View Full Version : Bolster opinions?

03-10-2013, 02:17 AM
Ok, I know you ALL know Lefty and I are brainstorming on the Lamson Collaboration Knife.

I thought I would start an opinion thread. Partly for our knife, partly research.

So Bolster... Whats its purpose? Is it for balance? Aesthetics? To protect the wood of the handle when sharpening/steeling?

Traditionally on drop forged knives, they were integral. The Sabs had huge ones, that modern sharpening gurus find to be a PITA, and want their knife to NOT have one down to the heel.

The Japanese use a horn Ferrule to protect the end of the yo wood, I assume to prevent splitting.

So metal bolsters. Damascus, mokume, brass, bronze, nickel/silver, stainless. Purpose? I think mostly for looks. It seems to finish the handle. As well I see it as a protection to a point for the wood. Figure a quick honing on the stones, or a quick steeling. incidental contact over years of use, coupled with food contact, the end of the wood handle starts to look rather rundown, pieces missing, looking rough, starting to lift... The bolster would have prevented most of that, and taken the abuse instead.

Synthetics, woods, and naturals ( horn, bone, etc.) Similar purpose. Looks and protection, although not as much as metal. G10 would likely be the toughest option of these if protection is its reasoning for use. Aesthetically? Its kind of sterile, but it offers a color contrast.

The naturals/synthetics would not offer much in the way of balance, whereas the metal ones will for sure change balance.

So... What are your thoughts on bolsters?

For our knife, what is your reason, for or against bolsters? Looks or function? Is it as simple as wanting a Black Tie, or a Shiny Necklace for your knife? Or is it serving a protection/balance purpose?

I await your thoughts!!

03-10-2013, 02:51 AM
No bolster. A ferrule on the end of a handle is not the same thing. Bolsters suck donkey.

03-10-2013, 03:20 AM
Not a big fan of bolsters--brought on by my love of Sabatier. That being said it makes sense that if you hone by slamming your knife against a steel that exposed wood would be a bad thing. I'm guessing that the people who will use this knife won't be bouncing it off a steel hone or slamming into the edge of their stones.

Having grown accustomed to wa handles I personally really like a knife that is blade heavy and I think this works against that. That said, it seems that this is really more a matter of aesthetics and from that perspective a bit of metal on the blade end works to 'look good' more than offering any type of performance.

Ultimately, I think the mock-up you did will work just fine, I would definitely round everything a bit though and keep the overall shape.

I stand by the fact that the pins or rivets should be the size of small dice (1/4") and brunoise (1/8") for both tradition and usefulness. 1/4" middle and 1/8" on the outsides for 3 total.


03-10-2013, 05:19 AM
I like what chinacats has to say. A bolster would add cost while not being truly useful in my opinion as most people wouldn't be steeling the hell out of these knives. I think simplicity is key here. I think the mock up shape looks alright though to me minus the trapezoidal part of the bolster. If it had a bolster more in line with the brass bolster pic tom sent in the lamson thread, I'd be more into it as it looks more classic, but to me it's unnecessary. I like the idea of the small, medium, small rivets like the old carbon henckels as well. I personally prefer a hook on the end of western handles as far as aesthetics go, like a mac or martell handle. Oh, and I can't stand mosaic pins and think they'd ruin the look of the knife for what it's worth.

03-10-2013, 05:20 AM
I somehow still expect bolsters on higher grade knives, I guess I am old... But I do like the variations where some different type of wood gets used instead of a metal bolster, so I guess I really like them more for their looks than for function. When it comes to different materials like damascus, mokume etc., I admire the craftsmenship, and some knives look nice with all these things combined. But I mostly see those as show knives. For anything functional that I actually use, I prefer simple elegance and easy maintaining. On the other hand, while I assume they might even be superior in function, I never warmed up to the artificial materials like micarta, G10 etc. I also don't see a stainless or nickel silver bolster for a blade that is carbon and may/will patina over time.

To summarize my ramblings, on a stainless knife, I would prefer a stainless or nickel silver bolster. On a carbon knife, my preference would be a handle with a 'fake' bolster, could even be something like micarta or G10 for function, and then a nice wood like cocobolo.

I am indifferent about rivets and pins. I like the classical 3-pin design and mosaic pins, generally prefer silverish materials over anything else, but for the planned knife anything will be fine if it meets an aesthetic minimum level and doesn't drive up cost.


03-10-2013, 08:56 AM
For me, it's visual. I'm with Stefan on them seeming necessary on a high-end knife (replace the old-school Euro bolster with a ferrule). They are, as you wrote, Pierre, a black tie. To me, without, a knife has less of a quality feel.

03-10-2013, 09:31 AM
it would probably look something along these lines

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-psaZXKldz00/T_Mqpi3ZwyI/AAAAAAAAASA/n7xP9yoYsCQ/s1600/awknives+Andrzej+Woronowski+la+biche+hunter+custom +knife+1.jpg


just posting to have an idea of how the color combination would work... easier to imagine.... i like it. also suggested a black ferrule type of thing in place of a bolster.

03-10-2013, 09:33 AM
To me they have a very strong visual appeal. So the bolster, for me, has to match the knife. Kind of like how some cars look good with an rear spoiler, some don't. Some cars look good with a whale tail, some look better with a small spoiler. For the project knife I am thinking no bolster or a bolster that compliments O1 steel with a patina. So far the only thing that looks good in my mind's eye is a bolster made of O1.


03-10-2013, 09:40 AM
the western handle does look much nicer with bolster, I'm go along with a handle with a 'fake' bolster. for Aesthetically reason not functional! prefer natural material....

03-10-2013, 11:29 AM
From About.com


To help, prop up, strengthen or reinforce.

A knife bolster is the thick junction between the handle and the knife blade which provides a smooth transition from the blade to the handle. It strengthens the knife, adds durability, and provides a counter-balance. Since the handle is lighter than the blade, the bolster contributes to better balance and improves control.

The bolster can extend all the way to the bottom, or may be ground to enable full use of the knife edge when chopping, as well as, allow full sharpening.

Bolsters are typically found on forged knives, but can also be added to knives that have been laser cut or stamped. Occasionally, knife bolsters are larger and have a protective shield function.

Bolsters are usually found on full tang, professional quality knives.


From reading posts of others, there seems to be different understandings of what a bolster is. It seems that some see a bolster as the grind the Sabs and some others have used in the past, that extends to the heel.

Essentially, any added metal transition from the blade to the handle is a bolster, I would include synthetics. If a contrasting wood is used, it is decoration, aesthetics.

Don't read this post as me arguing or being a smart a$$, its for clarity and understanding. Call bull$hit if you disagree.

cclin's statement of a "fake" bolster is an accurate description of a contrasting wood. G10 as well to a point, but due to its hardness/toughness, I see it as a compromise. It will offer a level of protection, but not affect balance much. Also give a visual completion.

I Like AJ's thought on a O1 bolster, that would look very cool. Yes on a custom, fo us that translates as extra cost.

Thanks for the input guys. Keep it coming!

03-10-2013, 11:33 AM
Any idea if doing it of O-1 is do-able/affordable?

03-10-2013, 12:24 PM
I can check if there is enough interest for sure.

03-10-2013, 12:51 PM
Are we talking faux-integral, Misono style bolster, but in O1? It would be awesome, for sure.

03-10-2013, 04:47 PM
Are we talking faux-integral, Misono style bolster, but in O1? It would be awesome, for sure.

that would be cool. as long as it stays out of the way of the edge.

03-10-2013, 04:50 PM
Goes without saying! Haha. :D

03-10-2013, 06:47 PM

My kinda bolster! (It's bronze)

sachem allison
03-10-2013, 06:49 PM
attachment doesn't work spike

03-10-2013, 07:18 PM
It works from my iPad....:scratchhead:

Pensacola Tiger
03-10-2013, 07:25 PM
My MacBook Air, running Safari gives "Invalid Attachment specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator." when the attachment link is clicked.

03-10-2013, 07:28 PM
I get the same message as Rick from my desktop. Weird, sometimes attachments work and not others, I generally use Dropbox for everything now

03-10-2013, 10:19 PM
Sometimes this iPad makes me want to throw it out the windows!!


Pensacola Tiger
03-10-2013, 10:38 PM
See it now. Nice brass bolster!

03-12-2013, 10:46 AM
Aesthetically- what do you guys like in a bolster? Contrast or a smooth transition between steel and handle? I'm wondering how much of a patina the O1 will take considering the pich grip will probably slightly polish it. Not enough to give a hard contrast, but perhaps aid in the transition style appearance. Dunno if that makes sense to you guys.


03-12-2013, 10:53 AM
That was my thought when I proposed an O1 bolster. I doubt it will patina in the same way as the blade, after all it should not be touching food right? :) But it should naturally complement the blade . I would imagine over time an O1 bolster will discolor and provide a nice transition between the handle and the blade, less dramatic than say brass, nickel silver or even black G10. I would almost use the word organic, but can't :D


03-12-2013, 11:08 AM
Proteins and moisture (sweat/water) would affect the steel differently I would expect. The blade would turn blue purple, the bolster would grey over time, but initially turn yellow maybe.... Chefs, any thoughts?

03-12-2013, 11:18 AM
I work in a pro kitchen, and I've yet to have any experience with carbon bolsters. I just brought it up because I've noticed the part of the blade close to the bolster/ferrule has a significantly different patina.

03-12-2013, 11:29 AM
here's my knives that's got a carbon bolster, bought used from another member on here...a pro chef i believe... have yet to use it in a pro environment

to help maybe imagine what would happen, to have an idea

the place where one pinches the blade does have a different color patina




although different carbon steel is used on this knife.... the bolster has greyed over time, the part that one would pinch the blade is lighter and the rest of the blade has a more uniform patina....

a different type? color? patina would form because of the oils from the skin and the food particles that would probably get trapped, in between the fingers and blade face, and smooshed, then of course the consistent rubbing of the fingers on the blade face....

03-12-2013, 01:37 PM
Truth be told I like the G10/thin stainless spacer/cocobolo scheme myself.

03-12-2013, 03:48 PM
Truth be told I like the G10/thin stainless spacer/cocobolo scheme myself.

I agree. I was just throwing some ideas out there.

03-12-2013, 04:12 PM
oils and acids in your hand will have an impact. I like with mike9's opinion, but defer to Pierre regarding comfort , function and form.