BLUE EARTH - A Blue Earth resident and former Army Ranger has made a career out of designing knives.
Justin Gingrich began making knives with the American Tomahawk Company, and later started his own knife business - Ranger Knives.
"Last year, I sold the production end of my company to the Ontario Knife Company in Franklinville, New York," he said. "It's a 120-year-old company. Now I do all of the design work for them on the Ranger series."
Above: A row of custom knives Justin Gingrich made for his business, Ranger Knives.
The series is a collection of military-style knives Gingrich designed based on his own experience.
"It comes from what I would want from a blade for the jobs I used to do in the military," he said.
As an active hunter, he also designs knives for that use.
"I like to hunt, fish, camp - the other designs come from that, what I need the knife to do," Gingrich said.
The style of the Ranger and custom knives varies from tactical to show pieces; hunting to kitchen.
While most of his knives have a logo crafted into the blade, Gingrich says he really doesn't have a signature style.
"I get accused of over-building them all the time," he said. "The Ranger Knives are pretty much bomb-proof."
Gingrich really doesn't have a favorite style.
"I like doing things that are different," he said. "The design doesn't necessarily have to be different, though I do like that. I work with different materials. I don't like doing the same thing over and over again."
Materials vary for the handle and the blade - including blades of titanium, steel, carbon fiber and stainless steel; and handles of burrow woods, synthetic fiber, mother of pearl, antlers, bone and more.
Of all the knives he has designed, he doesn't really have a favorite.
"That changes," he said. "It's like anything, the longer you do it the better at it you get. I try different materials, and something else will slide into that ('favorite') spot."
Ranger Knives have grown in popularity, being featured in several books, magazines and even a movie - "The Hurt Locker," which follows an Army explosive ordnance disposal unit in Iraq.
Gingrich said the goal this year with the Ontario Knife Company is to produce 10,000 knives. On the custom side, Gingrich averages 150 per year.
He has about 26 models now for Ontario Knife Company, 13 of which will be released next year.
Once he designs prototypes, he flies to New York and he and the company determine which ones to produce.
For more information, go to www.rangerknives.com