Former Port Angeles teacher found electrocuted

Richard Boyd, who taught art, had been using a process known as fractal burning in his wood shop.

  • Wednesday, December 19, 2018 12:34pm
  • Northwest

By Paul Gottlieb / Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — A retired Port Angeles High School art teacher known for his connection with students and a love for stained glass was fatally electrocuted while working in the wood shop of his East Coon Drive residence, authorities said.

Richard L. Boyd, 68, who lived alone, was found deceased by a neighbor who called 911 at 8:55 p.m. Monday after people who knew Boyd had unsuccessfully tried to reach him, Brian King, Clallam County chief criminal deputy, said Tuesday.

Boyd had been using a process known as fractal burning.

“We know the cause of death is electrocution as a result of this process being utilized,” King said.

County Deputy Coroner Tellina Sandaine said an autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.

King said a transformer from a microwave oven was found in the shop.

It was used to slowly apply high-voltage electrical current to a wood surface that had been wiped or brushed with a conductive solution, King said. Muriatic acid was found in the shop, King said.

The process, in which sparks slowly move across the wood, creates a burned, etching-like effect on the surface.

The result is “almost like a tree appearance,” King said. “Electrocution appears to be a common occurrence in this process.”

Fractal burning was banned from American Association of Woodturners events in July 2017 because of safety concerns.

It was outlawed in part after a woodworker in Walla Walla was killed by electrocution while employing the process.

Boyd was hired by the Port Angeles School District in September 1973 as a classified employee and moved into a teaching position in September 1974, district spokeswoman Patsene Dashiell said.

He retired in June 2004.

Family members could not be reached for comment Tuesday for information on services.

Former colleague and current Port Angeles High School wood technology teacher Tim Branham let the staff know of Boyd’s death.

Boyd was “an amazing craftsman,” Branham said.

“He had a lot of different talents as well as art, as well as woodworking.”

Branham said fractal burning was recently popularized in the Discovery Channel reality program, “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” by a member of that family, Atz Kilcher.

He described Boyd as good-natured, friendly and appreciated by students.

“He joked with [students] a lot, and the quality of material he was able to get them to do was really high,” Branham said.

Branham said Boyd, whose wife Susan died in 2008, is survived by two grown daughters.

Mike Frick, a retired high school machine shop teacher, recalled working with Boyd for 30 years and said the two had been good friends.

He said he lost touch with Boyd after his wife died and had not talked with him for five years.

Frick said he helped Boyd build his house in the Mount Pleasant area, and the two often worked on other projects together.

“He was a very avid art teacher and very passionate about it,” Frick said.

Boyd had a special affinity for working with stained glass, he added.

“The kids liked him because of his dedication to perfection, and he wanted the kids to be that way, getting them to do their job and do it correct and make it nice and make them take pride in their work.

“His classes were always full.”

This story originally appeared in the Peninsula Daily News, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

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