Let’s face it: electricity is fascinating. Watching lightning streaking in the sky is always fun – especially from a distance! But we found out how to create “lightning” in our logs. Lichtenberg figures (German Lichtenberg-Figuren) are branching electric discharges that sometimes appear on the surface or in the interior of insulating materials. Lichtenberg figures are often associated with the progressive deterioration of high voltage components and equipment. The branching, self-similar patterns observed in Lichtenberg figures exhibit fractal properties. Mathematically speaking a fractal is a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern displayed at every scale.
OK. that takes care of the technical explanation. Now lets talk about how fun it is to do this stuff! Fun, but also quite dangerous — so don’t try this until you are well educated on the dangers of electricity coursing through your body parts if you don’t heed the warnings – haha!! We have been working with some of the left over small ends and pieces that end up on the studio floor, creating some art pieces and décor items that we really love!
So how is it done? We start with a piece of wood that has an interesting grain pattern. We have found that the softer, looser grained woods (pine, fir, alder) work best, but any variety has potential. The wood is first painted with a soda solution. Electrodes at placed opposing each other on the surface and the power is turned on. The wood begins to burn in patterns of its own choosing, following the path of least resistance created by the absorption of the electrolytes to into the wood grains. Then we wait and watch (the really fun part!!) as the patterns emerge from the sparks. Finishing is just a matter of deciding when the piece is done, sanding to smooth, and protecting with some type of oil, hand rubbed into the surface.
See it in action – Check out the video!