So, I've seen a lot of questions regarding wa handles on the boards lately. Because of this I thought I'd share the method I've mish mashed together from various unfinished tutorials hanging around on the internet (plus it gives me a chance to have my methods critiqued by those who've gone before me lol). My tooling is semi limited...I have the basics plus a bit, but no lathe etc. Honestly though I think one could do these with as little as a vice, hack saw, hand drill, files, and sandpaper.
So first, a list of the tools I use:
Radial arm saw
6"x48" belt/9" disc combo sander with 120 grit and 600 grit belts
XXC/XC DMT plates (you could substitute sandpaper on a piece of glass for this)
Wood clamp (any type will work, I'm using the lever type, but screw types will do just fine)
Dremel tool with a small zip bit
Epoxy (I use basic gorilla glue for the glue up, and gorilla glue brand 5 minute epoxy for the blade set...but I've heard really good things about West Systems epoxies)
That's pretty much it. Again...most of this I use because I already had it. The first handle I made I used the saw, drill, and clamp and not much else.
So...lets get this going shall we?
Basic materials. Water buffalo horn, and stabilized buckeye burl. This walk through is for stabilized woods. If I'm using something like ironwood, rosewood, or other dense and oily hardwoods, I use a different finishing process (including oiling during the last sanding stages, and no belt work for the final polish).
First, I make sure that the handle blank is pretty much square to itself. Then I'll determine which side I want to use as the ferrule (I use the grain to determine this...its all about aesthetics). From there I scribe marks to determine the center. This isn't critical as long as you have enough room all around...but it's helpful in keeping things square. At that point I drill a pilot hole roughly the diameter of the thickness of my tang.
Once the pilot hole is drilled as deep as I can, I determine the length of the 'ferrule' piece, and cut it with a radial arm saw (if you're using another material for the ferrule, just substitute it for the piece here). Any good saw that makes square cuts will do. You can even use a manual miter box saw. From this point on its important that everything you do be square to everything else. If you don't, your handle will most likely look 'off'. Measure twice, cut once.
Make sure (if you have a preference) to mark which side of your blank is going to be the top of the handle. Also (and this IS important) make sure to mark which end of the ferrule piece is the front. There's not much in this process that's more annoying than drilling your holes in the ferrule (next step), and finding out your grain is mismatched. Please don't ask how I know this, just take my word.
This is why you marked the front of the ferrule. On the back, you'll drill a 1/2" hole about 2/3-3/4 of the way through the ferrule. If you look closely in this picture you'll see where I stopped. You want at LEAST 1/4" or so of thickness remaining for strength in the ferrule (if you ever have to remove the handle from a knife you'll thank me for this...again, please just don't ask). You can also see the pilot hole I drilled in my horn spacer.
The front side of the ferrule.
This is all of the pieces I'll be using to make my handle. If you go with another design you may have more or less pieces, but this covers the basics. You can see I've drilled everything with the 1/2" bit. On the ferrule (as I mentioned) I stopped with 1/4" or so remaining. On the handle piece...I stacked all the pieces and measured about 1/2" longer than my tang (in this case 4 1/2"). A bit of math told me how deep the 1/2" hole in the handle piece had to be.
Next, we slot the dowel for the tang. I use a hacksaw blade for this...but feel free to be creative. The size of the slot isn't critical...just that its centered.