Lauri and Anni Vuohensilta have been crushing it. The Finnish couple began pulverizing random objects under a 150-ton hydraulic press at their family’s factory five years ago this month, carving out their own genre of “satisfying” internet videos and amassing more than 10 million followers across major social media platforms in the process.
On a video call, I interviewed the Vuohensiltas about what’s left to crush, why the channel appeals to so many people, Lauri’s delightful accent, the effects of the coronavirus on their hydraulic pressing, and how people who don’t have a hydraulic press can fulfill their human need for destruction.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
VICE: Congratulations on five years of pressing! You said on your celebratory Twitch stream from a few days ago that your favorite items to crush, Lauri, are steel pipes, because they're satisfying to watch and they aren't as dangerous. So what is the most dangerous thing you've ever crushed?
Lauri: Ball bearings, yeah. So just the balls from the bearing. And those explode the small, smallest fragments. They fly one kilometer per second. So it's like, not healthy.
And Anni do you have a favorite item that you've crushed?
Anni: Bowling balls. Those are best.
Those are great. For people who might not know exactly what hydraulic press is, could you explain it?
Lauri: It's a machine that is really good on just crushing things. It uses hydraulic pump and piston to generate huge amounts of force. And it pushes against the table, and then you're gonna put whatever you want there between the table and the piston and it's going to get crushed.
OK, so you have crushed paper, molten steel, a tooth, soap, Play-Doh, steel pipes, Play-Doh in steel pipes, fruit, golf ball, toilet paper, toys, a whole collection of household items, and hundreds of other things. When I see people leaving suggestions in the comments of things for you to crush, you almost always have always already crushed them. So is there anything that you haven't crushed?
Lauri: Gold bar. We have tried to get that for like one year now. Yeah, like at least one kilo gold. But it's not helping that the gold price is just getting higher and higher here. I think it's like $70,000 now per one kilogram, so yeah.
Yeah, that seems like it might be tricky. Have you ever crushed a diamond?
Ah OK, I missed that one. And it was crushed?
Anni: Yeah. It's a really old video, the first one.
Lauri: We have done nice diamond, and then raw diamonds later. Diamonds make really good press tools, but they have to be like grinded to right shape, to be able to withstand a lot of pressure. And they're still like really tiny, so then they're not super hard to crush with the big press.
What are the things the hydraulic press couldn't crush?
Lauri: Yeah, lot of things, it’s like a function of the size and how hard is the material. For all the items there is size limit. And I have to say that the hardest things to crush are ceramic bearing balls. Those are really hard. I think it was like 20 millimeters was the largest we can crush. And then you can have one size of your fist and that would be probably like a thousand tons. And we have tried to like destroy them with like, giant hammer. We had shot them with rifles and everything and they just don't break. They are the hardest things to break with any method. I think it's like good combination—the material is really hard and then the ball shape is really strong.
So is the challenge for you guys now to think of new things to crush or think of different ways to crush them or finding new platforms to get your hydraulic press videos out? What are the challenges for keeping it fresh?
Lauri: I would say that all of those. We are all the time coming up with the new tools and ways to crush. And then now we have both like a machine that pulls things, and we are fixing that so we can start to test how strong our chains, cables, stuff like that. And then of course the new platforms are always cool and like new video formats. TikTok been really good for us, and also Instagram reels.
Anni: We have the biggest TikTok account in Finland.
Oh, congratulations. You have more than a million Instagram followers—Anni: 1.4 million in Instagram and 7 million in TikTok.
Nice! So you started on YouTube, and now you're on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitch, are there any other platforms?
Lauri: Yeah, Facebook. I have heard some rumors that they're going to launch monetization like a similar thing on YouTube. Finally in Finland at the end of this year.
Personally, I love the worms that are created when you smush certain material. Do you remember the first worms that you created?
Anni: Actually the worm maker tool was my idea. Because I saw on Instagram, a clip where somebody had like potato …
Lauri: It’s like potato smasher, potato press, what do you call that kitchen tool?
Anni: Yeah, the kitchen tool and slime. And then he pressed the slime through those holes. And I said, “Lauri, we need big version of this.” And Lauri was like, “Yes, we really need it.”
Lauri: I fired up the design program on computer to make the plan.
Anni: All kinds of worm tools are, I would say, the most popular thing.
Lauri: On TikTok and Instagram. And then on Youtube people like to see complicated and dangerous stuff.
Yeah. So you built the worm tool yourself?
Lauri: Yeah, we build all the tools. If there is like sheet metal parts, then we order from a laser cutting company. But we design and machine all the tools.
So in the world of internet videos, the hydraulic press kind of combines the aspect of the “satisfying” videos like slime squishing with an aspect of the destruction videos, like, shooting guns and that stuff, into its own unique thing that's kind of in the middle. And to me, I think the hydraulic press videos kind of have the same plot as the pimple popping videos. There’s the anticipation, the tension, and there's the release. And so I'll say that for me personally, I can't watch the pimple popping videos because I think they're gross. But, they're very popular, apparently. And so I was wondering if you've ever considered the similarities between the pimple popping videos and the hydraulic press.
Anni [laughing]: I think, especially those worm makers, they are really similar.
Lauri: Yeah, yeah.
In your recent Twitch stream, you were describing how you do the videos and how it's kind of too late to change up how you do them and you shared a really funny Finnish saying that my boyfriend and I have been laughing about and hope to work into our everyday lexicon. You said that in Finland “We have this saying that it's too late for farting when you have already shit yourself.”
Lauri [laughing]: It goes better in Finnish, it’s more compact and flows better I think.
I love it. But is there anything that you wish that you had done differently in the process, or anything you would have changed if you could have?Lauri: Surprisingly little. I think because we tried to keep YouTube a more complicated and dangerous stuff platform. So we waited really long before we started to make videos where we took like 100 Instagram clips, post them together, add some music and make a 10 minute YouTube video. And we did first in March, and those are super popular videos, and they bring a lot of new people in YouTube. So maybe that that's something that would be probably good idea to do even before.
Anni: Yeah, some kind of combination videos.
So the press is 150 tons, is that right?
OK, so that's 300,000 pounds. So do you get up to 300,000 pounds?
Lauri: Quite often. There is many materials, it's pretty easy to predict that, like, you can put this much paper there and it’s still going to explode. So it’s quite often maybe like a couple times a month when you use the full, full force. But with the worm makers, usually the tools break before that, so with the worm makers you can't go that far.
You crushed a wisdom tooth once—and the tooth was quite strong! Could you tell the story of how you acquired the tooth?
Anni [laughing]: It was my wisdom tooth. And I was really scared before the surgery. And I still say to them, that I really need those teeth.They took two teeth away and I think they got one of those like, apart, but one was like, in one piece.
Lauri: So Anni meant they have to come out in one piece.
Anni: Yeah, the dentist said, “Why do you need those?”
Lauri: Yeah, and it was cool to get it in one piece because we made more money with video than the dentist bill was. So, free wisdom teeth removal!
You’ve said before that you think most children like to break stuff and it's kind of built inside every person—the need to destroy something. I agree completely, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for what people who don't have a hydraulic press could do, how they could go about fulfilling their need to destroy stuff in their daily life.
Lauri: That's actually a good question. What would be like easy and funny way? We always keep saying “don't try this at home.”
Anni: I don't know.
Lauri: I think just like taking up large hammer and hitting stuff if that’s satisfying.
Anni: Yeah. Or maybe like, you know, the potato mash—
Lauri: I think that is big let down after watching the press.
Anni: Yeah, yeah but if you have slime you can try it.
Lauri: I will put just some fruits on the table and go with the hammer. It's like good amount of mess and satisfying.
Anni: Yeah, and really nice to clean.
Lauri: Yeah. Yeah, that's also part of the process.
I wanted to ask about the cleaning process. I did see a video the other day of the hydraulic press getting cleaned, but who does the most cleaning of the press?
Anni: [points to herself]
Lauri: I think it's more even now. Before we used to do like, let's crush six things, and then it was like, "Hey, I'm going to go edit, have fun." Now we are doing so much content for like small clips. So it's going to be like, they're going to crush like four of the items in the Twitch stream.
Anni [laughing]: Yeah. And now we don't live at the same property with the work, so you can't leave me anymore.
Lauri: Yeah that’s true.
I was wondering how you decided to do the “OK Boomer” crushing. Did someone suggest that to you?
Anni: I think it was because I have watched so much TikTok, like for the last one year, and I think it was some TikTok thing that I saw there some “OK boomer.”
Lauri: Yeah it was trending thing.
Anni: Yeah it was a really trending thing. So we did it.
One of the things that I personally love about the press, and that I find validating or optimistic in a way, is that it shows that if you apply pressure to something, it will break. To go a little bit farther, I find it to be kind of like, good and even inspiring, a guiding principle for thinking about how the world works. Have you ever thought about this in the abstract? What you do think about it?
Lauri: Yes, sometimes there's moments when you realize that when you press something and you'll see something new about materials or items, you realize how something worked. For example, with the steel pipes, it's the same idea on the railroad where the tracks end. There are like one meter long, really thick steel tubes. And if the train goes little bit too fast, and it can’t stop, then it's the end of the rails and the tubes, they're going to go in the same way that they do in a press.
Right, yeah. And to be more figurative, pressure is pressure—it's something people could apply in other areas. If people get together and apply enough pressure to something, then they can affect change in an institution, society or what have you. Is that too far out?
Lauri: Yes, that's true. If you just add enough of anything to anything something is going to happen always. That’s true.
If you could take the hydraulic press and destroy one thing in the abstract, like one idea, what would you destroy?
Lauri: That's really hard one. I would want to, like—I'm not sure is there any like one thing that I come up with. I would use my one magic pressing to squeeze out something like miracle technology that is going to save us. I would like to crush something so hard that it's going to make some kind of fusion power plant and generate endless power, something like that.
That’s a good one.
Lauri: But we have been thinking more abstract things because every week we do something that anybody hasn’t done before and it's not going to run off there. And I have been thinking that if we do that for long enough we are going to end up coming up with some invention, maybe. If you do weird things you might come up with some new, like, realization about something or solve some problem or stuff like that.
Lauri, people seem to love your accent. (In a previous interview, Lauri said he and Anni had “talked about my accent and how it was going to be very funny thing on top of the press thing.”) What’s the story behind your accent?
Lauri: It's just like general Finnish accent. How you pronounce different letters is completely different in Finnish and English for most of the letters. And also the structure of the language is completely different. I think nowadays most of the Formula One and rally drivers can speak a little bit better, but if you take any interview with a Finnish rally driver from the nineties it’s the same. In Finnish, this accent is called rally English. Because it used to be that most famous Finns in other countries are always the rally drivers and they talk in a funny way.
I also wanted to ask if anything has changed with coronavirus and if it has had any impact on your hydraulic press crushing.
Lauri: It was interesting because on January, everybody was in Finland, like, it's inside, it doesn't affect us here. And we were like, it’s coming two months, we’re going to buy gas masks and everything.
Anni: Yeah, we knew it’s coming.
Lauri: And then before it came, we bought a new house and took quite large loan. And then after signing the papers, it took like two weeks and the whole world just stops. And we were like, “Uh oh, uh oh how’s it going to go?” And then we just decide that we’re going to do so much work and videos. And people just kept watching. Ad revenue on all platforms dropped off quite much. But then people started to watch twice as more. So it ends up like regular year.
Anni: We moved to the new house two months ago. And this is in the countryside. So this is like really far away from coronavirus.
Lauri: Yeah. Closest neighbor is half a kilometer. If it gets really bad we can go after everybody else has left work to film the press in the middle of the night so it doesn't matter how bad it gets, we can still get the videos out. The only thing is not sure is how much companies are going to advertise. Online sales are pretty strong and most of our customers are online companies. So i think it will be good.
And I do think that the hydraulic press specifically is kind of a perfect fit for this moment in time where everything and everyone is under this intense pressure and breaking down. I hope you guys keep making a lot of videos.
Anni: I posted a TikTok video where there was like a doll head, and then they press crushed it. And everyone commented, like, “This is me this year.”
Lauri: Yeah but it was in March when quarantine started for most of the countries, we decided that we’re not going to do any corona-related content. We are going to keep it just fun things so it’s like place to have break from all the madness.
Yeah, an escape of a sort. Is there anything else you want to say about the hydraulic press or anything else?
Anni: It has been a crazy five years.
Lauri: One cool thing, I’m not sure did you catch it on the Twitch stream, but when we start this, Anni said that this is going to last half a year and I said this is going to last five years. And now after five years, my prediction is that it will last five more years.
Anni: I don’t say six months anymore!