Cross knife

Craft & Design Technology
Cross knife

When I first saw this picture of a cross with a concealed dagger blade, I assumed it was the work of an artist trying to make some sort of political statement about religion and/or violence and/or the relationship between the two. Which, frankly, would neither interest nor impress me very much. Turns out, however, that quite the opposite is true–this object was created for entirely practical reasons. In spite of what appears to be very workmanlike quality, it is in fact a shiv, secretly manufactured by a prisoner in Germany as an expedient concealment for a personal weapon. It was later discovered by his or her jailers (before being used, one hopes), and eventually photographed by Marc Steinmetz, who has assembled a remarkable online portfolio of pictures of improvised weapons and other prisoner’s inventions. Thanks to Thomas Howery for the lead.

28 thoughts on “Cross knife

  1. tom.needer says:

    I am a HUGE maker fan and maker by trade. Never in my life did I think I would find something on make that I would think didn’t belong. But concealed weapons is apparently where I draw the line. While I don’t think that a request to have this post removed would result in actual removal I still would like to petition the powers that be to remove this post and not post similar t content in the future. Please keep make a safe place for the hard core makers and maker kids alike. Yes yes… oh wont someone please think of the children…

    1. Marconi says:

      It is completely appropriate. From the top of the page, I quote:

      “Void your warranty, violate a user agreement, fry a circuit, blow a fuse, poke an eye out. Make: The risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things… Welcome to Make: Online!”

      Half the posts on this blog are “inappropriate” for kids. You didn’t comment on the DIY gunpowder post halfway down the page for crying out loud.

      Kids will think of much more ingenious ways to damage each other than anything that will be posted here.

  2. Humberto says:

    I just saw the rest of the weapons and other things and came across a picture of a radio transmitter done from an old radio and like the site says:
    “RADIO TRANSMITTER / BUG – made of radio recorder parts by an inmate of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany (battery is missing). Prisoners occasionally manage to install gizmos like this one in guard-rooms to be prepared for upcoming cell searches. Also suitable as a means of cell-to-cell communication among inmates. A standard radio serves as a receiver.
    I think this one is way awesome… so if anyone can figure our the parts used I’ll appreciate the heads up to try to reproduce it

    1. Simon says:

      It is a fairly simple little FM transmitter I guess. Circuits are easy to find. Something like this perhaps:

      On another note I also see nothing wrong with this post. The site it links to is fascinating. The Internet isn’t a place where kids should roam free unsupervised if they are going to influenced by a picture of some concealed weapon. If anything I think Make is probably one of the more appropriate places to post such a thing. Kids need to learn. Gareth is right, it’s a perfect opportunity for Maker parents to educate their kids about such things.

  3. Kyle McDonald says:

    Phew! Good thing it’s not “art”!

  4. Gareth Branwyn says:

    I think the post in entirely appropriate. It’s in no way an endorsement of concealed weapons or anti-religion or religion, for that matter.

    The site is definitely not completely kid-friendly — we have things like this that would need explanation, at least for kids of certain ages. I saw a Discovery show last year on “prison tech:” gun, knives, toasters, tattooing needles, all sorts of amazing tech made out of the most minimal of materials. Was it terrifying to think that these folks can make deadly weapons out of bed springs and plastic cutlery from the cafeteria? You bet. It was also a fascinating look at how ingenious and resourceful humans can be under extreme circumstances.

    I trust that MAKE readers can parse these distinctions, and if their kids happen upon them, and ask about them, that they can explain the complexities involved. I certainly wouldn’t want to NOT show stuff like this (and anything else that might be inappropriate to children of any/all ages) in an effort to “protect” them, at the expense of the rest of us.

  5. Volkemon says:

    @Humberto- I second that! That looks like a cool MAKE of available parts.

    @tom.needer- agreed, somewhat.

    @Gareth- not to be an advocate of the ‘nanny’ state, by any stretch, but of all the projects shown, this is one of the least MAKEr like on the page. A knife disguised as a cross…

    -and another choice was an electronic bugging device,fits in well with a plug for MAKE16 spy mag…

    -another was a homemade stove/grill/toaster, I forget the issue, but similar to the one built by a child that was rejected by the science fair, covered in the mag too.

    -another, labled as”catapult”, but looks more like a wristrocket sling shot to me. Fits in well with the MAKE infatuation with trebouchets and the like. Metal fab overtones too.

    -A razor blade immersion heater- now we are starting to get to the “OMG kids will see this” panic level, but hey- the ‘trench radio’ used one for tuning…

    – the grappling hook with release bars-used to escape over 2 that is inventive, and fits in with the “puzzle this” type of scenario found in the back of the mag.

    But instead, we get a blade in a cross. Not too much to admire as far as inventiveness, has religious overtones sure to tick someone off, and the “I dont want my kid to use this idea” meter is pegged.

    If not for Humberto’s comment, I would have skimmed over the post and never gone to the link, as the text doesnt even hint at other items there. Hm. That in itself is odd.

    Sure, it is getting comments. But VERY poor choice IMO, and certainly not “entirely appropriate”. Maybe marginally applies. Thanks for not choosing the razor blade whip, I guess…

  6. Colecoman1982 says:

    @Volkemon: This project is, exactly, the kind of project that this blog is known for. It’s irrelevant if it doesn’t fit your, personal, definition of being “maker” enough. The term “maker” here is like the term “hack” on, it’s a loosely defined concept that a handful of people in the threads continuously try to force their own, ridged, definition onto.

    This project if no different from, almost, any of the plethora of steampunk projects that get posted here. It’s a normal tool re-designed to project a themed aesthetic. I abhor the original intended use as much as anyone, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t find the design intriguing.

    Sure, he could have chosen to feature one of the other items on the page instead, but the wording of the summary seems to imply that this was the first picture he came across that lead to him checking out the site. Besides, the only reason he would have to bother picking one project over the others is to “kiddie-fy” Maker Blog which, he’s clearly stated, was never the goal of this site and isn’t going to happen.

  7. Volkemon says:


    I think you misunderstood my post.

    “This project is, exactly, the kind of project that this blog is known for. ”

    Well, I showed many examples of projects from MAKE that paralelled or complimented the blog/mag. Not sure how many concealed weapon projects I have missed.

    “This project if no different from, almost, any of the plethora of steampunk projects that get posted here. It’s a normal tool re-designed to project a themed aesthetic.” Well, the post-er,Sean thinks differently:
    “Turns out, however, that quite the opposite is true–this object was created for entirely practical reasons.” I have found steampunk to be relatively non-deadly..when properly used.:)

    And finally,”Besides, the only reason he would have to bother picking one project over the others is to “kiddie-fy” Maker Blog which, he’s clearly stated, was never the goal of this site and isn’t going to happen.” I respectfully disagree, and that was the point of my post. I feel that this particular image was shown for the shock value, to be frank.

    I did not say it wasn’t “maker” enough, just that I felt it wasnt the best example shown on the page of the MAKE…unless you believe that it is desired to poke an eye out..or worse.
    AND I gave examples why from their own pages. I would welcome your examples to support your position.

    But hey- everyone’s opinion is welcome. I did my best to examine and understand yours, Please do the same for mine.

  8. Colecoman1982 says:

    @Volkemon: Personally, I fail to see the relevance of the intended use of the item in question. The fact that it’s a weapon is meaningless. The point that brings it, solidly, in line with the other projects on Make Blog is the workmanship and techniques that went into concealing it as a cross as well as it’s, relative, uniqueness. Saying that the fact that it’s a weapon invalidates that similarity, I think, is a disingenuous way to argue against it brought about by your own bias against the item because of it’s violent origin.

    What does the deadliness, or non-deadliness, of this vs. typical steampunk have to do with the technical/aesthetic aspect of it’s creation? Again, I think you are bringing a personal issue into this discussion that has nothing to do with “making” as a whole or this blog in particular.

    Even if it were chosen for “shock value”, who cares? I find your examples to be arbitrary. This project could, just as easily, be re-made with any tool in it instead of a dagger. Examples include: screw-drivers, rectal-thermometer, etc.

    I do think I see you point, I just think that it is, wholly, irrelevant to what “making” is and to this blog. I think your objection to this is, primarily, revolving around the fact that the object in question is a weapon as opposed to a steampunk style computer mouse (as an example).

  9. Volkemon says:


    “I think your objection to this is, primarily, revolving around the fact that the object in question is a weapon as opposed to a steampunk style computer mouse (as an example).”

    Nope. Not even close. It merely revolves around the complexity, and ingenuity of the MAKE. Ecept for the shape of the wood scabbard and handle, there is very little to place this apart from an ordinary wood handled and sheathed knife,save the maufacturing environment.

    This environment makes the radio in a book, ‘spy’ radio and yes, even the guns much more amazing to me. The materials to build them, weld them together, and to arm and fire them…now THATS a MAKE! I purposely left those out of my earlier responses because of the “OMG its a gun!!!” gut reaction people have, much as you assume I had the “OMG…Knife!”
    I am a fairly accomplished knifemaker, and enjoy them as tools. If need be, weapons. No problem there. I just felt that the effort+inventiveness+resourcefulness (=MAKEr?) of this was weak compared to the other examples.

    IE- Take (1) issue cross,wooden. Cut, fashion two holes,Insert pointy piece of steel, reassemble and finish rough edges. OK, making the deep hole in the scabbard would be somewhat of a challenge, but not if you had the pointy piece of metal first.

    NOW…I am not going to bore you with the same, oversimplified description of one of the working weapons, or electronic devices. It would take WAY too long, and lose most readers. But suffice it to say, I am sure you would agree that the efforts to get the parts, assemble and use them would be much more complex.To some, admirable. Once again, when you consider the environment they were made in.( Prison, for those of you who tuned in late.)

    I mean no insult to anyone, if you feel that the cross shiv is the most facinating device on the page, fine! I just thought there were many more complex interesting objects there, and wondered why they were not showcased with the other complex interesting objects I have grown to enjoy from MAKE’s pages and blog.

    As far as “Even if it were chosen for “shock value”, who cares?” – Well, I am here to be mentally entertained,have creative ideas sparked,see others in similar actions, and the like.

    Shock, just for the sake of shock,without those qualities, seemed out of place here. Similar to grouping screwdrivers and rectal thermometers in a common group, for example. I suppose the ‘beavis and butthead’-s would find that witty, but I hope you would agree that isnt the majority of the MAKErs out there…hehehehehFIRE! (Yes, I am a B&B fan,15+yrs, so dont think I hate them too. I can use them as examples ’cause I am familiar with them.Shock and stupidity have their place too!)

    I have enjoyed this discussion with you, and appreciate that it stayed civil. I hope you see I am not a knife, gun,fire,danger or religion hater or zealot. Just holding MAKE to a higher standard, as they have impressed me in the past to the point that I am renewing my subscription for the third time. *NO* other mag, book or newsletter has gotten my dollar in subscription for 20+ years, so I do consider that a compliment. Hey- I put my money where my mouth is.:)


  10. Andy L. says:

    This is a really impressive collection of creations made under unusual restrictions.

    Half these items I would have trouble making as a free man, let alone as a prisoner.

    1. AndyL says:

      Well, maybe a third.

  11. Volkemon says:

    WITHOUT restriction, all but the two radio projects are well within my skill set. Been close, but dont want a realistic test of my prison abilities :| NO!

    Older and smarter(?!?) ;)

    If you go to the SPARKFUN port-o-rotary related wireless forum, you can see me as a noob learning.More things. Thats why building a radio in these conditions was so remarkable to me.

  12. Reagan Barr says:

    Well, are you gonna show us how to make 1?

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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