Updated: Nov 16, 2022
One of the most popular subjects of collecting vintage diving equipment is knives. While commercial diving knives were made in huge varieties, the United State Navy standard diving knife was the same throughout most of the 20th century.
When the US Navy standardized the Mark V diving helmet in 1916, they were using a friction-style knife popular with divers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The example above is a classic configuration used by divers throughout the world. It was in 1929 that the US Navy had a considerably different style of knife design required for its divers.
The new style knife was referred to officially as the Navy Standard Dive Knife. Many collectors refer to the style as the Mark V knife, in reference to the diving helmet the knife is used with. The example shown directly above was made by Morse Diving Equipment after WW2.
The “Mark V” knife, at first glance, does not even look like a knife to many people. The reason for this is that the stainless-steel blade is concealed inside a brass cylinder or sheath. Rather than utilize a sheath that uses friction to keep the blade from falling out, this design requires the diver to thread the knife into the sheath. This feature, while more time-consuming, did prevent many knives from being lost on the bottom of the ocean or a lake.
The knife design featured a loop on the brass sheath for a leather strap. The strap was fastened to the diver’s weight below for easy access. The wood handle, usually maple, was exposed with a brass end on it. The knife blade itself has one sharp edge, and one saw blade edge.
A large number of these US Navy diving knives were made during World War 2. During this period, many different manufacturers were contracted to make the knife. While not all of these companies would put their name on the knife, some stamped their name on the outside brass sheath. Those companies that did stamp the knife sheath are A. Schrader’s Son, Bomar, BTE or Batteryless Telephone Equipment, DESCO or Diving Equipment Salvage Company, Fischer Spring, KaBar Union Cutlery, Morse Diving Equipment, and Vince.
Other than the company’s name, all of the knives followed the US Navy design specifications, except for examples with the Vince Easton PA name on the blade. Their knives feature a brass loop on the end of the handle for an unknown reason.
One exception to the rule above is the US Navy standard knife with a gold-colored blade, which was made of beryllium, a non-magnetic alloy. In many cases, Fischer Spring made these. The example below clearly shows the gold or brass color of the blade. The blade is stamped C-713051 FISCHER SPRING N.Y.
After World War 2 the US Navy standard dive knife continued to be made by Morse Diving Equipment and DESCO. Examples made by Schrader were also made in the late 20th century and early 21st century.
Nation’s Attic has been fortunate enough to have handled examples from all of the knife manufacturers. However, we always have collectors looking for examples to add to their collections! If you have one of these dive knives and are curious about its value, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or text to 316-371-1828. Photos of both sides of the knife blade, a close-up of any maker’s name, and a few photos of the brass sheath are what we need to evaluate your knife.