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School was rigid. Built dream career learning through play

Ethan Schlussler has crafted a life of fantasy. For two years he pedaled his homemade bike elevator up to his treehouse bedroom. He built a treehouse that can rotate 360 degrees with a hand crank. He dug a 10-room snow-cave for an overnight with 10 friends.

His property is rigged with ziplines. He even drives fantastical vehicles: he’s converted a lawnmower into a rally car and an abandoned Toyota into a rock crawler.

His building/engineering education has come from jobs in construction, as an auto mechanic, as well as logging, metal fabricating, and operating heavy equipment. Today, his full-time job is creating the most out-of-the-ordinary vehicles for his YouTube channel (he also has a personal account).

He has milled all the lumber for his treehouses and rebuilt his childhood home on his property (now his full-time home). For his bicycle elevator, which he believes is a first of its kind, he started with his mom’s old bike and a counterweight made from a water heater. He then manipulated the bicycle’s gear ratio and added an extra pulley to make it an easier climb. For the treehouse itself, he invented a friction attachment system so he didn’t need to insert any bolts into the tree.

His rotating treehouse was almost a fluke. He was designing it to be supported from the top of the roof to flex with strong winds. “It had a pivot so it could rock back and forth as the tree moved and it would just stay vertical because of gravity. I was just looking at the drawings and I said, ‘Wait a minute. There’s nothing to stop this from spinning.'”

Schlussler has spent the past few years re-building his 600-square-foot-home, adding 100-square-feet and making every detail custom: from the raw branch that serves as a kitchen beam to the net-bed guest bedroom to the tree-stump sink.