Officials in Wasau County (WI) have ruled the deaths of two middle-aged people to be accidental — after initially suspecting murder — when they finally decided that 44-year-old Tanya M. Rodriguez and 52-year-old James K. Carolfi both died as a result of the weird YouTube-inspired fad of “fractal burning.”
I had heard of this crazy fad, but didn’t really think much of it because it just seemed so out there to tear apart a microwave for a part inside that allows home users to play with high voltage electricity and wet wood.
Let us turn to Rick Baker, Chair of the American Association of Wood Turners (AAW) Safety Committee, as he explains the obvious via a warning on the AAW website.
The American Association of Woodturners has banned the use of this process at all of its events and has banned articles about use of a fractal burner in all of its publications.
The reported cases of fractal burning deaths range from hobbyist woodworkers through experienced woodworkers to an electrician with many years experience working with electricity. It only takes one small mistake and you are dead; not injured, dead. Some of those who died were experienced at using the process and some were not. What is common to all of them: fractal burning killed them.
High voltage electricity is an invisible killer; the user cannot see the danger. It is easy to see the danger of a spinning saw blade. It is very obvious that coming into contact with a moving blade will cause an injury, but in almost all cases a spinning blade will not kill you. With fractal burning, one small mistake and you are dead.
This is true whether you are using a homemade device or a manufactured one.
There are many ways to express your creativity. Do not use fractal burning. If you have a fractal burner, throw it away. If you are looking into fractal burning, stop right now and move on to something else. This could save your life.
Mr. Baker, from your mouth to the ears of all the potentially well-done meat skewers out there.
I looked up some clinical descriptions of the gruesome injuries from doing this — from some alive, but mostly dead, people — and it’s a horrible way to go. It’s also a good way to lose a limb or two if you are lucky enough to live through it.