Thursday, 5 December 2019

Messing about with electricity

I know. I know. One does not simply "mess about" with electricity, as to do so one invites disaster(s) of immeasurable proportion. Or so I'm told.

But still, when most of the dozens of YouTube videos on the subject start with, "Do not try this at home..." one has to discover what it's all about.

And how better to discover than by doing.

So being well aware that "A SIMPLE MISTAKE CAN KILL YOU!" I tried my hand at making Lichtenberg figures.

Step 1 - find an old microwave oven. And where else but the dump?

Step 2 - I pulled the guts out, minding that the capacitor was fully discharged (another thing that can, apparently, kill you), and then removed the transformer which was to become my power supply for this experiment.

Now the risk when using a microwave transformer is, obviously, getting a shock. However when you have 2,000 volts delivering 500 milliamps, it's more than a tingle; it's an electrocution. Hence all the red flags and DON'T TRY THIS warnings.

Step 3 - So, fully informed of the risks, and with multiple levels of safety including a large physical separation and an (unfortunately named) deadman switch, I tried it out on a couple of cherrywood scraps I had lying about.

For a first attempt I'm pretty happy.

There are other, less dangerous, power sources that can also be used - just not as readily available as dump-find microwave transformers. So while this was fun I don't think I'll tempt fate again until I can find a safer option. But the end result will make the search worthwhile.


  1. Impressive result. Worth the warnings?

    1. I kind of joke about the warnings, but the risks are very real. So if I can get similar results at less risk to life and limb, then yes. At this point I’m not sure if I’ll do anymore with this setup. We’ll see.

  2. Totally in these days. I just saw the technique (with a different power source of course) used on a design show and found a piece in a local craft store.


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