An ARTCA member recently acquired a No. 6 that had the mould ground off and submitted it to a CSI-type
investigation. Here's the results and the accompanying dialogue.
The pivot rivet (heh, heh!) at top left was driven out from the "front" side of the tool using the 3/8" punch and socket at
top right with a 24-oz. ball-peen hammer (it was too firmly swaged over its collar for my 1-ton arbor press to break it
loose). I then drifted out the retaining pins for the case extractor and bullet-sizing plunger using the 1/8" punch at top;
and, finally, used a vise to grip the priming punch and a mallet to pull it out of its blind socket in between the latter two
The matching inner faces around the pivot are recessed about 0.050" deep x 0.650" diameter, packed with what looks
like a graphite / oil lubricant. As seen in the top photo - before I disassembled the tool - there is evidence that a
previous owner may have worked on the rivet, and may have previously taken the tool apart; the same lubricant seems
to have been applied to the extractor, so this may not go back to its original assembly at the Ideal factory.
The tool has no trace of nickel plating (even on the mating faces of the pivot), so I am still unsure as to what point in its
manufacture the plating was applied, or what method (chemical, electrical) was used to apply it.
Dimensions are equivalent to those of the standard-size Nos. 3, 4, 6, 8 and 10 tools:
Overall length from end of refaced pivot boss (quite evenly ground to 1.16" diameter, and matching closely the No.3
profile) to tip of handle: 7.60";
Length from center of pivot to tip of handle: 7.00" (approx);
Thickness of main castings 0.780";
Pivot rivet: 0.375" dia x 1.050" long (after riveting over and then drifting it free);
Pivot washers (back-side one now loose on pivot at top left, near-side one free at lower left); 3/4" OD x 1/8" thick
(approx.) at center, domed contour as riveted (see 1st photo);
Pivot washer clearance recess (outside, both faces; basically, a cleanup cut); 0.800" dia. x 0.003 +/- deep;
The rather crude (I believe it is a forged piece) case extractor, approx. 1" long x 0.220" thick, pivots on a 1/8" transverse
pin through the upper handle;
(This and the bullet sizing plunger pivot pin are ground flush with the handle surface, and are hard to discern under the
nickel, when present; even with a "no-finish" specimen like this one they were only spotted by careful inspection in a
The extractor claw swings in what appears to be a 0.450+/-" deep circular slot (perhaps a plunge cut with a Woodruff
keyseat cutter) in the upper handle of about 9/16" radius x 0.235" wide; the protruding claw works in a similar, but
smaller, cut in the hinge side of the lower handle, entering into the forward edge of the bullet seating chamber.
Apparently, adjustment to fit the case without unduly gouging its wall is done by hand-filing on the claw portion;
The claw is actuated by a small coil spring seated in a 0.235" drilled recess in the extractor cut under the claw's head; the
spring has about six turns of 0.021" wire, and is 0.210" in diameter (one end sprung out to grip it in its recess) and about
The primer seater is pressed and ring-staked into a blind 0.220" hole 0.250" deep in the inner face of the upper handle,
outboard of the extractor recess and centered on the cartridge case retaining socket, second position from the hinge, in
the lower handle. The priming punch itself is 0.220" in diameter x 0.450" long, and the outer part of the exposed portion
is is tapered down at about 30 degrees to about 0.175" and cupped to accommodate the older-style round-faced primers of
The swiveling plunger, opposite the third, bullet-sizing, station from the hinge, measures 0.210" in diameter and 1.010"
long, with a rounded tip; it swings through a limited arc on another transverse 1/8" pin, again ground flush with the
sides of the upper handle; it is retained in a blind hole 0.230" in diameter and 0.375" deep in its inner face.
(I have not given measurements of the seating chamber or the priming and sizing sockets in the lower handle, as they
are cartridge-dependent; my goal is to give the generic dimensions of the standard, medium-sized tong tool handles and
their working parts.)
Standing questions remain:
1. How were the handle blanks made? The "best guess" at this point is that they are malleable iron castings, with
considerable cleanup by first, machine and then by hand-work.
2. As mentioned above. it is not clear at what stage in manufacture (and assembly?) the nickel plating is applied, and by
what process. Tools in as-new condition appear to show plating over the hinge rivet and washers, and the transverse pins
for the extractor claw and bullet-sizing plunger, but not in the interior cuts and hinge bearing surfaces.
3. The IDEAL tong tools - either in new, unused condition or - like this one - showing considerable wear and no finish,
all seem - unless grossly abused - to retain free but not sloppy movement of the hinge (though the present tool seems
to have had its hinge rivet "tightened" by added peening, it is - or was, until disassembled - still free-working but
without any slop). How did Barlow and his successors establish and maintain such favorable and durable working
tolerances? The more I see of the IDEAL tong tools, the more I marvel at their functional design and clean (where it
matters!) workmanship and finish.
While I prefer to keep this website restricted to the pre-310 tools, Doug Elliott's "autopsies" continue to
provide some interesting insights. This one is on the later aluminum tool issued by Lyman.
In this example, the 0.375" pivot rivet, with integral 3/4" diameter x scant 1/4" domed head, 3/4" OAL,
enters from the back side of the tool and is closed over a matching domed washer on the front side, riding
in circular recesses about 0.900" diameter and 0.010" deep in the outer faces of the 1.100" hinge bosses.
The inner faces are slightly recessed about 0.810" x 0.025" deep, with no trace of lubricant. Instead, a
hardened steel washer 1.125" in outer diameter, 0.025" thick and clearance-drilled for the 3/8" rivet
shank (and bearing traces of surface rust) is interposed between the machined aluminum faces, to prevent
galling. As with the older tools, most examples are free-moving, without noticeable "slop".
Cast-in recesses in both handles behind the hinge bosses accommodate the approximately 1" OAL
extractor hook, which in this case is nicely finished on all surfaces, appearing to have been blanked out of
0.250" steel plate. It is actuated into engagement with the cartridge rim by a coil spring 0.125" in
diameter and 1/2" long, with nine turns of 0.030" steel wire, one end slightly expanded to seat in a recess
in the extractor (rather than in the upper handle) behind its hook. The extractor pivots on an 0.010" pin
through the upper handle (subsequently replaced by a roll-pin), and its engagement with the case head
and rim is controlled by a slotted, headless 1.2" length of 10 x 32 threaded screw stock bearing against
its "tail", the setting being locked by a 10-32 hex nut on the upper side of the upper handle (earlier alloy
tools use a diamond-knurled nut).
Finally, a contoured 0.070" semi-hard steel anti-wear plate, its 0.760" width slightly less than the
0.820" +/- thickness of the rough-cast alloy handle, is fitted over the "pusher" boss on the inner face
of the upper handle, forked at its forward end to clear the extractor hook, and retained by a pair of 6-48
screws, about 0.280" long, with thin (0.065") flat heads 0.230" in diameter, into theupper handle behind
the boss (this eliminates the "wear marks" seen on earlier iron/steel tong tools at this point). As with the
evolutionary (ca. late 1950's) third-pattern, "plum-blued" steel handles - whose mechanical features are
similar, the "spigot" in the lower handle is bored and threaded through with the proprietary Ideal 0.605"
x 30-tpi die thread, and its upper end is recessed for the flange of the case-head adapter; a third 6-48
screw is fitted flush in a recess outboard of this flange, which is notched to accommodate the head of the
screw to prevent its rotation, once set (a la commercial Mauser guard screws). The assembled tool is
approximately 7.250" in overall length, approximately 6.750" from the center of the hinge, and varying in
thickness from about 0.825" in the "working" area to as little as 0.775" across the handles
As with the earlier alloy version with the "IDEAL / Middlefield, Conn. U.S.A" stamping on the front of
the upper handle, the alloy parts are rough-cast, with the parting lines rather crudely "snagged-off"; and
the assembled tool (except for the threaded die socket, which must have been plugged for the process)
sprayed over with a not-very-durable flat black paint. Crude though these alloy 310 tools may appear
(the final[?] - and current - version is considerably improved in finish, with the "LYMAN" raised in an
impressed cartouche, "upside-down" on the "back" side of the lower handle), they have proven effective
and durable in service over the past 50 years or so, and most users seem to appreciate their lighter weight,
as compared with the earlier nickeled and plum-blued steel versions.
|A mysterious "6" die and a probable identification, done in the best CSI manner.
Submitted by Doug Elliott.
Here’s a paste-up of some correspondence on a “mystery” die picked up as an example of how one might go
about identifying a die with one of the missing numbers. This one, a “6” found on eBay.
The “tit” on the end (for flaring out residual crimp) nikes from 0.310” at the base to 0.245” at the tip, so is
probably a ‘universal” standard for anything between .25 and .30 caliber. Poking around inside with a
split-ball Hole Gauge suggests a .25 caliber ball seat (the ball, just dragging past the crimp point. mikes
0.255”, but this is a notoriously inexact measurement, and the ball seat shows some taper. Doesn’t jibe with
any other factory case in the way of a .25 caliber bottleneck on a fairly fat case from the 1890’s, and the
.25-35 WCF and .25-36 Marlin (#1 1 and l2, respectively) are already coded. An early Ideal Handbook
mentions a .25-40 Marlin experimental; maybe a .25 on the Krag case??? There were a couple of those.
Too late Maybe tomorrow.
I finally got out to the shop and ran a Cerrosafe cast of the interior of that early, nickeled single/adjustable
Ideal die with the number 6 code stamp. 6 is a blank on all the die code lists I have to hand.
We know it is not a 9 upside down, as it is ‘way too fat to be for the 25-25 Stevens; the sequence for the early
die codes would place it between the No. 5 for the 22-15-50 Stevens and the No. 7, for the 25-20 WCF, and
thus – as these low numbers appear to have been assigned in order of caliber – either a .22, a 6mm or a
The cast came out fairly well and shows a fairly hefty bottleneck shape and a BIG case for that caliber in
that era. I ran the micrometer and dial caliper over it and came up with: Bullet diameter: O,.255” Bullet
length:- tip to neck: 0.750”- tip to base of neck: 1.080” Neck OD:O.283” Neck Length 0.335” Shoulder
Diameter: 0.450” Shoulder angle (approx.): 30 - 35 degrees.
The shoulder diameter is large enough to accommodate anything up to.30-’06 (0.443) but these are not sizing
dies and are usually quite a bit oversize in the body area. And there is no way to assess case or loaded round
length. I poked through my Donnelly / Towsley “Handloader Manual of Cartridge Conversions” and came
up with (p. 143) what I think is a possible candidate: a .25 caliber wildcat on the .30-40 Krag case.
Allowing for my limited measuring skills, 1 think we’ve got a possible match (note the “Very early wildcat”
comment). the bullet matches nothing in the Ideal mould lists in .25 caliber, but is similar to some of the
.30 caliber RN’s with two or three grease grooves and a long bore-rider body such as #311290, -299, -331,
- 333, etc. that were popular among Krag and Springfield shooters.
My “take” is that this was a custom job (tool, die and mould) turned out by Barlow in the mid-1890s for a
favored - or persistent - customer; that he initially thought I might prove a “seller” and went so far as to pick
a die code number - but then thought better of it and dropped the whole idea before the .25 and .30 caliber
mould “cherry numbers” were assigned in 1896-97. (It may have proved beyond the capability of the early
smokeless powders.) Well, that’s my best guess - over to the rest of you.