Skip to Content

Do Knives Need A Bolster? Here’s The Explanation

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases with no additional costs for you.

Knives are designed in a variety of sizes, shapes and for various intended functions. You will see some knives that incorporate a bolster into their design and others that don’t have one at all. This seems to imply that some knives need a bolster, and others don’t need one. But is this the case, and do knives need a bolster?

Not all knives need a bolster. A bolster is incorporated into a knife for the purposes of safety, adjusting the balance of the knife, to improve ease of use, and simply for aesthetics. However, the requirement f a bolster will depend largely on the purpose for which a knife is designed.

Some people specifically look for a bolster in the knives that they want to purchase because they prefer using a knife with a bolster, or they prefer the way it looks. A bolster on a knife is more than simply for looks or preference; in most cases, it also performs a function in the use and safety of the knife. However, a bolster is not always a necessity on a knife.

If you are interested in checking out the best whetstones for sharpening your knives we recommend and use you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).

Do Knives Need A Bolster?
Do Knives Need A Bolster?

Do Knives Need To Have A Bolster?

A bolster on a knife is the transition area from the handle to the blade of the knife. It is normally a thicker section of the knife that can be part of the metal that the knife is made from or be a separate component that is added to the construction of the knife.

When constructed separately, it can be made from a variety of materials, from metal to bone or hard, dense wood.

The material that is chosen for the bolster is often dictated by the purpose of the bolster and the characteristics of the knife and the handle.

What Is The Purpose Of A Bolster On A Knife?

Full and Half Knife Bolster Explanation
Full and Half Knife Bolster Explanation

There are many reasons why a knifemaker would incorporate a bolster into the design of a knife. Some of the seasons for a bolster on a knife include the following:

  • Provide a counterbalancing point.

Depending on the length and type of steel the knife is made from, there may be a substantial weight difference between the blade and the handle, particularly if the handle is made from a lightweight material.

In this case, a bolster made from a heavy metal such as brass can be used to counterbalance the heavy weight of the blade and bring the central balance point of the knife closer to the middle of the knife rather than the knife being too blade heavy.

A well-balanced knife improves the control that the user has over the knife while using it, which helps to improve safety.

  • Add additional grip.

A bolster can beef up the central region of the knife to give the user a better purchase on the knife when it is being used in a particular manner.

If one of the ways the knife is intended for use is to pinch up on the blade, then a bolster gives more substance to this area of the knife to provide a better grip.

  • Prevent fingers from slipping forward over the blade.

Some bolsters on knives that are intended to be used with putting a lot of forward pressure to push the blade through an item will have a protective bolster.

This bolster design is to prevent the user’s hand from slipping and moving forward across the blade, and causing an injury. Sometimes a finger guard is built into the bolster to further enhance this protection for the knife user.

  • For knife handle protection.

In some cases, the bolster is to protect the handle of the knife rather than the user of the knife. If the material that is being used for the handle of the knife has the potential to split during fitment or in the use of the knife, then a bolster may be fitted ahead of the handle to prevent the material from splitting.

A bolster that is made from metal can also protect handles made from wood from being damaged by being exposed to excessive moisture or acidic items that the knife is used to cut.

  • A bolster for aesthetics.

Sometimes the knife maker will fit a bolster to the knife for no other purpose than as a decorative piece on the knife. Often, in this case, materials that are light, such as bone or horn or a beautiful hardwood, are used to make the bolster.

Knifemakers may use a bolster for all these purposes or only for some of these reasons. In some cases, the bolster is obvious and is a striking visual aspect of the knife, whereas in other cases, the bolster looks as if it is part of the handle. 

When a bolster is used to protect the handle material from splitting rather than to adjust the balance or protect the knife user, then the bolster is often designed to flow into the handle and appear to be part of the handle rather than a transition area between handle and blade.

In this case, the bolster is usually made of a lightweight but hard material to not affect the balance of the knife, and as a result, it is not large and bulky but rather the same width as the handle.

BTW: If you want to know more about Japanese and other types of knives and their sharpening check out the books listed above. These books are recommended by professional sharpeners and knife makers (Amazon links):

TIP: And what about Japanese knives, do they have bolster? Find out the answer in the article below:

Do Japanese Knives Have A Bolster? Here’s The Answer

Why Do Some Knives Not Have A Bolster?

Not all knives have a bolster as part of their design. Sometimes the knifemaker does not include a bolster for the sake of aesthetics, and sometimes for practical reasons, one of which is that the knife simply does not need one.

A bolster, especially one with an integrated finger guard, can make the knife difficult to sharpen.

If the design of the blade required the knife to be sharpened all the way to the end of the heel of the knife, then the bolster may be smaller, or in some cases, left off the knife completely.

Knives that are intended for delicate work and producing fine, clean cuts generally do not require much pressure being applied to use the knife for its intended function.

Such knives generally do not need to have a bolster because of the way the knife is meant to be used.

Many Japanese knives do not incorporate a bolster at all in the construction of the knife, and in some cases, the bolster is to protect the handle and prevent splitting of the wood than for any other purpose.

In this case, you will see some Japanese knives with a black section at the front of the handle that is shaped similarly to the handle and tapers into the wood of the handle.

This material is either a hard, dark wood such as ebony, but more traditionally buffalo horn which has been used to make the bolster.

These materials are harder than the wood of the handle material and less prone to split and thus protect the wood handle.

TIP: Have you ever though why some knives have holes in the handle? Check out the simple explanation in the article below:

6 Reasons Why (Some) Knives Have Holes In The Handle

Conclusion

The truth is that a bolter is not needed on all knives. A bolster on a knife is not a necessity and certainly not a requirement for a knife.

However, having a bolster on a knife in certain circumstances makes sense for the way the knife is intended to be used, for the safety and protection of the knife user, or for the protection of the handle of the knife.

Many knives do not have a bolster included in their design, and it does not detract from their usefulness or function. On other knives, the bolster serves no purpose other than to be an eye-catching feature of the design of the knife.

Whether you prefer a knife with or without a bolster, you should rather choose a knife design that is appropriate for the purpose of the knife, especially if it could be dangerous to use a knife without a bolster for some functions.

TIP: Bolster is one the parts of the knife. Pocket knives consist of many more parts than normal knives. Find out what all parts of pocket knife are in the article below:

What Are Parts of Pocket Knife Called? ALL Parts Explained

Sharpy_-_Stainless_knives x
Sharpy_-_Stainless_knives