Welcome to the ‘Hydraulic Press’ YouTube channel, a truly crushing experience.

The first thing you see is a black and white montage accompanied by an infectious heavy metal soundtrack. A button is pushed, a lever pulled, a needle jumps within a pressure gauge. Then comes a male voice, thick with a Finnish accent: “Welcome, to the Hydraulic Press Channel.”

Since the beginning of October 2015, Lauri Vuohensilta has been crushing random objects to smithereens, just for the sheer pleasure of it. He’s pulverized a rubber duck, a jawbreaker, various kinds of fruit, a hockey puck, a Barbie, Lego cars and a cable box, among other assorted and strange items. Crushing stuff is all that Vuohensilta does for his YouTube channel, which has gained almost 700,000 subscribers and nearly 51 million total views in just 7 months.

“It’s been quite a surprise that it’s gotten so big so fast,” he said in a Skype interview with The Washington Post, through a gap-toothed grin. “I thought it would take three years or something like that to get this big.”

(Courtesy of Lauri Vuohensilta)

Curiously, the video that shot the Hydraulic Press Channel to viral status was not a spectacular crush like a bowling ball, or crushing a hydraulic press with a hydraulic press (appropriately titled “Pressception”). Instead, Vuohensilta’s first viral video proves an age-old myth in a rather startling fashion — paper really can’t be folded in half more than seven times.

After folding a normal piece of paper in half five times, Vuohensilta enlists the help of his 100 ton hydraulic press to make the creases a little sharper. He grunts as he bends the little white square a seventh time and pushes it under the press, applying 300 bars of pressure.

What happens next is unexpected — the piece of paper shatters.

Vuohensilta is just as surprised as we are, exclaiming “what the f–k?” before gently extracting the remnants of the printer paper from beneath the press. It crumbles in his hand, like limestone.

About a month ago, “Can you fold paper more than 7 times with hydraulic press”, made its way to the front page of Reddit. Within a day, the video got two million views, and Vuohensilta’s aptly named Hydraulic Press Channel took off.

Now, his videos typically gain over a million views within a matter of days, and that paper folding video? Nearly 10 million hits. In his most recent upload, “Crushing deep freezed stuff with hydraulic press,” Vuohensilta incorporates the use of liquid nitrogen to give his crushes a little extra flair and pizzazz. As a rubber-band ball and a remote control turn to dust, Vuohensilta and his wife laugh hysterically in the background.

So what is it about this hydraulic press and its crushing power that Vuohensilta and his viewers love so much?

Born and raised in Tampere, Finland, Vuohensilta was just like any normal kid — he loved to destroy things.

“We would crush smaller rocks with bigger ones and then we would crush toy cars with big rocks and stuff like that,” he said. “I think that most children love to break stuff. I think it’s built inside every person — the need to destroy something.”

Jennifer Walker, a psychotherapist and Adjunct Professor at University of Maine Graduate School of Social Work, had some thoughts on the matter.

“Perhaps there’s some sort of adrenaline rush or cathartic release that happens by watching something get destroyed. It makes me think of toddlers who discover they can both build things and knock them down. It’s a very powerful feeling.”

Despite the relatability of his videos, Vuohensilta doesn’t seem to have much of a following in his home country as he does abroad.

“I have done 20 interviews for other countries, and just one small local newspaper, nothing at all besides that. So there is absolutely zero media interest right now in Finland for me, I’m not sure how it’s possible.”

For example, 17 year old Micaela Peltoniemi from Mäntsälä, Finland, had never heard of the Hydraulic Press Channel until recently.

“I asked my friends if they had heard about the channel or if I am just an uncultured swine. Seems like most of the channel’s popularity here in Finland is based on its Finnishness — yes, Finns love when foreigners know anything from their country. For some, including me, the way the guy speaks is the most interesting part. He has unusually strong accent and I find it very cute.”

Indeed, Vuohensilta also attributes much of his success to his Finnish brogue.

“We [he and his wife] also talked about my accent and how it was going to be very funny thing on top of the press thing,” he said. “There is this channel and they just shoot different guns, and the guy talks in a Russian accent and it’s a very popular gun channel.They have like 5 million subscribers, so I think that the accent is a good bonus for this channel.”

Vuohensilta owns a factory that produces building supplies, allowing him to experiment with heavy, destruction worthy machinery and dream about purchasing a brand new hydraulic press.

“I am planning to make a 1,000 ton press, where the cylinder diameter would be half a meter. So I am trying to find some sponsors to make it happen because there are quite expensive parts when you are building something like this.”

For the “hydraulic press guy,” along with other aspiring YouTube entrepreneurs, support and sponsorship is crucial, and has already yielded some great things. Recognizing his following on YouTube, he said a 3D printer company struck a deal with him and sent him his very own 3D printer. Right now, Vuohensilta wants to use the printer to make more sophisticated safety equipment, but in the future, he wants to use the printer to grow his channel in a unique way.

“I am also planning to let people send me earmarks of stuff that they want to be crushed, and then I can just print them out here and crush them and make the video.”

While he seems excited to develop an interactive relationship with his viewers, and cater to their crushing needs, Vuohensilta has dream crushes of his own.

“I think something really dangerous and explosive,” he said. “I am waiting to crush a very big lithium battery. I am planning to do this for as long as people want to watch these videos. I hope that is very long.”

Kate Sensenig, a student at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, is a freelance writer.


Originally published at www.washingtonpost.com on April 19, 2016.

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