RIP: Ralph Affleck, 94, Machinery ‘Scavenger’ who Refused to Retire

Thu 22 Feb 24


The death at 94 of Ralph Affleck, a Queensland sawmiller, fascinating storyteller and larrikin scavenger of old machinery, has saddened his many friends in the timber world.

Retiring only a few years ago, Ralph took to building his own operational sawmill in his spare time and created a unique, wonderful machine that could be operated only by himself.

The sawmill near Killarney on the southern downs near the NSW border gathered much well-deserved attention from the media and thousands of enthusiasts who visited the site for a closer and more detailed look at the machine.

The functional and operative machine, built entirely on scavenged parts of heavy machinery, was an exemplary piece of art and the creative craft itself.

Retirement was simply not for Ralph who flaunted a massive surge of energy in his muscles, robust willpower to create and devise better machines, and a strong determination to put his visions into action.

Ralph had no formal education but his talent in machinery craft was mighty.
With very less or almost nothing as his core resources, he built massive equipment, including a log-pulling truck and a functional sawmill.

He used a 30 cm long ruler to devise and module his sawmill and finally gauged the machine into proper and precise scale, such was the level of his talent.

The truck that Ralph build was assigned to move heavy logs and it could easily pace at 65 km/hour. It had 12 forward gears and eight reverse gears and was an operational masterpiece.

Ralph’s sawmill might more accurately be described as a symphony of moving parts played on improvised instruments.

In a time of computerisation, this mill is testament to the innovative spirit that characterised outback communities through the pioneering years to the not-so-distant past.

Ralph’s family and friends celebrated his life at a special service at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Warwick on January 30. The last song at Ralph’s choosing was, appropriately, The Carnival is Over’ by The Seekers.


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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