Not sure exactly how long it took. I worked on it for a couple weeks, but it was all little chunks of time here and there. I'll try and keep better track on the next one. Should get faster, since I'm kinda figuring out how to do this as I go. I'd be surprised if I ever got fast enough to be able to sell them though - Lord knows I wouldn't pay me to make these
Tools for this don't need to be terribly expensive. I used a drill and scroll saw to rough out the outline, then carved the rest by hand. You could do the rough-out with a coping saw instead, if you don't have a scroll saw. I did some of the initial carving with a cheap Exacto knife, then visited a woodworking store and picked up a couple actual carving tools. Most useful were a small detail knife and chisel, but a gouge came in handy occasionally. Those are neat, but aren't truly necessary - could have finished it with the Exacto. Final cleanup was with strips of sandpaper and small diamond files. You can get a full set of those for a few bucks at HarborLowesDunnDepot.
I sealed the handle by rubbing in a couple coats of gel varnish, plus a bit of Danish Oil for the bits way in the middle that were too hard to reach with a cloth. The wood for the first handle is basswood, which I'm already completely bored with. It's supposed to be the most popular carving/whittling wood, and it does cut very nicely. However, it has no grain pattern to speak of so the finish doesn't bring out much of interest, and sanding leaves lots of fuzzy bits rather than clean planes. Going to try a little bit harder wood next, which is probably a standard noob carving error that'll earn me a few stitches.
I can post some in-progress pics of the next one if anyone's interested in giving it a try.