Wednesday, July 9

Ask a Blacksmith with Nick Dupras of Iron Bay Forge

It's been a hot minute since the last Ask a Blacksmith interview, but we're back with the very talented and historically accurate...

Nick Dupras of Iron Bay Forge (Michigan, USA)

The glowing heart of a ball padlock - Dupras

How long have you been blacksmithing and what/who got you started?

I started in 2004 by taking a course in blacksmithing at Northern Michigan University, because it sounded interesting (I was a history major, not an art major). After that I also took courses in jewelry work and advanced metalsmithing. 

When I finished that first blacksmithing course I converted half an old barn on my property into a workshop (it had been storage for years) and started collecting tools, built my forge, and got started at home.

Do you forge full time or is blacksmithing more of a hobby?

It started out as a hobby, but I am semi-professional now in that it’s much more than a hobby and I get a significant part of my income from it. I am a professional historian, though, so smithing is not full time for me. 

A large part of my forge work is based on historical pieces, for example a set of small pipe tongs and a lot of fire strikers, which I always base on originals. 

Pipe tongs - Dupras

Fire strikers - Dupras

Can you say a bit about your hammer, forge (fuel choice, etc.), and tool preferences?

I have two favorite hammers, one is a Hofi-style hammer made for me by another smith as a wedding present. The second, smaller one I made copying one of the hammers from the Mästermyr Tool Chest. I have others that get a lot of use, too, but those two hang on the anvil stand. 

My main anvil is a 475 pound Hay Budden that was formerly the shop anvil at the White Pine Copper Mine in White Pine, Michigan. I also have a couple smaller 75-100 pound no-name anvils which are useful to have for their different working surfaces.

My forge is a home-made coal forge based on the Centaur forges and with a Centaur firepot. The blower is a big Cannedy Otto I restored. I prefer coal, though I’ve been using charcoal lately since it’s easier to get though isn’t really cheaper. If I continue to use charcoal I’ll make a retort. 

What projects have you done that you're especially proud of?

A couple. The first is a padlock I made based on 16th century ball padlocks. The case was made by brazing two hemispheres and a band in the forge, and the mechanism is entirely self-enclosed. I’ve made several other padlocks of earlier types where the shackle or bolt were removable, so this was the first I’ve made where everything stays together.

Ball Padlock - Dupras
The second would be a medieval fire steel I made, a reproduction of an artifact from Eastern Europe. It was made of three sections, an upper frame, a middle ribbon bent into a pile, and a lower high carbon piece. All three were forge welded at each end and then heat treated. The openwork turned out very nice.

Openwork Fire Steel - Dupras

What resources helped you when you were just getting into blacksmithing?

There are a lot of smithing websites I found invaluable. I spent a lot of time in the blueprints section of and the tutorials on I also found a lot of very good books in my local library. 

What are some tips you can offer people just starting out?

Don’t give up, and don’t get discouraged when something doesn’t work the first few times. Also, don’t worry if you don’t have a thousand-pound anvil and a power hammer and all the best tools. 

If possible, find a local blacksmithing organization and get to know other blacksmiths. I joined the local chapter of the Michigan Artist Blacksmith Association and it was a great way to meet other smiths and learn new techniques. The best teacher is experience, so take those things you’ve read or seen try them out and build on them.

Where can we find out more about what you're doing?

My shop is at I also have a Facebook page and Tumblr at and I’m also active on, as user ‘Nick’.

Thanks a ton for sharing your story Nick!

I hope you all enjoyed this installment of the Ask a Blacksmith interview series. As always, if you'd like to tell your blacksmithing story and have pictures to share, leave a comment or send me a note. Til next time...keep it hot!

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