BARRY Penna has the key to a unique retirement, writes COLIN TAYLOR
When Barry Penna retired from his locksmithing business in Bendigo after 46 years in the game, he thought he was done with locks for good.
Barry and wife, Carol, had run their central city business together for 26 years, before passing it on to their daughter and son-in-law eight years ago.
But a desire to keep busy with hands-on projects saw him once again fiddling with springs, casings and keys - only this time, in a different way.
Barry, 73, came across a magazine produced by a retired American locksmith. It offered patterns for making locks out of wood.
These are not locks you would find in any hardware store.
They are much prettier - large replicas of antique locks from about the 1850s.
Barry has made six now, each taking about three days to complete. Each lock has about 30 components and it is all done by hand - Barry has never owned a lathe.
"These wooden locks are big in America, but I don't know of anyone else in Australia who's doing it," he says.
"There's more work than you'd think inside them. The locks are identical to the real thing, only bigger.
"All the wood is reclaimed - ash, pine, Tasmanian oak.
"The family is always looking out for timber ... I've taken wood out of old pallets, offcuts, discarded cupboards, even an old bread board.
"Inside are leaf springs and the best timber for those is hickory, because it will stretch a little bit."
Hickory is not often used these days because it is difficult to find. Luckily, Barry tracked down an old hickory axe handle.
"Everything else will just snap. You could easily get over it by using metal, but that's too easy."
About a year ago, Barry started making wooden models.
His sitting room is now home to a small, but delightful, collection.
Filling up the crowded shelves are boats, a paddle steamer, a grader, school bus, earthmoving machinery, a tractor, planes, a fun buggy, trains, trucks and even a Hummer - most with moving parts.
On the coffee table sits a bright red Santa sleigh, plus three perfect models of classic Fords from 1929, 1935 and 1936.
Barry made the petrol caps, door handles, radiator caps and mirrors himself, sometimes using kebab sticks and toothpicks.
The only parts he has imported from the US are a few headlights and wheels - the rest comes out of the cluttered workshop in the backyard.
Some of these projects take just a few days, others up to two weeks.
"It's all about keeping my hands and mind busy," Barry says.
"I've had people wanting to buy my models, but I say no.
"If I'm selling them, I may as well be back at work.
"These are just one of a kind," Barry says.
- Details: ph (03) 5442 3963 or 0418 998 739.