MUNDELEIN, Ill. | Some men take up golf when they retire, some build birdhouses, others do woodworking. Tony Farina, of Mundelein, makes jewelry.
Lest you think his hobby isn't manly, you should know his key rings, lamps and other decorative items are made from spent rounds of ammunition.
It all started 15 years ago when the now 72-year-old former Marine decided to teach his young granddaughter gun safety. He made her a pair of earrings and a necklace out of some disarmed bullets. She liked them, and his hobby took off from there.
His medium is his own spent rounds from when he practices at local shooting ranges. Other shooters at the range donate to him as well, if they don't reload their own ammunition.
When making pieces from live rounds, he removes the gunpowder and bullet from the shell casing to make them inactive.
After his tour with the U.S. Marine Corps in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s, where he drove trucks, and before the Vietnam War began to escalate, Farina was enjoying a fulfilling time in the military service.
"I was on vacation, it was great for me," Farina said, "It could have gone the other way but it didn't; I had a ball over there."
He returned stateside to continue his truck driving for a company in Elk Grove Village.
These days Farina takes weekend trips in his old truck traveling routes across the Midwest, stopping at familiar truck stops and watering holes along the way, giving away his key rings and jewelry to restaurant patrons, all for free.
"This weekend I gave away over 300 key rings for people all over, it was great," he said, "They bought me lunches; they bought me a beer every so often. I had a lot of fun, a lot of pretty ladies, a lot of hugs and snuggles."
Farina charges only for the larger items, such as his hand grenade lamps, 9 mm lamps and wall hangers, selling mostly to veterans and their families.
"The guys are getting up there in years and passing away," Farina said, "Their wives will find stuff that they brought back and maybe forgot about, so they bring them to me and I'll make honorable and respectable things out of them."
Occasionally he runs across folks who aren't interested in items made from ammunition, but he takes it in stride.
"Every once and a while you'll get somebody that goes a little goofy on guns," Farina said, "It's just a fun thing. I'm retired, you gotta keep busy doing something."
"I'm making a lamp now for a guy who wants one in pink for his 9-month-old granddaughter — can you imagine that?" Farina said, "He wants a pink hand grenade with a pink helmet. I said 'Are you sure?'"