We all had generally busy lives during the “before times” back as the world came to a halt in mid-2020 with the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of us then binge-watched television, read through our bookshelves, slept, or watched our hair return to its natural color, whatever that was. Others had pandemic babies.

Olympia Orthopaedic Associates

Chris Staudinger Hammers Away the Time

Tacoma’s Chris Staudinger found a new way to keep hammering away at life. He became a blacksmith. It was a craft that he had tinkered with over the years, but like most things, he never found himself actually exploring seriously. Then the shutdown started. The founder of Pretty Gritty Tours had to cancel his tours and put the business in hibernation for the series of rolling restrictions against public gatherings.

“I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands to do something new,” he said. “I had always had some sort of interest in metallurgy and skills and crafts but had an interest in blacksmithing the most.”

Falcon Coast Forge Tacoma
Tacoma’s Chris Staudinger pounds the pavement as a tour guide by day and pounds metal at night as a blacksmith. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger

Drawn by the mesmerizing attraction of fire, the danger of hot metal and swinging tools as well as the artistry of crafting steel, Staudinger set out to learn how to turn scrap metal into usable things that he could give away as gifts as an added byproduct of his newfound hobby. He watched a few videos, bought a $5 anvil from Craigslist, and just started hammering away to find comfort in the singular nature of working with metal.

“I have a hard time shutting my mind off,” he said. “When I am doing this, I don’t think of anything, nothing. That’s the beauty of this. I don’t think about anything.”

Staudinger gets lost in the connection between himself and the metal he tries to bend into something new. He doesn’t even listen to music and only has a clock to ensure his forging world doesn’t merge with his real world of life, wife, children, jobs, and adulting.

“Usually, I have to set a timer. Otherwise, I will get lost,” Staudinger said.

Falcon Coast Forge Tacoma
YouTube tutorials and some quick fingers on Craigslist buys made it all happen for Tacoma’s Chris Staudinger. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger

Moved by Metal With Falcon Coast Forge

Rather than methodically gathering scrap metal to make a specific project for himself or to work on a skill, he does the process in reserve. He lets the metal decide what it wants to be next.

 “Sometimes you have to move the metal until the metal moves you,” Staudinger said. “I used to hate that saying, and now I use it all the time.”

Sometimes, a steel rod becomes a handle for a frying pan. Other times, it becomes a candle holder. His blacksmithing journey, after all, started as just a way to fill his time during the pandemic and later became a way to unwind from the daily stresses of life. Then, people began placing orders.

“I had no interest in making it a business,” he said, noting that people then started requesting hand-forged items like knives, pans, candle holders, or bottle openers. Falcon Coast Forge emerged from the propane-fueled fire in his garage. He created the name from Puget Sound’s Peregrine Falcon, in case you were wondering.

Falcon Coast Forge Tacoma
Chris Staudinger doesn’t want the tools he crafts to just hang on a wall. They have to work and work well. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger

Learn to Forge in Tacoma

His hand-forged hooks, cleavers, kukuris, and frying pans are not only made to order but often don’t get made until he finds the time. But fear not; Staudinger does offer classes if people want to make the items themselves. However, he shares that people can go his similar route and learn on the go on YouTube and social media tutorials.

“I would love to make it seem more complicated, but really, there are so many great videos out there,” he said, noting that the Northwest Blacksmithing Association can help would-be enthusiasts get started.

“There is just a great community out there,” he adds.

Falcon Coast Forge Tacoma
Falcon Coast Forge doesn’t have a backstock of tools and knives for sale. Things are often made to order from start to finish. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger

While he continues to hammer away at his hobby turned side gig, Staudinger continues to learn and strive to make bigger and more intricate tools. His next-level project is to create a broad sword from scratch. The logistics and skill of hammering several feet of steel in a garage furnace becomes a bit more complex when he mentions his creed.

“I never want to make something that fails or something that says ‘decorative,’” Staudinger said. “It has to work and work well.”