A thief attacked a housing association workman after stealing his tools while he carried out a renovation.
Kevin Wood, 37, picked up power drills worth £600 from the hallway of a house which was having windows fitted by Gentoo workers.
Brave employee Jack Guy caught the thief and got back the equipment but was hit in the face during a violent confrontation.
Wood then fled but came back to the property armed with a knife - which he brandished at Mr Guy and his colleague.
At Newcastle Crown Court Wood, who has 174 previous convictions, was jailed for a total of 20 months.
Mr Recorder Andrew Baker QC said the workmen feared death or serious injury during the stand off.
The judge told said knife crime is a "plague" on the streets and told Wood: "Those who are prepared to arm themselves and threaten the use of weapons must
expect substantial custodial sentences."
Wood, of Coach Road Estate, Washington, admitted theft, common assault and threatening another with an offensive weapon.
The court heard the workmen were working on a house in Wood's street when Mr Guy realised tools had been taken from a hallway.
Proscutor Gavin Doig said: "Mr Guy caught up with the defendant and took the tools from him.
"The defendant did not take well to being challenged. He hit Mr Guy to the face."
The court heard a "scuffle" broke out between the two men and Mr Guy was able to put the thief to the floor.
Wood then left the scene but returned moments later, armed with a knife.
He threatened both workers with the weapon while warning "do you know who my family are".
The court heard the men called the police and Wood was arrested before anyone was injured.
David Combe, defending, said Wood has worked hard while on remand to beat his heroin misuse and hopes to have a crime free future with his partner.