I think for wa peeps, blade heavy is the norm, so bolsterless seems to make sense for that transition, but for long time western handled fans, bolster is +++. After using wa's exclusively for some time, westerns seem handle heavy, and less precise to me... Aesthetically, I agree 100% about bolsters and ferrules!
The difference between try and triumph is a little "umph"! NO EXCUSES!!!!!!!
Ima bolster guy myself, never really thought of it being a necessity or not, just preference. And I like that nice clean break/divide between handle and blade. Seen it done with wood on western handles, but to me it just looks wrong. I would like to see maybe an outline or frame with some kind of filler but for me, the metal definitely needs to be there. As far as a balance issue, I've seen holes knocked out of the tang to balance it out anyway, so I don't think thin blades would be a problem with a bolster as far as balance is concerned.
I love the look and feel on an integral bolster, but it's mostly just because its what I grew up with. They serve no functional purpose that cannot be served by a well made piece of wood. I can see how they create balance issues, too, and I think the "bolsterless=low quality" thing would fly out the window if someone uninitiated used a carefully ground, masterfully HTed blade on a bolsterless handle. I certainly wouldn't care.
I like the look of integral bolsters. I don't like the wierd metal bolsters on knives like the UX10. However, I would no problem going bolsterless, as long as the wood could stand up to being dropped into a block repeatedly. People seem to love pulling out my knives and then dropping them back into the block. Drives me nuts. Haslingers are fugly.
I also thought of a contrasting wood as a bolster, like Del or others. A metal or synthetic spacer between the two might help as well.
Would the contrasting wood need a pin, or would a hidden pin be easier on the wood than mokume?
"God sends meat and the devil sends cooks." - Thomas Deloney
the nicest way i have gotten this lok is on andys cleaver i made
the "bolster/linner" was all one piece i milled the micarta and then put the burl in the space
Bolsters to me, are more for aesthetics, nowadays. However, I'll agree with a few others on here, and say that Haslinger makes a mean bolsterless handle. It is one of the more comfortable handles I've held, and looks great!
You just need to find that balance of going without, yet making it still look like a top quality knife.