Electronic artist

Man makes incredible portrait of Nikola Tesla using electricity


A video shared online showed an extremely impressive portrayal of inventor Nikola Tesla, but the technique used to do so has been criticized for being dangerous, after various reports of incidents resulting in death. It might go without saying, but don’t try this at home.

Artist Zack Smithey posted his creation of Tesla using a technique called Fractal Wood Burning on TikTok originally, but then shared it with Reddit on Thursday, and won over 14,000 votes.

“It’s really amazing,” wrote one user.

Smithey used the technique to create lightning-like burns on the wood, much like Tesla’s face. Tesla (1856-1943) is a world-renowned Serbian-American engineer and physicist who invented the first AC motor, electronic oscillators, and the high-voltage transformer known as the Tesla Coil, among others.

Fittingly, he once created artificial lightning with lightning bolts measuring 41 meters (135 feet) in his Colorado lab.

“They better use AC [alternating current] to do that, ”one user wrote. Smithey confirmed in a comment that he didn’t actually use AC because the technique doesn’t work with it.

“If the person used DC [direct current] to do the portrait, Tesla would turn around in the grave, ”another user joked.

While the portrait Smithey’s created has been praised online for its precision and creativity, the fractal engraving has also raised concerns in the comments. The practice is strongly unsupported by the woodturning industry due to its incredibly high risk factors.

Fractal combustion of wood involves applying an electrically conductive solution to wood before then applying high voltage electricity using two probes. The electricity then passes through the wood to meet, producing lightning-like marks.

It might sound cool, but it’s actually life threatening with reported deaths of even the most experienced carpenters. The American Association of Woodturners has even banned this practice altogether.

“I was zapped twice (only slightly annoying) but it wasn’t a full-power shock,” Smithey confirmed in a comment.

Generators used in practice contain accessible wiring components under voltage and are dangerous to use, whether they are homemade, like Smithey’s screwdrivers with jumper cables, or purchased. Apparently, even those purchased prefabricated often have fraudulent security stickers.

In July 2021, the American Association of Woodturners reported 30 cases of death from the use of fractal burners, but estimates the number to be much higher.

The security issue has been highlighted on Reddit, with users even recounting their own tragic experiences with it. “I have to mention that a girl died doing this in my area when I was in high school. Died instantly. An owner of a local carpentry shop keeps some of his work and tells people not to fuck up with doing this. “

“I know someone who died doing this this year. He turned it off and went to remove the pins, didn’t know the capacitors were still charged,” wrote another.

News week contacted Smithey for comment.

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), Serbo-American physicist sitting in his laboratory in Colorado Springs with his “magnifying transmitter” – 1899.
Stefano Bianchetti / Getty Images


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