Hard times sheep farming led the members of one inventive Victorian family to create a portable sawmill that’s now sought-after all over the globe.

Story By Richard Bryce

With only a hint of a wry smile, Warren Lucas confirms that his family’s farm invention operates from the wilds of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to the centre of New York City and everywhere in between. He proffers an advertising pamphlet as proof: on the cover are two pictures, each showing a man operating a portable sawmill. One is a PNG native in traditional dress, his thatched-roof village the backdrop. The other man, dressed in top hat and tails, is pictured milling timber in Central Park amid its high-rise surrounds. “The idea is, if you don’t fit within these two categories, then you really don’t need a Lucas Mill,” Warren says.
The general manager of Lucas Mill, the family business based in the tiny town of Wooragee, near Beechworth in north-east Victoria, is only half-joking. While the New York photo was a creative set-up by an American agent, the PNG picture is entirely legitimate.
While milling timber in inaccessible places is a prime sales feature of a Lucas Mill, other buyers include inner-city doctors, far-flung farmers, indeed anyone who harvests timber for work or as a hobby. Lucas Mills are affordable, fully portable sawmills that can be set up and put to work by a single person in less time, in less space and with less sweat than unfolding a family campervan.
In 2004 Lucas Mill made one of its proudest sales: a single mill bought by one of the 78 residents of the tiny township of Maryland, North Dakota, meant every American state had imported a Lucas Mill. Today, there are some 2500 Lucas Mills in the US and Canada, and this year the company will top 13,000 sales worldwide.
“We’re now in 100 countries and have 40 agents,” says Jenny Lucas, company business manager and wife of Warren. She rattles off a stunning array of statistics, listing impressive first-year sales figures for Australia and South-East Asia in 1995, cracking English and European markets in ’96, South Africa later that year and South America in ’97. Sales continue to rise in 2012.
Customers mill timber for everything from custom furniture to family homes, along with commercial uses and for building sustainable communities. Jenny cites Greenpeace as a customer, along with 15 units sold to the Australian Army, mills bought by our nation’s growing network of Men’s Sheds and new contracts now being negotiated with Israel.

Visit www.lucasmill.com to find out more.
This story excerpt is from Issue #83

Outback Magazine: June/July 2012