The Dangers of Fractal Burning, Artwork Technique That Has Killed 33


You don’t usually associate beautiful works of art with death, but an artwork technique gaining in popularity is also proving to be extremely dangerous.

People around the nation are using intense currents of electricity to create unique patterns in wood. They’re making the designs with homemade-built devices from microwave parts, which can generate thousands of volts of electrical current.

It’s called fractal burning. And while the process may result in mesmerizing designs, simple mistakes can prove fatal.

James Carolfi and Tanya Rodriguez were electrocuted while they were wood burning. Their Wisconsin home also burst into flames.

“This is not worth messing around with,” Caitlin Schmidt told Inside Edition.  

She lost her husband to fractal wood burning.  

“He loved our family. he would have never in a million years done this if he had known this could be the outcome,” she said.

Schmidt had recorded her husband Matt showing off his artful designs to their kids.

“Isn’t that neat?” Matt asked his family in one video.  

Two weeks later their son found Matt dead in the garage.

“He was most likely gone before he even hit the ground,” Schmidt said.  

Schmidt is not alone in this loss.  

At least 33 Americans have lost their lives as they burn patterns into wood.  

Brenda Trudell’s husband James was electrocuted while making the artwork as Christmas gifts for the family. He died a week later.  

“It’s heartbreaking. In the blink of an eye everyone’s life has completely changed,” Trudell said.

Fractal burning can be safe if left to professionals who know what they’re doing. Chicago artist Eric Beauchamp showed Inside Edition the carefully controlled method he’s perfected, but even with proper equipment and safeguards in place he says there’s risk in fractal burning.  

Beauchamp also urged people to stay away from the do-it-yourself method that has seemingly grown in popularity.  

“Insanely dangerous,” he said. “How they’re wired and how they’re setup are very different, and that combination is a recipe for disaster.”


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