There are a few things to be careful of when making a knife of hidden-tang construction.
The Blade and Tang Both Need to be Straight
First, make sure that your tang and blade are straight. If the tang is tapered, it must be evenly tapered on both sides. The centerline of the tang must be straight to the centerline of the blade.
If the tang is warped a little to the right or left of the blade, or unevenly tapered, then you are not yet ready to fit either the guard or the handle. Go back to the forge or grinder and make your corrections to get things straight right from the start.
A limited amount of “fudging” can be done while gluing the handle to compensate for a tang that is not 100 percent straight and center. To repeat, in my opinion, it is best to correct things right from the start.
Fitting the Guard
After making sure your tang is not going off to the left or right, go ahead and fit your guard. Take your time! The guard must be at 90 degrees from the center-line of the blade and tang, even if you are making a knife with a slanted guard.
Attaching the Handle
Now you can start fitting your handle. Fit the handle to both the guard and the tang as you normally do. If you do this, the handle will be straight to the blade.
Most often I will not cut the handle material in half when making a hidden-tang knife. I will usually use a solid block of wood or a piece of stag.
First, I drill a couple of starter holes in the end where the tang will be inserted. The thickness of the drill bit will depend on the thickness of the tang. I then file the hole out to fit the tang.
It is more important to fit the handle material to the properly fitted guard than it is to fit it tightly to the tang. This does not mean that the fit should be sloppy, just that it is not necessary to make it that tight. Besides, you need to leave some room in between the tang and handle for the glue to be effective and have a strong bond.
With either of these methods, if the blade and tang are straight and the guard is at 90 degrees to the centerline of the blade and tang, then the handle will have to follow.
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