The matter came to public attention last month when firefighters responded to a house fire in Marathon County, Wisconsin.
Ultimately, two dead bodies were discovered in the garage: Tanya Rodriguez and James Carolfi (44 and 52, respectively).
While authorities initially investigated the deaths as possible homicides, they later concluded that it was a tragic accident related to fractal wood burning.
“Foul play has been ruled out, and the deaths are found to be accidental in nature and believed to be caused by electrocution from fractal wood burning,” Marathon County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Billeb said. “We believe the fractal wood-burning equipment that caused the electrocutions likely caused the structural fire.”
While fractal wood burning is considered to be highly dangerous, it’s garnered quite a following on TikTok. Notably, Trevor Bruce — a TikToker who specializes in the craft, notes in his bio that viewers shouldn’t attempt fractal wood burning at home.
@bruceburnswoodshop Another fractal wood burned board! These are for sale on my Etsy!! #woodworker #finewoodworking #charcuterieboard #charcuterie #epoxyresin #epoxyart ♬ original sound – Trevor Bruce
The American Association of Woodturners (AAW) has outright banned the craft from its events. The AAW also doesn’t allow any articles on fractal wood burning in any of its publications.
“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,” writes Rick Baker, Chair of the AAW’s Safety Committee.
Additionally, the craft is made even more dangerous when one considers that many people use “extremely high-voltage transformers to create their own home-based fractal burning systems,” including microwaves and car batteries.
The wood burning art trend that has killed over 30 people: Disassembling a microwave to reuse high-voltage high-current parts is potentially the most dangerous appliance in your home and should never be done.https://t.co/zagKAEWSp7
— SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) May 1, 2022
When the couple attempted to try out the dangerous trend for themselves, they lost control and were killed by the electric shock.
“It’s a very dangerous process,” Billeb noted. “You can see the potential danger that’s there, when you’re working with something like the power supply to a microwave.”
“Taking advice from YouTube or any other social media site in order to do a craft…is not safe when you’re dealing with electricity,” he added.
TIL “fractal wood burning”, and the American Association of Woodturners* is here to tell you that it is potentially deadly: https://t.co/aVrMH5PFzD
— Chemjobber (@Chemjobber) April 27, 2022
The AAW notes that at least 33 Americans have direct as a direct result of fractal wood burning in the past few years. However, this figure doesn’t account for non-fatal injuries, suggesting that the number of general mishaps could be higher.