Lichtenberg machine

Does anyone have any experience with a Lichtenberg machine? Or has the skills to help build one? Safely?

Uh are you talking about the "paint the wood with saltwater then hook up 10kv to it and watch the pretty patterns burn into it or the suburb of Berlin…

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In regards to the latter, I can say it’s a wonderful country if you don’t mind being stared at.

If it’s the former there are some things you need to know.

I do not want a Lichtenberg machine as a permanent resident to the ERP lab. It’s way too easy to get hurt on and when you do your likely to go all airman larry on us and I don’t want that hassle.

Building a Lichtenberg machine is like baking a pie. It’s easy to make a bad pie. You are dealing with very lethal voltages. But it does make some pretty patterns. Get a microwave off of craigslist or whatever. That transformer is HOOKED TO A GIANT CAPACITOR THAT WILL KILL A HORSE. Sort that with a screwdriver before messing with it. Read at leas two instructables and watch a few YouTube videos where everyone survives. If someone ends up in the hospital or it’s made by electroboom… don’t do it that way.

Make a floor switch. Such that it has to be pressed to be on. That way if you get hit you come off the switch and the power cuts.

This post is a good place to start I’d say. Keep us posted, I may even build along. I think I have a MOT somewhere in my basement…


I can appreciate the sentiment, it’s something I have been interested in for a while but the safety aspects scared the pants off me. There is a company that builds them so is always an option to buy a professionally made one, but it would make my “do it yourself” bump itch like crazy lol.
The floor switch idea I love, a good safety cut out. At the moment it’s just a wish list item so I can happily pass on it.

It’s like a lathe or table saw it is a death machine if used improperly but when treated with respect, appreciation, caution, and rubber, it can become a beautiful tool in the toolbox.

It would require a safety class if I kept one in the ERP and I’m super lazy. So that’s why I don’t want one in the lab. The work vs return isnt high enough.

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I have no issue with that, I see neon sign transformers are an alternative to microwave one’s, they seem to be ready wired and easier to use?

NSTs can be super fun, those are perfect for Jacob’s ladders (the old sci fy tall antennas with the arc going up it)

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I actually have a 3/4 built one that I started at the old place. It is a completely enclosed unit, and has both a lid safety interlock and a two-handed dead-man switch. When it is finished, I’ll be happy to share it with members, and would welcome James’ (and any other) suggestions/evaluation as to the safeties in place.


That’s 75% further than I ever got!

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Hey, it even has a viewing window and interior illumination! I never met a time-consuming additional feature that I didn’t like.

You could make a whole series of art peices that are nothing but time consuming additional features.

More than happy to help you finish it.

I have been using a MOT set up to make many things. I want to repeat what the thread has been stressing. MOT set ups to do this work are, very potentially, easily, deadly. I am interested in speaking with anyone else with interest in this sort of work.

If nothing else they can give you eight plus inch plasma arcs off a simple Jacob’s ladder setup. Super cool. Watch what ya did from a distance.

I am in need of better safety measures. I also am interested in automation to reduce risk. I would love to discuss at your convenience. Thanks

Sure thing. I’ve got it in my storage building, but I’ll go over this week and get it.

I’ve been curious about them as well - but the “death” thing held me back - with a bit of adult supervision, I’d be willing to watch.

Many Woodturners use the Lichtenberg process on turned wood. The insurance coverage carried by Woodturning Groups does not cover any turning activity that uses the Lichtenburg Process.

I would strongly suggest the MakeICT Board inquire about their insurance coverage and act after that.

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This guy makes these out of edmon ok. He has been inspected by OSHA and has a good safety rating.
Price is $299 plus shipping
I would imagine a professional built system would be easier to insure than a diy kit


Part of the insurance issue is the equipment. Most is the operator and how the equipment is maintained… Any time I’ve dealt with commercial insurance or OSHA it has been, who can run it? what is their training? what is the preventative maintenance schedule and Provide a copy? Who is responsible for preventative maintenance on this piece of equipment? How often are training updates required? How does an operator notify the organization there might be or actually is a problem? Provide a full copy of maintenance records for the last 24 months on this piece of equipment?