Gloucester's Drifta Camping and 4WD is making cloth masks and teaching others how to make their own

Luke Sutton has worked out how to use Drifta's unique material cutting machine to cut down the time it takes to shape the mask cotton. Photo Anne Keen
Luke Sutton has worked out how to use Drifta's unique material cutting machine to cut down the time it takes to shape the mask cotton. Photo Anne Keen

What started out as a suggestion to make face masks from a staff member living in Eastern Europe has turned into a mission to help others around the world make their own.

A couple weeks ago, Luke Sutton turned half of his canvas bag factory floor into a cloth face mask-making centre.

Taking high quality Australian-made cotton from Newcastle and the latest design from Europe, Mr Sutton has six staff making the intricate masks in adults and children sizes.

Before going fully into the manufacturing process, Mr Sutton spent some time looking into how to make the mask, using his connections to source the material and putting a call out on his Drifta Facebook page to see if anyone wanted them.

The response was overwhelming, including being contacted by a nurse in WA and a nearby doctor in NSW, so he set to work.

The 100 per cent Australian cotton material has been transformed into a face mask.

The 100 per cent Australian cotton material has been transformed into a face mask.

"After making the first batch, we sold 1000 overnight," the businessman from Gloucester, 120km north of Newcastle in NSW, explained. Mr Sutton has grown Drifta from its origins in his garage to a factory that employs almost 100 people.

This latest venture, he says, isn't about keeping his business going during this COVID-19 crisis, he says Drifta has plenty of regular orders to keep the factory going. Mr Sutton says this is all about helping others get their hands on a product they want and helping them make the product for themselves.

His motivations were questioned on social media and also took such a beating over the conflicting reports on the effectiveness of face masks,. He was preparing to stop production when the NSW government asked for to manufacturers to help fill gaps in the supply of medical equipment and hygiene products.

Robyn McGill and Kai Mcglashan work to get the cotton woven into material cut to the exact size for each face mask. Photo Anne Keen

Robyn McGill and Kai Mcglashan work to get the cotton woven into material cut to the exact size for each face mask. Photo Anne Keen

Drifta has registered but whether its successful or not has not been determined yet.

Regardless, Mr Sutton is forging forward with his plan to pass the mask-making instructions onto others so they can produce their own.

Mr Sutton's factory was last week filling an order of materials due to be sent overseas.

"Using the clicking press we can cut out the material much faster than doing it by hand," he explained.

The unique machine was purchased to cut material for Drifta products, like the leather for its branded belts. Now it's quickly cutting out the exact size of material needed to make a face mask, many layers at a time.

"There's been lots of talk about making masks mandatory and if that's the case, we won't be able to keep up with the demand," Mr Sutton explained.

As the mask requires ironing pleats and delicate stitching, Drifta's factory is only able to produce 500 masks a day.

This story Camping store diversifies into face mask production first appeared on Gloucester Advocate.