DESCO Lightweight Commercial Helmets, 12 bolt design

The DESCO "Lightweight" series of helmets are of the same materials and constructions as their heavier brothers. They have considerably less weight and volume than the "heavies". All share the Lightweight (Sponge) pattern breastplate and top shell, with modifications to suit varying customer and market demands.                               ( info )

DESCO Fisheries Diving Helmet

The DESCO Fisheries Helmet features one large curved front window. It can be ordered as a lightweight helmet with a Sponge style top shell and breastplate, which will fit lightweight dress collars (Yokohama), or as a heavyweight helmet with a commercial top shell, and a Commercial or a Mark V breastplate. The helmet comes standard with a Marsh Marine type plug and can be ordered for a 2 wire or 4 wire setup. Communications binding posts are also an option. The air inlet and exhaust valve are Mark V type, and the helmet lock is a spring loaded commercial style. Tin plating is standard. Approximate shipping weight 50 lbs.                                                                                                                                            ( info  )

Heavyweight Fisheries Helmet on a Commercial Helmet breast plate

Lightweight Fisheries Helmet on a ‘Sponge Helmet’ breast plate

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DESCO Sponge Divers Helmet

The Sponge Divers Helmet features a screw in faceplate. The side and top windows are secured with rings threaded into the bases and are without guards. The exhaust is a non-adjustable head butt type. The non-return valve is integrated into the air inlet elbow. Breastplate loops and communications is optional. Shipping weight is approximately 39 lbs.                                      ( images & info  )

DESCO Abalone Divers Helmet

The DESCO "Lightweight" series of helmets are of the same materials and constructions as their heavier brothers. They have considerably less weight and volume than the "heavies". All share the Lightweight (Sponge) pattern breastplate and top shell, with modifications to suit varying customer and market demands.                                    (  info  )

The Abalone Divers Helmet features a Mark V style double spring adjustable tension exhaust valve. All windows have guards secured by screws. Breastplate loops are standard. The non-return is integrated into the air inlet elbow. Communications is optional. Helmet is available in Tin plated or polished finish. Shipping weight approximately 39 lbs.                                                                                         ( images & info  )

DESCO Agar Divers Helmet

The Agar Divers Helmet is equipped with an automatic, adjustable-tension exhaust valve permitting both hand and head operation. Windows do not have bars ( from the 1967 DESCO sales catalog )                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ( info  )

DESCO ‘Browne’ Commercial Divers Helmet

The DESCO "Lightweight" series of helmets are of the same materials and constructions as their heavier brothers. They have considerably less weight and volume than the "heavies". All share the Lightweight (Sponge) pattern breastplate and top shell, with modifications to suit varying customer and market demands.                                     ( info  )

The DESCO "Lightweight" series of helmets are of the same materials and constructions as their heavier brothers. They have considerably less weight and volume than the "heavies". All share the Lightweight (Sponge) pattern breastplate and top shell, with modifications to suit varying customer and market demands.

The Browne Commercial Diving Helmet is similar in design to the Japanese and Bob Kirby helmets favored by many commercial divers. Its standard features include oversized windows sealed with O-rings, an integrated air control valve, a large air diffuser/muffler, a low profile air/communications block, and a double exhaust valve. The air inlet can be adapted to a variety of hose fittings including 1 1/16"-17, 9/16"-18 Oxygen, and JIC. The helmet is fitted with a four wire Marsh Marine type plug set up for two wire operation, but can be adapted in the field for four wire operation with the addition of a microphone. The exhaust uses the proven U.S. Navy Mark V valve as the primary stage and a rubber flapper valve secondary stage. This arrangement significantly reduces the chance of water leaking back through the exhaust valve. The breastplate is a standard lightweight type used on the Sponge, Abalone, and Agar Helmets. The bolt pattern and shape is similar to the Japanese, Chinese, and the fiberglass breastplates in use today. A pair of combination lashing post/eyelets are standard, but Mark V loops or no fittings are an option. Helmet comes standard in heavy tin plating. Shipping weight approximately 45 lbs.                                                            ( images & info  )

1942. DESCO Browne Self-Contained Suit ‘Model 100’

In this suit the diver carries both the oxygen cylinder and canister on his back. In place of a mouthpiece, the diver holds his face into a mask which directs the circulation of air through the canister. Diving depths and time limits with this model are comparable to the Model 106 ( see here below )                                                          ( images & info  )

This portable suit was especially designed for light salvage and inspection work. It is particularly adaptable to commercial divers who wish to make inspections or short salvage jobs where it would not pay to haul heavy equipment to the location. The Browne two piece dress which joins at the waist is used to facilitate handling and dressing. No breastplate is used. The diver carries oxygen cylinders compressed to 2000 pounds on his back, while the combined canister and chest weight hang on the diver's chest. The control valve hangs conveniently at the diver's waist.


The mouthpiece which the diver grasps lightly in his mouth is for breathing. many divers prefer this breathing system. this suit has been used for three hours in 20 feet of water and to 60 feet for 1 hour when pure oxygen is used. Short dives may be made to over 120 feet if the diver uses compressed air.

The helmet is constructed of spun Copper heavily coated with Tin and all fittings, including those on the suit, are of polished cast Brass. Windows are of clear, durable plastic. The case holding the oxygen cylinders is metal. Photos show the diver with combination telephone and lifeline cable. Dresses are supplied in light or heavy weight and in sizes A, B, and C.


Weight 135lbs. complete                                                                                                                                                                                             ( images & info )

194(?) DESCO Browne Self-Contained Suit ‘Model 106’

1968. DESCO ‘Diving Hat’

The DESCO Air Hat was designed in 1968 by Thomas Fifield, and has continually evolved to meet the requirements of the commercial diving industry. The design was developed  when a Gulf Coast DESCO dealer requested a helmet to compete in the new low volume market. Utilizing the company's expertise in Copper and Brass helmet production the Air Hat is a worthy successor to the Sponge, Commercial, and Navy helmets it descends from.


In its original configuration the Air Hat used an adjustable version of the exhaust valve from the Browne Commercial Mask. It also used the air inlet elbow from the Pool mask. Using off the shelf parts kept the production cost low, hence the price low for the Air Hat. All good designs are adaptable to meet changing needs of the marketplace. Major upgrades to the Air Hat over the years were designed so they could be retrofitted to older helmets, thus increasing their service life. Time and experience showed that a double exhaust valve was preferable in most situations and later bail out capability became an industry requirement.  Designing features that can be upgrades to old Air Hats does cut into new helmet sales but is true to the goal of providing the best possible helmet while providing the greatest value to our customers. DESCO's Air Hat maximizes safety, durability, and reliability, while requiring simple routine maintenance and care. The DESCO Air Hat  conforms to all current regulations of the ADC Consensus Standards, and U.S. Federal Regulations administered by OSHA and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Air Hat has been awarded certification by the European Community for use in EC member countries and carries the CE # stamped on the tail.


The DESCO Air Hat is a "free flow" helmet of contemporary design, using time proven techniques and materials in its construction, similar to the heavy gear helmets of the past. Brass castings are deep soldered to a 1/16" thick spun copper shell.

The Air Hat is remarkable both for its ruggedness and its simplicity of design. It can be disassembled and reassembled using only a screwdriver and wrench. It can easily be donned or removed by the diver without assistance from the tender. Using the adjustable exhaust valve the Air Hat can be adjusted to either side of neutral buoyancy underwater with ease. With its low center of gravity and excellent fore and aft balance it rest comfortably on the divers head. The interior headliner is adjustable for size and the foam pads are covered in leather for comfort.


The DESCO Air Hat is the preferred helmet for working in hazardous environments where contamination of the diver is a concern. The "free flow" or “overpressure” design allows for a constant positive pressure to be maintained in the Air Hat. The standard double exhaust incorporates two separate successive seals to restrict the possibility of leak back. 


The DESCO Air Hat comes standard with a neck dam for sealing at the neck. Leading dry suit manufacturers offer a DESCO yoke to directly mate the helmet to the dress in place of the neck dam. Installation of the insert ring to the dry suit is quick and easy, and does not require tools. Sealing of the Air Hat at the neck is achieved with two independent but complementary seals which are air and watertight. The Air Hat is shipped with the neck ring insert, a size 15 neck dam (unless another size is requested at time of ordering), and a adjustable jock strap. Approximate shipping weight is 34lbs.                                                                                                                                                                       ( images & info  )

DESCO Lightweight Commercial Helmets, no breastplate design

1945. DESCO Browne ‘Utility’ Diving Helmet

The Browne Utility Helmet is a variant of the Buie Helium Helmet development program. Stripping the mixed gas capability and using the simpler curved window a new low volume helmet was introduced to the commercial market in 1945. Little did they know that this helmet was ahead of its time by about twenty years. In the mid 1960's the commercial diving industry moved away from the standard helmet & breastplate to the low volume helmets that are typical today.                                                                  ( images & info  )

From the DESCO sales catalog: The Browne Utility Helmet and dress is the most practical all-around diving outfit that has ever been constructed. The Complete outfit, which weighs 135 pounds, operates with compressed air to 300 feet maximum depth, allowing the diver greater comfort and providing more efficiency than any other diving suit with a helmet. No breastplate is necessary and either the Browne two-piece dress with entry through the waist, or the Browne back entry type can be used. The diver has a wide range of vision with a comparatively small, light helmet which, with its streamlined construction includes all the latest features for efficient underwater work.


The helmet shown is equipped with telephone communication and standard navy combination lifeline and cable. Special note should be taken of the diver's exhaust valve with the non-leak back features. It is impossible for water to enter the helmet through the exhaust valve regardless of the position the diver is in. A diver operating this suit is more comfortable and can do considerably more work under water in a limited period of time. Dresses are supplied in sizes A, B, and C with medium or light-weight material and with either cuffs or gloves. The chest weight or belt is optional.


The helmet is constructed of spun copper and is heavily tin plated and has cast brass fittings which are highly polished. The window is high grade durable plastic.

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1942. DESCO ‘Buie’ Mixed Gas Diving Helmet

During WW II pressure was kept on manufacturers to develop new and better equipment. Not just rifles, or planes, or tanks but in every area. DESCO was tasked with making continual advances in diving equipment to meet the challenges that arose daily during the war. The Navy had been experimenting for years with Helium diving using converted Mark V helmets. This was a practical approach as they were well familiar with the helmet and they were readily available. When the war broke out the status quo changed and this allowed for experimentation on a level not dreamed of before. U.S. Navy diver E.D. Buie came to DESCO to work on a low volume mixed gas helmet for the Navy to use clearing mines ( info )

U.S. Navy diver Emerson D.Buie

A variation of the DESCO ‘Buie’ Mixed Gas Diving Helmet

This helmet design may have been developed concurrently with the Buie, or as a follow on design. This canister configuration makes the helmet more streamlined and less complicated to build and maintain. There are less protrusions creating potential snagging hazards. The concept may have been proposed by Buie himself or the DESCO designers as the helmet was being designed for mine clearance duties. Reducing the risk of snagging on a mine cable would be a practical goal. On the normal Buie helmet the canister could be removed and the elbows capped and it would work like a normal free flow helmet. On this helmet the canister is permanently soldered to the helmet shell so it was intended to be used as a gas hat only.  ( images & info  )

First type of the DESCO ‘Buie’ Mixed Gas Diving Helmet ( with a curved window )

The first low volume mixed gas helmets had a curved window. The canister was much smaller than the Mark V Helium canister and in fact the whole helmet weighed less than half of the Mark V Helium (104lbs to 43lbs). The smaller and lighter rig was needed for mine clearance work. Not many units were made but a quantity of this first style Buie helmets was shipped to Russia during the second world war.  ( info scans are from ‘MINE DISPOSAL BULLETIN No. 22 July 1, 1943. David L.Dekker library )

Second type of the DESCO ‘Buie’ Mixed Gas Diving Helmet ( with a faceted window )

The second version of the Buie helmet. The basic design in the form of the shell, air inlet, and canister remained constant. The main difference in the later Buie helmets is the front window. A curved helmet can cause distortion in the field of vision underwater. This would not be good while working on a mine. Later Buie helmets have a faceted window presenting flat surfaces to the water. The secondary exhaust valve was changed from the original design and the helmet was given a support to keep it better in place at the divers shoulders. ( images & info  )

Little is known about the ‘Model 100’ suit except that the patent application was filed in January of 1942. Even though this style of equipment ( without a breastplate and with a suit joining at the waist ) was used in Sweden since the late 18 hundreds the lightweight version as designed by DESCO was ahead of its time. First in the nineteen sixties and seventies the low volume light weight helmets would conquer the market after Savoie, Kirby Morgan, Miller and Ratcliffe got the attention of the commercial divers. It seems that this ‘Model 100’ design and its improvements lead to the famous DESCO ‘Air Hat’, a helmet which is currently in production.


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