Two people killed while experimenting with TikTok art practice

Middle aged Wisconsin couple are electrocuted to death while trying to follow dangerous TikTok trend that uses high voltage to burn designs on wood

  • Officials originally viewed the fire that killed Tanya Rodriguez and James Carolfi as suspicious
  • It turned out the pair were experimenting with fractal wood burning, a social media trend
  • Rodriguez and Carolfi were dead before the fire started, according to officials 

A TikTok trend where people use a high voltage to make a lightening-like design on wood, has claimed the lives of two people in Wisconsin.

Tanya Rodriguez, 44, and James Carolfi, 52, , who have been described as a couple in local reporting, were killed while practicing fractal wood burning in the garage of their home in Rozellville, Marathon County, on April 6.

Their deaths have been described as ‘accidental’ and foul play has been ruled out. 

The pair were electrocuted to death before the fractal wood burning equipment started a house fire, according to Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Billeb. 

Tanya Rodriguez, 44, and James Carolfi, 52, of Rozellville, Wisconsin died as the result of electrocution while fractal burning also known as Lichtenberg Wood Burning on April 6, 2022. During a press conference Marathon County Deputy Chad Billeb explained the couple died before the fire

Investigators in the case originally viewed the fire as ‘suspicious.’ Officials now say that foul play is not suspected in the case

Investigators in the case originally felt that the fire was suspicious, reports The Wausau Daily Herald.  

Another Wisconsin man was killed while practicing a version of fractal burning in 2020. In Britain, the practice is not promoted by the Association of Woodturners because of a lack of safety standards

While in Canada, the Electrical Safety Authority of Ontario’s Dr. Joel Moody said of fractal burning, ‘It’s extremely dangerous to use these devices. These high energy sources, built from a microwave transformer or similar component, create a very real hazard. The exposure to high sources of electricity can cause severe injury and even death’

The American Association of Woodturners said that 33 people have died as a result of fractal burning. The group’s safety committee banned the activity following the death of a woodworker in Washington State in 2017.

An AAW statement on their website says the group does not allow fractal burning at their events or for the process to be described in their literature.  

On the Woodworking Network’s website, the practice is described as using a high-voltage transformer to flow across a piece of wood that has been soaked in a chemical. The transformer commonly comes from a microwave oven or a car battery. 

This one turned out 😍😍😍😍 #woodworker #finewoodworking #charcuterie #epoxyresin #epoxyart #resinart #resin #satisfying #asmrvideo

 When using a car battery, the practice is known as the Lichtenberg process. In May 2020, another Wisconsin man, Matt Schmidt, lost his life at 35 while practicing the Lichtenberg process, his wife Caitlin told The Milton Courier.

Power Transformers used in Fractal Burning or Lichtenberg Wood Burning. On the left is a 12,000 volt neon sign transformer and on the right a 2,000 volt microwave oven transformer

Screen grab from a video detailing Fractal Wood Burning or Lichtenberg Wood Burning uploaded to YouTube

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