Assembly is really a number of steps all rolled into one… well it is in this case as I couldn’t take pictures of all of them, since you do need two or three hands at some points. Once the guard is fitted (it doesn’t have to be perfect at this stage), and the blade and handle all fit properly with the guard, it’s time to assemble them.
For extra safety and security, I combine both a modern and a traditional method to mount the blade. First I use a modern two-part epoxy. I don’t use the 5-minute kind, as I have found it can be brittle and have had it give way in the past, so I use a standard 24-hour kind. It’s mixed according to the directions, and then applied along the length of the tang, after the guard is slid into place on the tang. I also apply some epoxy to the back of the guard, where it will meet the handle.
Then the handle is mounted on the tang. I put the blade into the vice, and slide the handle down onto the blade. I then use some surgical tubing, wrapped around the back of the handle and the vice, to keep the handle under tension on the tang. Then I leave the whole thing to set up and cure over 24 hours.
When the epoxy is done, I then finish the job with pewter. I use a modern, lead-free pewter. It’s an alloy of mostly tin, with slight amounts of copper and silver. I wrap the handle in tinfoil, and then use an X-acto knife to carefully cut the tinfoil away over the counter-sunk holes. It’s important that the holes in the tinfoil are the size of the widest part of the opening. Better to be a little wider, than not wide enough. The tinfoil protects the wood of the handle, but you do not want any tinfoil in the way of either side of the hole. When this is done, I clamp the handle to a piece of steel. I then pour molten pewter into the holes, one at a time. It’s important to get the pewter really, really hot, and to pour in one quick motion. You don’t want the pewter to freeze when it hits the tang and not fully fill the hole. Usually you will get a small ‘button’ of extra pewter ontop of the handle. That’s ok, it is just filed off afterwards.
When the pewter is poured, let it stand 10 or 15 minutes, it will freeze after a few seconds but you want to let it cool off before touching the handle.
After it has cooled, unclamp the knife from the steel, remove the tinfoil, and then use a file to file down the excess pewter on either side. The ‘hourglass’ shape of the holes ensure that the pewter can’t slide out.