ON any given morning in Tamworth, you might spy Ron Croxon riding his bike.
The ornamental hand engraver might be the best in the country – the official engraver of the 2017 Melbourne Cup – but he’s still as modest as they come, doing the rounds to the local jewellers each day by bike.
It’s hard to believe Tamworth lays claim to the country’s top engraver, but he’s called this place home since 1985 – and has no plans of going anywhere any time soon.
Mr Croxon spent much of his childhood around Come By Chance, before attending high school in Coonamble.
He started as an apprentice carpenter in 1980, moved to Tamworth five years later, and after a five-year working holiday in Darwin, returned to the country music capital in 1990.
It was in Darwin, after a chance meeting with an antiques firearms collector, that he turned his hand from building to engraving.
After gaining experience in the field across the Unites States in 1996 and running engraving classes in Tamworth, he took up the art full-time.
It’s a gamble that would later see him engrave the official Melbourne Cup.
ABC Bullion, who was appointed to manufacture the Emirates Melbourne Cup trophy for 2016 and onward, phoned him out of the blue to ask for a sample of his engraving work.
Mr Croxon was sent up a replica of the Cup and was told to engrave it how he believed it should be done.
Using a technique that involves stippling the lettering, the engraving had a frosted finish.
“I first got contacted because I do a lot of work for the Sydney jewellery trade and my name was bandied around,” Mr Croxon said.
“They rang me up last year and asked me to submit a sample of my work.
“Eventually they rang back and said I got the job.”
Mr Croxon then took three days – three consecutive, eight-hour days – to finish engraving the official 2017 Emirates Melbourne Cup.
It took him a further day-and-a-half to engrave the brass version used for marketing purposes, and another five hours on each of the smaller cups.
“It’s stressful,” he said.
“Literally, you can’t make a mistake.
“The engraver is just about always the last person to touch a product, so it’s got to be right. You need to stay scared of it.”
Mr Croxon said it was a thrill to watch his work play a part in the race that stops the nation on Melbourne Cup day last year.
“It was strange,” Mr Croxon said of watching it on television.
“I had to work (on the day).
“I usually stop to just watch the race, but I watched the presentation too, and had all my kids messaging me.
“To be part of something as big as the Melbourne Cup in my own small way was strange.
“To be part of such a big thing, to have contributed in my own small way, it’s a thrill.”
Most people mark Melbourne Cup Day with a punt.
But in Mr Croxon’s eyes, he was a winner without even having a flutter.
“I’ve still never put a bet on,” he said.
“I thought I was already out in front.
“I had already won doing this.”
READ MORE: Tamworth man engraves 2017 Melbourne Cup
Mr Croxon married Sharon in 1986, and the couple has three children in Natalie, Dean and Benjamin.
“I still ride the pushbike around each morning, doing the rounds of the local jewellers,” Mr Croxon said.
“When I started doing this I had a fear that hand skills would be lost with everything going to computers.
“But since doing this, that fear has been dispelled.
“People still want hand-made quality things and there’s still lots of trades about.
“That’s the most heartening thing.”
When we asked him what he loved most about Tamworth, his answer was simple.
“Sharon’s here,” he said.