I would use poplar wood for the entire thing just make it in layers.
Poplar is very easy to work with and is light so it wont be heavy even if you make bigger props.
For the wood part you can use the first part of this "tutorial": http://soynutsprops.com/?page_id=570
Poplar can easly be coated with any type of primer nd then painted fora super smooth finish.
I would trace out the entire thing on 1 sheet of poplar wood and then trace out the handle twice. so that you can layer it like a "sandwich" then glue the 3 pieces together 1 piece of the handle on each side of the entire blade. When the glue has dried you can jsut use sand papper and other tools to round the handle and smothen the entire blade out.
Cut the parts something like this http://junkerscosplay.blogspot.se/20...oon-akali.html
THen jsut wrap the handle in either leather or just use vinyl tape.