says:

    I am certain of three things regarding this project.

    1. I like the look of Lichtenburg art.
    2. There are trained experts (not just “experts”) who can produce it and from whom I can buy beautiful works of art.
    3. I am not one of those experts.

    I wish that more people learned that lesson. Wood burning is a skill that takes training. Working with electricity beyond the very lowest power electronics takes training (I count 99% of basic computer stuff in that category – you might get a small shock, but anyone can build a logic circuit off a 9v and hardware store parts). If you lack either or both, this is not something you should be doing without supervision by those who are trained and experienced.

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars nigozeroichi2501 says:

    I had a run in with a high voltage ignition on a Toyota FJ40 and several tingles from residential mains working as an electrician, I had a good think about it, and to have a setup that I would feel safe using is impractical and also I know myself too well I'd use it for a while and get bored and it would succumb to Murphys law of horizontal surfaces

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Kracin says:

    "Dead man's box" or Dead man's switches in industry typically have 3 position buttons that get depressed…. and you press it down to the first position to operate, let go to the first position, or press harder to the third position will put the machinery into E-stop…

    This would be a better way to do this, if you get a shock and you grip it and press the button too hard, it would cut out automatically.

    Working in industrial controls, the best way to do this would be to build an enclosure that kept you from having to hold the electrodes, and having an operator stand that had a very thick isolated rubber pad to stand on. Starting the machine would lower the electrodes and then turn on the power for as long as the deadman button is held.

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Rob Cosentino says:

    I'm a sucker for saving transformers out of almost anything, especially microwaves and other high voltage items like HPS and Metal Halide light bulb ballasts which are often 4x the size! However, I don't plug them in. I take them apart and save all the copper wire for other much "safer" projects. 👍

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Mini GP Racing says:

    I was "cautious" when I was experimenting with borax process to anodize aluminum. The borax process seals off the surface and the reaction stops, how you get a thicker layer oxide layer is using higher and higher voltages. I was running 300 to 400 volts through a step up. Very dangerous. Switched to pool chemical pH- chemical for the electrolyte and low voltages of 12 to 15 volts.

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Jim Griffiths says:

    I once dared myself to turn mine but stood at a distance. It scared me too much so I unplugged it, cut out the HV coil, then turned it into a spot welder. Now it's in a box upstairs because the cheapo Chinese board I bought as a controller doesn't work properly. Very inconsistent results, so useless as a spot welder. Would definitely blow up Lithium batteries if used!

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Chemistry of Questionable Quality says:

    There's an interview on the Vigilance Elite channel with DJ Shipley who is a former Seal team 6 guy and he talks about how he got shocked by one. His muscles tensed up so hard that he broke bones. The doctors were amazed that he lived AND that he didn't have to have a bunch of dead muscle tissue cut out of him.

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars avi8r66 says:

    It's the modern form of natural selection. Tragic, but then so is watching a cheetah take down a baby gazelle. Warn them, put labels on stuff, put up guard rails, make dangerous stuff difficult to access, no matter what is done there will always be people who bust their ass to do the stupid thing and die doing it.

  13. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Paul McKay says:

    I used to work in the electrical section when I was a very junior Avionics Technician in the Air Force. One of the things I used to test every now an then was the Igniters for jet engines.
    These use the 400Hz 115v of one of the main AC bus to generate about 2000 volts at many, many amps. I had to test it on the actual 'spark plugs' on a special bench designed specifically for the purpose. The size of the spark and the sound generated instantly gave me a massive respect for the dangers of high voltages.
    After testing we had to leave the unit alone for 15 minutes for the bleed resistor to drain the capacitors in the unit.
    I worked with RF systems as well, they can give you very nasty burns as well.
    Always respect electricity – it can kill you in a split second and it doesn't give a shit how much experience you have.

  14. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Pp Ss says:

    It's all about respect and due diligence. I built my first lichtenberg machine about 3 years ago using a microwave transformer. I housed it all in a sturdy wooden box I built, with power switch, indicator light, and most interesting, a 1930's variac. From there, I used one of the microwave's momentary micro switches, as a dead man's switch that I must put the toe of my shoe on to energize it. Last, but not least, I used high voltage wire that runs to two large nails that go through, and are glued to, the ends of two, 3 foot long (1m), 3/4" (19mm) pvc pipes. Safety is paramount to survival with this process, and having three feet (1m) between you, and the probes, is about the best thing you can do to survive. The dead man's switch is also highly recommended, and every time you move your toe off the switch, which literally engages and disengages with about a mm of movement, it de-energizes the entire system. As for the art aspect, the variac is a must have imho, allowing for more controlled burns! Stay Safe!

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