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What is fractal wood burning? Wisconsin couple found dead after attempting to create art using dangerous TikTok trend

TikTok's viral technique of fractal wood burning claims two lives in Wisconsin. (Image via bruceburnswoodshop/ Instagram)
TikTok's viral technique of fractal wood burning claims two lives in Wisconsin. (Image via bruceburnswoodshop/ Instagram)

Fractal wood burning has been a growing trend on social media, especially on TikTok, as people sitting in their homes have attempted to cast designs on items by flowing high voltage electricity through chemically soaked wooden items. This extremely dangerous art trend has now claimed the lives of a couple in Wisconsin, per several reports.

Tanya Rodriguez, 44 and James Carolfi, 52 were found dead on April 6 at their home when it caught fire. An investigation into the house fire revealed that the couple died before the fire started. The Sheriff’s Office of Marathon County ruled the deaths as accidental, likely caused by electrocution from fractal burning.


What do we know about fractal wood burning?

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TikTok is a treasure trove of hacks, from life hacks to beauty and fashion hacks to DIY art and decor hacks as well. But some art techniques can take a dangerous turn, and in the case of the recently trending fractal burning method, the trend has proven to be fatal.

The biggest risk of the fractal burning method is using high-voltage electricity to burn lightning or tree-shaped patterns into a product soaked in a chemical. This technique has been gaining momentum on TikTok and other social media platforms as well, with videos receiving millions of likes. The process begins with running an electric current through the item people want the designs on. Per the Sheriff’s Office, this is typically achieved by using a high-voltage transformer, often sourced from a microwave-oven, a common kitchen appliance.

When the current is passed through the product, it catches fire and aesthetically appealing designs appear on the item. Once that is done, the product can be cleaned. While the technique sounds both alluring and a risk worth taking, it is highly unsafe. Deputy Chad Billeb of the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office said that it should only be performed by trained professionals.

The little to no warnings about the precarious nature of the technique led many to simply try it at home. In the case of Rodriguez and Carolfi, the Sheriff's Office believes the equipment used for the technique caused the couple’s electrocution and death, along with the fire that began in the garage but spread throughout their home.

This is not the first time that this harmful technique has claimed a life. Per the American Association of Woodturners, 33 people have died while attempting fractal burning. With two more lives lost to fractal burning, it is high time to check the spread of extreme trends on social media.

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Edited by Somava
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