This is a hot wire used to cut foam in mould making. At least it is correctly labelled. It is not supposed to be plugged in directly, but fed from a plug in variable autotransformer putting out about 10 to 30v depending on the heat needed.
Is that that spool of incorrectly wired romex in the background? This place must be filled with all kinds of junk. Additionally, just because it is "supposed" to be plugged into a variac doesn't mean that it always will be. Someone could really get hurt with this.
I used one of those cutters to make 'styrofoam' wings for model airplanes back in the early sixties - running off 240v mains with some filament bulbs to control the current. Boy, was I green about risks of electric shock in those days! The plans came from an "Aeromodeller" mag, I think. The wire was from an electric fire element, and followed 2 plywood airfoil-sections at each end of the foam blank to form the wing halves. It wasn't a success for me and I went back to the conventional balsa ribs, stringers and doped tissue. All this was before analog or digital proportional radio control became available of course. You could run single-channel radio with a clockwork escapement giving a sequence of left-middle-right-middle-left etc....if you had enough dosh. I used compression-ignition engines [ with lethal ether and castor oil fuel - a laxative and an anaesthetic all in one can! ] or rubber power and free flight. I had pretty good legs then to run after 'planes as they vanished over the horizon if the fusee failed to tip the tailplane and stall the model after 3 minutes!
Some jobs are inherently dangerous; catching king crab in the North Atlantic, servicing insulators via helicopter, and cutting foam at "Billy Bob's U-Foam It"...
So if you ran the output of the Variac through a small bridge rectifier at least it'd be DC and only slight less dangerous...it wouldn't kill you as quickly, but at least you'd get also get burned badly as well. Perhaps a GFCI on the line side of the transformer for moral support would help too.
I had a much worse set up for my pickle electrocution machine. 110v plug to inline 10amp screw base fuse to a single pole switch which end up connecting to two nails that you stick into the ends of a pickle. Turn out the lights, turn on the switch, and you get an illuminated pickle that sizzles. Very much not safe but entertaining. The demonstration dealt with the ability of salt water and salty things that allow current flow......'this is your brain....this is your brain on electricity'
I first saw it on Mr. Wizard not so many years ago. Then I saw it in my basement about ten minutes later.
I recall Mr. Wizard doing various 'tests' on different foods and liquids to demonstrate how electricity conducts. One of my favorites was cooking a hot dog. I've seen consumer versions of electric hot dog cookers.
I experimented in the mid 70s with various what my dearest wife calls 'white elephants', notably the 1976 Al's Automatic Hothouse and Horrid Death Machine. With a 3-week vacation in France looming, I automated my old cedar greenhouse with a couple of thermostats, a fan ventilator, an electric heater and a washing machine valve and an army-surplus electric timer [for regular water], off a hose from the outside bib. The hazardous combination of my amateur wiring, 60 psi mains water pressure and 240vac still makes me shudder at the utter stupidity of it all.
The crop was to be cantaloupe melons, grown in compost bins up cunningly crafted nets to catch the budding fruits.
It was a disaster! We returned from sunny Provence to find a pumpkin seed had somehow got in with the melon seeds at the seedsman's premises. It had been one of the best English summers for decades, and the pumpkin had grown like some 'B' movie science-fiction plot to a monstous size. It had crushed the melons to death, and overwhelmed the technical department in a jungle of leaves a yard across draped over contacts, wiring and kit and pressed against every last square inch of glass. A gigantic squash weighing over 100lbs sat on the glasshouse floor with siblings of similar size jostling the electrics for floor space. A tendril had got out of the door and snaked up the garden like a hawser, leaving a trail of orange bombs in its wake every few feet up my lawn.
I never lived it down at the Plant- my neighbor worked in my office and had been delighting my colleagues with the latest developments [and conducted tours of my garden!] for a week or more before we got back.
PS. I decided to sell the greenhouse that autumn [fall] and enlisted, for the relatively simple dismantling procedure, the assistance and guidance of the noted scientist, colleague, friend and lunatic, Professor Barry C. of O. University, who must remain anonymous. A gentleman and scholar with whom I once had the honor to get arrested with for being drunk in charge of a dangerous musical instrument, to whit a trombone, on Brighton beach at 3 in the morning. Don't ask. Having a World Class Brain does not necessarily guarantee hand and eye co-ordination abilities and between the said noted Professor and the fearless Engineer, [with blame, to be fair, in equal proportions], we gradually and meticulously whittled the structure down to a pile of useless matchwood and a heap of razor-sharp broken glass shards.
Later that moonlit night, a casual observer may have glimpsed two shadowy figures amongst the shrubbery, fuelled by a dram or two of the famous amber nectar, digging a large grave in the nearby park's rose gardens, amid maniacal laughter. Yes, I admit our guilt. We lugged the sad remains of the greenhouse and its fated scrapped electrical apparatus in an old plastic baby bath and buried it there for some distant future archeologist to slash himself to ribbons on.