Turning 94 this year, Keith Partridge says the secret to a long and happy life is to keep active and to work on creative projects. And with a small handcrafted pen business, a hobby constructing miniature caravans and his most recent project—making and riding his own penny-farthing bicycle—Keith practises what he preaches.
“I’m a joiner by trade, a woodworker,” he says. “When I was a young guy doing my apprenticeships, I used to turn skipping rope handles and make skipping ropes. I made the lathe from [my mother’s] old sewing machine. It didn’t even have an electric motor!”
With a love for woodworking, Keith has always been experimental, resourceful and creative.
“I [used to] turn verandah posts for houses, I built a big lathe that could turn a single nine-foot-long piece, and we sold a lot of them in different towns,” he explains. “When we had the earthquake here [in Christchurch], [my family] picked up wood from houses that I could use to make my pens,” he says. “I like experimenting, I like to try something different.”
Keith’s main project these days is his wooden pens, which he handcrafts from seven types of wood native to New Zealand, like kauri and rimu. He then rides his push-bike to make deliveries to the shops, sometimes travelling more than an hour each way.
“I’ve got 14 shops—well, 12 since COVID—in town. Three at Akaroa where the cruise boats go, one in Picton, two in Kaikoura and one in Queenstown.”
Aside from making pens, Keith also spends his time crafting miniature wooden caravans for his great-grandchildren and making toys and doing repairs at the schools where his daughter and grandchildren teach.
“I think having a project and the exercise that goes with it [is] the secret to a long and happy life,” he says. “It takes your mind off worrying about things that a lot of the time don’t matter anyway. I also read a chapter of the Bible every morning.”
Keith attends Ilam Adventist Church in Christchurch.
“I lost my licence a little while ago, so I bought a little electric two-seater car—one behind the other—and I pick up a friend of mine—he’s 88—and we both go to church in it.”
You can watch Keith on TVNZ morning news at: https://bit.ly/keithpartridge.