(Don’t) stop the press!

The Finnish internet sensation The Hydraulic Press Channel is enthralling viewers around the world. The U.S. White House asked this Finn to smash a cable box – and he did.

The Hydraulic Press Channel has got millions of fans who log in to YouTube see what Lauri Vuohensilta in Tampere will smash next with his hydraulic press.

The hottest thing on the internet is a series of videos showing everyday objects crushed in a hydraulic press. Clocks. Fruit. Golf balls. A Finnish voice gives a laconic running commentary on the mayhem while another in the background laughs.

“The hockey puck exploded,” the voice announces. “Yeah. That’s all for today. Thank you for watching and have a nice day.”

This is Lauri Vuohensilta on his Hydraulic Press Channel, which has racked up tens of millions of views on YouTube. Part of the interest is in the crushing – it is pretty cool to watch a bowling ball pop under 100 tons of pressure – but much of the appeal is Vuohensilta and his wife Anni. They feed off each other and when one gets to laughing the other can’t stop.

“It would be stupid to laugh alone,” Vuohensilta explains. “It’s better to react to each other.”

One of the endearing features of the show is Vuohensilta’s voice. He is fluent in English but speaks with an accent peppered with Finnish pronunciations. For example, he pronounces “hydraulic” as “hoo-draulic.”

“There is an American YouTuber who speaks with a heavy Russian accent,” he says. “It’s very funny and entertaining. I think my voice is the same way.”

A call from Washington

Vuohensilta shoots his videos in the shop of his company Konepaja Vuohensilta. The shop is filled with heavy tools: lathes, mills, welders and cranes. Some of them are old Russian machines which he has modernised. The balancing machine, which spins a part to make sure it was machined correctly, he built himself.

“I got my degree from the Tampere University of Technology,” Vuohensilta continues. “I only have a few more courses to go for my Master’s in engineering.”

The shop is also home to the hydraulic press, which is the star of the show. In it he puts Legos, coins, rubber ducks, little clay figures his wife makes… all sorts of things. He invites suggestions from his viewers and was surprised to get one from the White House in Washington, D.C.

“I thought it was a hoax at first,” Vuohensilta says. “I thought someone was trying to make fun of me.”

It was no joke. The White House asked him to crush a cable box as President Barrack Obama encourages competition in the cable television industry. Millions of people were entertained when something unexpected happened, as often does in these videos: the remote control popped out of the press and landed in a bucket of liquid nitrogen.

Nokia and the Viking

Vuohensilta has tested internet lore regarding one of Finland’s most famous products, the Nokia 3310 mobile phone. According to legend the phone is indestructible, and it was even the subject of the Unbreakable emoji from the Finnish Foreign Ministry. Vuohensilta put the 3310 into his press and discovered that it would, in fact, break.

“Those phones were so tough,” he says. “But I have to say that the Nokia still looked like a phone when it came out of the press.”

Vuohensilta’s plans for the future include a new press, which he will partially build himself. He wants one which is ten times as powerful and also portable, so he can crush things outside which he doesn’t want to do in his shop.

“I’m looking for partners and sponsors to help with the new press,” he explains. “One with 1,000 tons of force is normally very large, but this one will be compact, about the size of a small car.”

He has become a global ambassador of sorts, with millions of people enjoying his engineering mentality and Finnish humour. He is pleased to represent his country.

“I am the stereotypical Finnish man,” he laughs. “I listen to heavy metal, am a power lifter, and I crush things. I’m like a Viking. It is a good stereotype, both for me and for Finland.”

By David J. Cord, April 2016