Ken had requested a tutorial on doing full tang, or "slab handled" knives, so here's the way I do it. I'm more of a "stick tang" guy, so this is by no means my specialty. As per the usual, this isn't the only way of doing it, just how I do it. And, if you have any questions about anything in this tutorial (pictured or not), please feel free to ask questions via followup post or pm me if you want to.
So, here are my materials. My full tang blade blank, which has been finish ground, had the tang area flattened fully, and had the appropriate pin holes drilled. Yeah, I forgot to drill the full size hole for the lanyard tube, and only have the guide hole in this pic, but I can drill it at any point before I add the handle slabs. I've got a set of flattened and "bookmatched" handle slabs. I've also got some pre-cut "guard" pieces that have been matched perfectly in terms of width (front to back). The only things not pictured are my pieces of spacer material, my pins, and my piece of lanyard tubing.
So, this is the first step. I've cleaned the areas to be glued thoroughly with acetone, applied a thin film of epoxy , and clamped the first "guard" piece in place with a small "C" clamp. The only bit of advice that I've got at this point is to clamp firmly, but not so tightly that you squeeze out every last bit of epoxy. Also, I've tried to use other types of clamp, and have had irregular pressure, or movement. At least for me, the screw type clamps seem to work best for this.
You could clamp all the materials on one side of the tang at once (guard, spacer, and handle slab), but I like to do it piece by piece. I've tried to do multiple pieces at once, and usually end up with some weird movement or a gap somewhere that I wasn't aware of. It's a slower process, but I've got more control this way.
The first "guard" piece has cured, and I've removed the clamp, and scraped any excess cured epoxy from the other side of the tang (that came through the pin-hole during gluing). Next, I drill the hole for the pin through the first piece, using the tang as a drill guide. Since the only thing holding your material to the tang is a thin film of epoxy, make sure you use a very sharp drill bit, and I've noted that higher speeds and gentle pressure work well. If you use a dull bit or too low of a speed, there's a chance that you'll cause a slight drill burr to form, which will likely pop your guard material off of the tang.
Some folks like to do one entire side (guard material, spacer, and handle material) at a time. As I noted above, I don't. My reasons for this are that doing the guard material first allows me to match up the pieces perfectly, so that there's perfect alignment. Also, I figure that by doing both pieces of the guard material first, I can pin it (providing increased lateral strength), before I add the handle material (which puts lateral stress on the guard material when it's clamped up firmly).
In this pic, you can see what I'm talking about regarding making sure that the alignment is perfect. It's always fun trying to clamp something perfectly in place, as the epoxy acts a bit like a lubricant at first, making the piece slide around. Slowly tightening the clamp down and repositioning the piece as excess glue is squeezed out allows me to ensure that the margins of the second piece match the first piece exactly. This is super-critical, as a full tang knife that has even a fraction of a millimeter of mismatch across the tang just looks sloppy and "off". The tang should be a "mirror" of sorts with the two sides being a perfect "reflection" of the other. This obviously doesn't apply to the shaping of the handle material if you're going to do a more ergonomic handle, but it does apply to the margins of the materials.
Now using the hole in the first side of the guard material as the guide, I drill the second side for the pin. The "drill the first side using the tang as a guide, and the second side using the hole in the first side as a guide" method is a really easy way to get perfectly matched and even holes through your guard/handle materials. And then I place the pin and epoxy it in place. Don't really know why I took a pic of this. You guys pretty much get how this works...
A note: Metal "guard" pieces need to have their holes drilled before you braze or glue them in place due to the usual ridge or swell that forms around your drill hole making the surface no longer perfectly flat (even a small bit if ridging or burring can easily break a glue bond, and even a braze/solder bond at times). My solution to this problem is to mark the edges of where you want the margins of the guard material to be on the tang itself with fine sharpie, and mark the place for the hole to be drilled with sharpie as well (with material clamped in place with a vise-grips or similar clamp), punch the center of the mark, drill the hole, gently re-flatten the surface with fine sandpaper to remove any ridge or burr from drilling, and then repeat the same for the other piece. If I'm brazing the metal in place, I clean both surfaces (tang and guard metal), lightly flux, and hammer some brazing material into a really flat sheet, and cut small strips to put between the pieces when I clamp them up. With epoxy, the prep is obviously clean with solvent and apply epoxy. Do this for both pieces, and assemble with a pin (the back of the appropriate size drill bit does very well for this, and is usually a bit tougher than your normal pin material unless you use hardened steel pins ). Clamp everything up with the pin in place (a vise-grips on each side seems to work well for me), and pull the pin out with pliers. Now you have metal guard materials with their margins matching perfectly, and the drilled holes for the pin also matched up perfectly. You can braze it now, or if you're gluing, just wait for the epoxy to cure. After your pieces are affixed in place, you'll have to clean any overflow of brazing material or epoxy out of the hole by re-drilling, but assuming that you got everything matched up perfectly when you assembled earlier (with the temporary pin in place), you shouldn't have any problems with an "oval or wandering" hole.
With the guard material firmly in place with both epoxy and a pin, I repeat the process with my handle material and spacer (between the guard material and handle material). Clamping can be a bit tricky because, as noted before, the epoxy loves to act like a lubricant, and until most of it is squeezed out, the pieces will slide all over the place, making alignment difficult. The really critical point if you do things this way is making sure that your spacer material is all the way down in contact with your tang material (it has a tendency to rise up a bit when clamped), and also making sure that your handle material (and spacer) is absolutely flat against your guard material. Correct any minor misalignments now as you obviously can't do it later when the epoxy is cured.
Ok, I admit it, this is a totally staged pic (drill press off) to show what I mean by using the holes in the tang as a guide for drilling the holes in your handle material. Probably obvious, but it makes for a good tutorial pic. Also, one good point to make is that when you drill your softer handle/guard materials, it's a really good idea to have something fairly hard, yet drillable to act as a backing. That way, when your bit goes through, you don't get any tear out. You can use brad point bits to avoid this as well, but I've never learned to sharpen brad points, so I don't usually use them. Really, any drillable material that's near the hardness of what you're drilling or preferably a bit harder (scrap hardwood is great for this), and slow gentle drill pressure, should all but eliminate tear out of your drill holes.
And another obvious and probably unnecessary picture. This is what it looks like when you have the
second piece of handle material clamped up and gluing. Do note that the margins of the materials
match up perfectly when viewed in this "bottom view". It may not make a functional difference in
handle integrity etc..., but it's a huge glaring visual problem if your
material margins are off by even the tiniest bit. Symmetry across the tang is extremely
important to ensure that your knife is visually appealing and does not look
poorly constructed. I know, I said it before, but I nag because I love you...
Again, not really sure that we needed a pic of this, but hey, why not be thorough/retentive? These are my pins and lanyard tubing being epoxied in place. No big tips or tricks to be revealed here. My only little bits of advice are 1) make sure you use a q-tip or similar non-trademarked small cotton swab to remove the epoxy from the inside of your lanyard tube or you'll have a fun time removing it once it's cured. and 2) If you're having trouble getting your pins to fit into the holes (it always seems that the 5/32" tube stock that I make my pins from is actually a tiny fraction bigger than the hole that a 5/32" drill bit makes), you can cut your pins a wee bit long, and chuck them (gently) in your drill press or drill, and spin them, holding a relatively fine grit sandpaper on them (say 240-320) until they fit perfectly in your holes. You want them to be loose enough to slide in, but you obviously don't want a gap between the wall of your drilled hole and your pin material. That way you're not monkeying with trying to make your hole larger. It's usually only an issue of ten-thousandths of an inch anyways. Probably not as much of an issue if you're going to pein your pins, but critically important if you're using mosaic pins.
So, once the epoxy on the pins has cured, I usually take the handle to the belt sander to flatten both sides so that I can profile the outline of the handle material. I'm not going to go into how I shape the handle material itself. I think that's pretty much self explanatory, and is going to vary wildly depending on what equipment you've got, and what you're using for handle material.One trick that I do find useful at this stage, primarily with burls, but it pretty much applies to any woods that have fine cracks or voids: I like to apply a generous coating of very thin liquid superglue (CA) at this point. The glue will infiltrate any of the small cracks or voids, and when you shape and sand later, you won't have to deal with the possibility of sandpaper grit getting lodged in these minor voids (yeah, it can be pretty unsightly if you get black SC grit into a light colored wood, or blue grit in pretty much anything...).
This is just a picture highlighting what I was talking about earlier as far as the margins of the materials matching up perfectly across the tang. Also, note the poorly drawn red arrow. This shows the spot where you'll have a weird glue filled gap if you don't make sure your spacer material is pressed fully down to the tang when you do your glue up. Also also, note the badly drawn green arrow. When I use a rough grit (60) belt to profile my handle material, I don't try to remove this small bit of guard material and glue. I've found that it's really easy to leave deep scratches that will require you to take more material away with finer grits, and will end up making you either adjust the profile of the spine of your blade itself to match the handle, or you'll have an unsightly "dip" where the blade meets the handle/guard material. If you remove this little ledge of material with your finer grits (say 240 or so), you won't be altering the profile significantly enough to require any alterations of the spine of the blade itself.
Well, hope this all made sense, and that nobody died of boredom going over what's really a pretty simple process. Anyways, there are a lot of different ways of doing this, so if anyone has tips or tricks on how they do part of this process differently, please chime in to describe how you do it (pictures are great too), so people can see other ways as well.