Master cabinet maker Geoff Hannah with former student Colin Fardon and the latter’s creation, Three Little Birds, sold for $68,000.

Robin Osborne meets local cabinet maker Colin Fardon, a master craftsman in the making.

A chance meeting at a party in Brisbane has resulted in Casino-born woodworker Colin Fardon selling his milestone creation for the astounding sum of $68,000 and in the process deciding to become a cabinet maker full-time.

“Now I can give up the day job and follow the dream,” Colin joked as he carefully handled one of the beautifully crafted drawers from his inlayed collector’s cabinet titled “Three Little Birds”.

The work is part of the exhibition Chesta Drawz and the LowBoys that ran recently at Lismore Regional Gallery. The other works, less ambitious in scale but also superbly executed, were by passionate locals – including former Lismore City councillor Brian Henry - who had studied with nationally acclaimed cabinet maker and local resident Geoff Hannah.  Geoff’ latest masterpiece was in the show, while in a nearby room stood his million-dollar (literally) creation the ‘Hannah Cabinet’, the subject of an intensive fundraising effort aimed at keeping this wonderful work in Lismore.

Colin said he had trained with Geoff for one day a week for 16 years (Colin is now aged 31). The master had never raised his voice or expressed a cross word.

Shortly before the exhibition opened Colin was enjoying a drink at a Brisbane party and chatting to Queensland man John Dunne.

“I told him my day job was at Casino Joinery but I’d just finished making a large inlaid cabinet with a range of exotic timbers, and it was about to go on show down in Lismore,” Colin said.

“He said it sounded interesting and promised to come down. True to his word, John came to the opening and bought the piece straight up, for the asking price of $68,000. The Gallery has his cheque and when the exhibition closes (1 Dec.) we’ll be transporting it up to him in Queensland.”

Very carefully, one assumes.

If the price seems high it is important to see it in context: Colin spent 1137 hours making the cabinet, so the hourly rate is hardly excessive.

His inspiration for the title came from regular bird sightings on his parents’ farm at Greenridge, between Casino and Coraki. He chose his favourites - finches, a Willie wagtail and a kingfisher, adding other local features such as river rocks, the Richmond River rainbow fish caught by the kingfisher, a casuarina branch.

The 15 species of timbers include Brazilian Mahogany, East Indian Rosewood and Ivory wood, with 40 hand dove-tailed drawers and three secret compartments, the whole work French polished with orange shellac to give it almost holy glow. Another feature is the set of decorative corner pillars made from Serpentine stone from Lightning Ridge, sourced by Colin at Lismore’s GemFest fair. To work the stone correctly he did a course in lapidary.

Not surprisingly, Geoff Hannah is impressed by Colin’s work – “It’s not too bad eh?”, he said with a typically broad smile, obviously pleased to be passing on the baton - elaborately carved of course – to another local boy with a passion for timber, and with immense patience and a steady hand.

What should be another long and distinguished career seems to have been born.