Gus Norcross, originally trained on National Match rifles and pistols by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Unit specializes in Garands, M14s and 1911s at his small shop on the coast of Maine. His website is www.angusarms.com. He will be offering gunsmithing tips and tricks on Fridays.
Decades ago, when M1 rifles were still being repaired by military armorers, cracked front handguards were replaced with a new assembly supplied by vendors as a complete unit with the spacer and ferrule already installed. I am not aware of a general issue armorer’s tool designed to assemble these components, although they may exist.
Browsing eBay one day, I stumbled across a set of tools marketed by Standard Parts, LLC designed to make the assembly process as painless as possible. The tool consists of two steel parts we’ll call the anvil and punch.
Assembly begins by tapping the ferrule onto its seat on the muzzle end of the handguard. The spacer is prepared by bending the rear ears outward at 90∞ angles. Note that the front of the spacer has a notch in it. Slide it into the handguard as far as possible, so the ears on the front end protrude beyond the ferrule and the rear ears are firmly seated against the wood.
Set the anvil on a solid surface and position the assembled handguard on it so it bears solidly against the rear ears of the spacer. The punch is positioned over the front end and tapped downward to bend the ears of the spacer into place, crimping the assembly together. It helps to bend the front ears outward slightly before they are beaten down with the punch.
Standard Parts, LLC supplies new handguard spacers and ferrules if your old parts are not salvageable. Check them out at www.standardpartsllc.com.