Brown's Variform Reloader
Ed Curtis sent these two patent drawings for our viewing pleasure. All through these pages I will try to start with the patent. Sometimes they are hard to find. Fortunately, he has saved everything he could over the last 70 odd years.
He remembers the original patent model, from the Patent office, was for sale at one time. It had a tag from the patent office. It was cast brass, but did not look exactly like the commercially marketed tool. It may have looked very much like the early patent drawing on the left. Hopefully, it is still out there in someone's collection.
Notice the location of the bullet seating chamber in the left drawing. Positioned here, it offers maximum leverage. It is also interesting that this tool has a chisel for removing Berdan primers. Later tools had a de-capping pin for the American Style primer, with a single hole in the center. The later tools were intended for the cartridges made by companies like Winchester. I guess if you had Berdan primed cases, you had to get another tool for de-capping.
In the second drawing the seating chamber had been moved further from the hinge pin. This did not work out well. You can see differences between the drawings and the tools in the instructions.
The little curved piece, on the left, on both drawings was to seat new primers. The are marked C and K respectively. This part of the casting is not present on the second type tool.
I have never had a second type tool to play with. From the Bullard ad, it seems there is a little tab attached to the de-capping pin. It can be swiveled forward to seat a cartridge, or turned away to remove the cartridge from the tool. It is turned the other direction in "Reloading Tools" on page 247. I'm not sure how that works. It may just be to push the cartridge into the seating chamber. If you look at the Bullard ad below, there is a slot just below the bottom handle. In "Reloading Tools", on page 247, the slot seems to be the re-capping feature.
Thanks to James Zupan for sending these pictures of an instruction sheet for the "Brown's Variform Reloader. Check out "Reloading Tools of the Black Powder Era," by Rowe and Curtis, Volume 1, pages 244 thru 247 to see much more. They show a slightly different set of instructions, so this one may be something new for you to examine.
Ed cautioned that there were some all brass cast copies made somewhere in the Mid-West, about 30 years ago. If you have one of these brass reproductions, don't get excited. They look just like the commercial tool, but are not original. Ed said the guy just drilled a hole for the seating chamber. He did not have a proper reamer. They look good but may not work.
Ed Curtis checked the above ad and said this illustrates the First Type reloading tool. It seems the handles were not strong and they made a second type with heavier handles. Also, the location of the de-capping pin and seating chamber is switched. This may have been done to increase the leverage on the seating chamber. Theoretically this would reduce the stress on the handles. De-capping does not take a great deal of pressure.
The second type tool may, still, have had problems with broken handles too. The ad below shows a tool with heavier castings and the switched seating chamber. This ad is from the Bullard Repeating Arms Company. Ed thinks this is from an 1883 catalog or early 1884. Maybe, their second catalog. They call this the Vaciform, rather than Variform tool.
The lower handle has a pin so it can be replaced. The pin in the hinge and lower handle seem to be the same size. Maybe 3/16 of an inch?
The ad above is what is accepted as the second type tool. In "Reloading Tools", pages 244 thru 246, three tools are illustrated that seem to be the first type. Two of them have the March 22, 1881 patent date showing. However, the castings are light duty and the seating chamber is not switched.
The final illustration, page 247, was taken from the Ed Curtis Collection. It is more in line with the March 22, 1881 patent. It has heavier castings and the switched seating chamber. The pins on the handle and hinge have much larger heads than the Bullard ad above. This could just be an error from the printer.
Ed mentioned that the pins could be tapped out and replaced. This was handy if handles were breaking.