Ethan Schlussler, 22, from Sandpoint, Idaho has built his very own human powered elevator as a means to gain access to his recently constructed treehouse. Schlussler came up with the idea of converting an old bicycle and pulley system into an elevator when he was searching for a faster alternative to using a ladder to get up to his 28 foot (8.5 meter) high abode.
"The basic idea of using a bicycle to power the elevator came from a good friend," Schlussler tells Gizmag. "I was telling him that I wanted to build something more interesting, faster and easier than a ladder. We were just throwing around ideas when he suggested using a bicycle."
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Starting out with his mom's old bicycle, Schlussler removed the tires to allow the cable to spool around the rear wheel, before adding a tube and pulley for the cable to run through. "I adjusted the gear ratio by cutting the large sprocket off the front and welding it to the rear, which also required the removal of both derailleurs and a new chain tensioning system," Schlussler says. "I welded on mounts in the front and rear for the attachment of the stabilizing/counterweight cables."
While making the bicycle elevator, Schlussler took advantage of re-using old scrap materials, including a broken chain from his snow blower, some old car parts, a segment of an old hand rail and an old water heater tank which he uses as a counterweight and can be easily adjusted by adding or removing water. "I did have to buy the pulleys and cable of course, all of which are far stronger than necessary," says Schlussler. "Each of the five support pulleys is rated for at least 525 pounds [238 kg] and each of the four strands of cable is rated for more than 1,500 pounds [680 kg]."
Schlussler's now tried-and-tested bicycle elevator takes him less than 60 seconds to pedal his way up to his self-designed and self-built treehouse. Made from Western Red Cedar and harvested from the property where the treehouse is built, the structure is secured into place without the need to affix nails, bolts or screws into the tree. "The treehouse is held in place by the power of friction. There are five large clamps made of cable that supply the tensioning pressure to achieve the required friction," he says.
Furthermore, the roofing is built from recycled sheets of metal reclaimed from an old barn, while the treehouse walls were assemble on the ground, complete with exterior siding and windows before being hoisted up to the treehouse using (in his words) "a block and tackle and some rock climbing gear."
"My tree house is still under construction, but nevertheless I sleep up there a few nights a week. Once it is complete, I intend to sleep there every night and move most of my stuff into it. It will not have a bathroom or kitchen at this point, though I may expand for such things in the future," says Schlussler. "For now it will have a bed, a dresser and possibly a coffee table and a chair or two, all of which I will build. For cooking and showering and such, I will have to go down to my mother's house a few hundred feet down the hill."
When giving advice to those considering building their very own bicycle elevator, Schlussler recommends taking a close look at all the important elements and components that he included with his design. "But don't limit your design by following mine too closely," says Schlussler. "Think about it a LOT, because at first it is difficult to imagine all the potential problems. Build everything stronger than necessary and most importantly have fun!"
The video below demonstrates the bicycle elevator in action and since filming it Schlussler has adjusted the treehouse entrance, making it easier for him to get off the bike and onto the treehouse deck.