Installing a Handle on a Full Tang
Full tangs with the guards already attached are a good way to start.
The first step is to protect the blades and your hands. Wrap the blades in masking tape. Don't use duct tape and don't wrap the handle. Stop at the guard.
Assuming that the guards are already attached, the second step is to prep the tang. Personally I sandblast the knife handle area where the wood is going to touch the steel. This cleans it and gives the epoxy something to bite into. If you do not have access to a media blaster, you can also sand it with a course abrasive. If you are careful, you can use your belt sander, or simply do it by hand with some rough sandpaper or emery cloth. Use something that is 100 grit or courser. I would use 36 grit.
Third is to cut the wood. Place the tang of the knife on your wood block and trace the shape. I use a scroll saw to cut the silhouette and leave at least 1/8 of an inch extra material on all sides. Then I turn the block on edge and split it in two. My scroll saw blade has an aggressive tooth count and has no problem doing this. You can also use a band saw or table saw, but the scroll saw does a great job and is safer.*
Fourth is to rough shape the two halves of wood. You only need to worry about the two sides of the wood that are touching the knife tang and guard. Simply use your belt or disk sander to flatten them out at 90 degrees of each other. Use a course grit of belt, no finer than 100 grit. You want to give the epoxy something to bite into on the wood as well.*
Fifth is to drill the holes in the wood. Use a pair of vise grips and clamp one wood slab to the tang. Drill through the holes in the tang and into the wood, being sure to pass clear through the wood. A drill press works well for this, but it can also be done with a simple hand drill and a bench vise. Just be sure to keep it at a right angle. Now remove the first piece of wood and clamp the second piece on the*opposite
*(don't ask why I highlighted this) side of the tang. Repeat the drilling process.
Sixth is to sand the pins and tubes. This does three things. The first two are the same as above, give a biting surface for the epoxy and to clean it. The third goal is to SLIGHTLY
*decrease the diameter of the pin. You want the pins and tubes to easily slide through the tang and wood. If it's a tight fit then there is not room for the epoxy and you can actually end up splitting the wood when putting it all together. Use your belt sander and course belt. Gently touch the side of the pin material to the belt and spin it in your fingers so that it is sanded evenly.
Seventh is to cut the pins and tubes. You can use a small miter saw, a hack saw or in some cases you can even use a pair of side cutters. Be sure to bevel the ends of the pins with your belt sander to make for easy insertion into the wood.
Eighth is to test fit it all. Make sure it all lines up well with very little gaps between the wood and guard or tang. A small gap will not matter as it will get filled with epoxy.
Ninth is to tack it back apart and clean all the parts. I wipe all the parts down with alcohol and lay them out on a clean paper towel. Let dry thoroughly.*
Tenth is to epoxy it all together. I typically use one of three different epoxies depending on the knife/application. For knives that are 1/8 inch thick or thicker, I use JB Weld. It is water proof, resistant to very (relative for epoxy) high temperatures and it is easily available. For thinner blades, or for lighter color handle materials, I use Devcon 2 Ton epoxy. It is clear and more flexible than JB Weld. I will also use Devcon 5 minute epoxy, but only for specific reasons. It is not as strong as the other epoxies, but when you need something to cure quickly it fits the bill. The dangerous thing with the five minute epoxy is that it can cure before you have the handle fully assembled. This is especially true if you are new to putting them together. I have had good luck with some other brands of epoxies as well, but I have also had some pretty bad experiences with some. I try to stick with these three simply because I know they work and I can always find them. Use a piece of cardboard that is about one square foot for a work surface and for mixing the epoxy. After mixing the epoxy, use something stiff like a popsicle stick to spread it onto the mating surfaces of both wood halves. Be sure to use a toothpick to get epoxy into all the holes and set them aside (epoxy side up). Spread the epoxy onto the mating metal surfaces. Then lay the tang onto one wood half. Coat the pins and tubes with epoxy and insert them through the tang and into the wood. Then place the second wood piece onto the knife tang. Use vice grips, C-clamps or spring clamps to hold it all together. Don't clamp it too tight. you want to keep some epoxy in there, but there should be epoxy oozing out of all sides. Let cure overnight.
Eleventh is to shape the handle. Use your belt sander and files. I sand the profile first and then shape the sides for a good feel. Start with a course grit and stop around 100 grit.
Twelfth is to final sand the handle. I do this by hand once I am done with 100 grit on the belt sander. You can go as fine as you want. Personally I like to take it to about 300 grit and then use a cotton buffing wheel with rouge. This gives a nice high polish quickly.*
Thirteenth is to seal the wood. I like boiled Linseed oil. Give it a good coat and let dry over night. Wipe it off and give it a second coat. Let dry completely.*
Fourteenth is to remove the masking tape and sharpen the blade.
I do not buff the wood slabs, After shaping and sanding to about 320 grit, I wet the wood this will raise the grain, after it dries I then use
0000 steel wool to knock down the whiskers (grain) usually do this three to four times or until the slabs remain smooth after it dries.