Faux Lichtenberg designs? Safer alternative to fractal wood burning?

I really like the look of the designs you can find all over the internet called fractal wood burning or Lichtenberg designs. (see below for images) I looked into it a couple years ago when my microwave died - you can use the parts from the micro to do this. Apparently it’s is unbelievably dangerous though. Every video I’ve ever watched has comments full of “you are so irresponsible for posting this. Someone will die because of your video” etc. I’ve taken it off my list of things to make but I really like the results. But I’m thinking you could create a faux Lichtenberg burning using our lasers.

Has anyone seen an app that will create a fake lightning patterns once you put in the parameters? Like design size, density of branches, etc? Then we could laser it on our machines with no risk of my kids ending up fatherless.



I’m pulled in a lot of different directions on this.
Could you fake these on a GF? Yes, more than likely, there is something on the Intertubes that you could adapt and use.

Should you? Now here is where I’m conflicted. This is one of the very few things where I consider the process a significant part of the art.
Yes, this is high voltage, and if you are careless, it will kill you that doesn’t mean you need to be careless. I’m not trying to get you to do it if you will never be comfortable doing so, just saying that the same as using a table saw or band saw, you can’t mitigate all the risk, but you can mitigate most of it.


“Lichtenberg inspired artworks” as a compromise?


I followed two different YT channels that were shut down over this. All their videos were deleted.


I will say I agree 100% with you - I’m conflicted too. The “real thing” is always going to be more impressive to me because of the process and the inner structure of the wood that the process reveals. I love the idea of the electricity finding the invisible path of least resistance through trial and error and eventually leaving the pattern behind.

But I don’t see this one as a “table saw”. A small error on a table saw and I get a scare. A moderate error and I get a kick back and a bad bruise. A big mistake and I can’t count to ten anymore and I type a lot slower with less fingers. A small error with the fractal burning and I’m dead. There aren’t many things I do in my life with that margin of error and that level of risk. So for me, I’m out. There are certainly people that can do it safely, so maybe I’ll buy their work someday, but I’m not educated enough mitigate the risk.

I like the philosophical discussion here. The goal of my post is to find an alternative way to do this using our lasers, because I think the vast majority of people will be better off doing a faux Lichtenberg burning on a glowforge. But until that pops up in this discussion, this is fun too.


Okay, I respect that.

So how about this? Other math-based designs that translate well to laser engraving or scoring? We’ve seen some tremendous Escheresk work here. I’d love to see you develop some simplified mandelbrot or maybe a “game of life” representation. The possibilities are endless.
And yes, your original idea of Lichtenberg’s would work if you can find just the right amount of simplification to still look the look but not take days to laser.


@shogun did some cool fractal engraves.

Searching for “@shogun fractal in:first” finds them for you:



Also I just generated this on Midjourney:

I just asked for a detailed radial black and white fractal lightning pattern, and this is what it spit out.

With some refining of the prompt and options I bet you could get pretty close.


Also in case you never saw this, previously:


Presuming midjourney.com is what you’re referring to then:
In case anyone else is interested in giving that a shot this gives a pretty nice overview of both what it does, and how to get involved :slight_smile: https://blog.vivipic.com/us/midjourney/


We were discussing Midjourney in the running off-topic thread:


You should, but you should not try to pass it off as something it is not. I feel like we do this with many things alrady - engraving via CNC (laser) vs. hand tools, letterpress without an actual printing press, stamp/woodblock carving without carving anything, etc. To me the determination of whether the process or the outcome is more important falls to the artist/maker. And then the rest of us can decide if we appreciate the end result or not.


Don’t deceive, but the whole “this isn’t TRUE {insert type of work here}” argument is and always has been stupid. Use the tools you have to create anything and whatever you want. Comic book artists for instance have been stigmatized if they use digital tools for ages. And it’s ignorance at it’s finest. An artist or artisan should always, unless it’s their choice, use the tools that allow them to get to their final product the fastest and easiest way possible.

In the case of the lichtenberg designs, the fastest way possible is the “traditional” way. It’s also deadly as hell. Trained electricians have died doing that. All for the sake of “authenticity??” Nope. Use a safer tool. And call it lichtenberg artwork if you want. It’s not some sacred trademarked thing…

(only way I can think to do the traditional way relatively safely would involve remotely triggering the current. CERTAINLY not hanging onto nails or other makeshift electrodes with current arcing 6 inches or more already… That’s just stupidity.)


I don’t know if there are any generators out there… but here is a good bit of code (maybe pseudocode) that could get someone started if they wanted to do so…


I tried to make one for the group dodecahedron project but it was a disaster. I had wanted to fill the engrave with a color but it wasn’t deep enough. I also wasn’t happy with the image I had used. Time ran out.

It’s one of those “in the back of my mind” projects but I don’t make many decorative things and my GF probably won’t last much longer.


We watched an episode of “Handcrafted America” on FreeVee where Jill Wagner, the host of the show, did a segment on a guy who does this. While fascinating to watch, he specified several times the dangers of doing it. And he charges hundreds of dollars for one piece he’s done. To me, it’s just not worth the risk. Find an amazing photo of lightening and engrave it. Who cares if it’s not real fractal burning. But your family and friends will definitely care if you’re not there, as will we.


Wow, you sent me down a rabbit hole! Midjourney is amazing. I’ve tried a few different prompts, but then got sucked into a whole different world of ideas. I love it. Thx for sharing!


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