Kris Ottley, part of the family behind the Ottley Floor Company in Salt Lake City, has an electrifying hobby. He takes discarded flooring pieces off the manufacturing plant floor, places clips on either end and sends up to 6,500 volts surging through the grain. "I'll be out in my warehouse joking around, saying, 'Igor throw the switch!'" Ottley says. "It's not something normal. It's off-kilter." But the result is beautiful. The electricity burns a fractal pattern—called a Lichtenberg figure—as it travels through the wood, trying to create a full circuit. He uses the electrified flooring pieces, with the tongue and groove removed, to make bottle openers, succulent planters and other home décor items, which he sells online as SparksWood Design, but his ambitions don't stop there. "Right now it's home-décor-type items, but I'm dreaming of going into some border works and medallions and things," he says. "That's my hope." A Pinterest DIY project this is not. Relying on his background in flooring and flooring machine repair, he's fine-tuned the process bit by bit, including using Pallmann Magic Oil 2K instead of a more common woodworking finish and, importantly, modifying the most dangerous part—that freewheeling electric current—to be less Dr. Frankenstein and more Nikola Tesla. Once he figures out the right method for creating electrocuted wood flooring, you can bet he'll be shouting one thing: "It's alive! It's alive!"
- Andrew Averill
- October 4th 2017
- Published in October/November 2017 Issue
Andrew Averill is the associate editor at Wood Floor Business, where he's been working since March 2014. A graduate of journalism at the University of Wisconsin, he had internships at newspapers across the country—San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, The Flint Journal—before a bad case of rug burn turned him into an advocate for floors of a harder disposition.