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Launched in 1995, Core77 serves a devoted global audience of design professionals, corporations, students, enthusiasts and fans.

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    People are going nuts because Stephanie Grisham, the White House's Director of Communications, Tweeted this photo of the mansion's Christmas décor for this year:

    Sure it looks designey and stark, and a bit spooky with the shadows. But that's because the space doesn't have all the lights turned on in that shot. This is what it actually looks like:

    You can see more in the video below:

    There's plenty of drama going on right now, but there isn't any in these decorations. Please resume your ordinary political arguments.

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    Earlier I wrote about decorative Japanese chisels. Blacksmiths as a group confine most of their decorative work to the blades and the rest of the chisel, no matter the price range, tends to be stock items or nearly so.

    Handle making is a specialist trade and none of the modern smiths make their own handles and instead get them from a couple of suppliers. On even the most expensive tools you can usually see tool marks from the automated turning machines that are used. The only thing that varies is the material. From the top of the lead picture in this entry the woods are: White Oak, Sandalwood, Ebony, Red Oak, Wenge, and Boxwood.

    Of these woods Red and White oak are the most common materials found on all Japanese chisels. Oak is resilient and easy to install on a tang, the wood is porous and absorbs sweat, and the material is inexpensive. The other materials listed fall under the category of exotics. All are in general much harder to mushroom without splitting the wood - Ebony being particularly hard and brittle. Installation of a very hard wood handle is harder. Toshio Odate cautioned me many times on the folly of using any other handle material than oak for a handle and certainly in almost all situations he is correct. Even on a paring chisel, which isn't meant to be struck, a non-absorbent handle will be slippier than an absorbent one. The brittle exotic woods are prone to breakage, and cost more money in the first place. But one cannot deny the elegance of the material. My own personal set of dovetail chisels has ebony handles and even with a long soaking mushrooming the handle over the hoop was hard to do, and the mushroom cracked in a couple of places. That being said the handles have a different, "more positive" feel than oak when striking. I feel the material allows a more precise strike with less energy absorbed in the handle. Another major problem with exotics is that Japan is by and large wetter than the US and the handles shrink when they come into the US. With oak you can compress the handle enough so that the hoop will still fit the handle snuggly and all you need to do is mushroom the head. With exotics, which don't compress well, many times the hoops arrive loose and there isn't much that can be done. Nishiki, who made my set, does prefer Ebony over oak for his decorative sets, but I fear it's an aesthetic choice, not a mechanical one.

    The chisels shown are all hooped and designed for striking with a metal hammer. In the old days the blacksmith would forge weld their own hoops. These days, with the possible exception of Tasai, nobody does. The standard hoop is a shiny ring of plated steel, but manufacturers can also purchase stock hammered and blacked hoops for a more handmade look. Tasia's hoops don't look 100% stock, but they probably started out that way.

    The ferrule that joins the chisel body to the handle is also a stock item. After assembly some blacksmiths grind a uniform finish to the top of the chisel bolster and the ferrule so that it looks like one piece, others don't bother, Some blue or blacken the ferrule, and others, like Tasai add forge marks to suggest that the ferrule is made from scratch. In his case they might be but I don't think so.

    Traditionally smiths would sell only the chisels body and leave it to the craftsman to add a handle. These days, especially for American audiences, chisels are sold ready to go. Assembling the chisels, installing the handle, ferrule, and hoop, isn't usually done by the blacksmith. It might be done in their shop, but it is usually done when assembling orders. That way the smith can deliver a wide variety of chisel types with different combinations of handle material, hoop, and ferrule depending on the customer's requirements. It's not at all unusual even in high end chisels to find mismatched ferrules sitting too high on the handle and poorly seated hoops.

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    A fast, easy method of stealing cars is on the rise in the UK. Here's footage released by the West Midlands Police, of two hi-tech thieves helping themselves to a Mercedes:

    The video is reportedly the first time this type of theft has been caught on camera, and the WMP are circulating it in hopes of making the public aware. Their advice is for car owners to add "a steering lock to cover the entire steering wheel."

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    Jonny is a Footwear Designer at Reebok International based in Boston, MA. Here he shares his 5 go to items for every day carry.

    View the full content here

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    This building on Kenmare Street may not look special from the front.

    But look at the left edge of it. The building is incredibly narrow, tapering almost to a point.

    In Google Maps you can see it's just a thin slice of a building.

    The incredibly narrow footprint is fine for the Storefront for Art & Architecture gallery, which occupies the ground floor. But what's upstairs, could anyone possibly live in a space so narrow?

    I'm not sure, but it appears that someone has been using the top floor for archery. Well, if the floorplan fits….


    Do you have your own urban design observation? If so, send it in! We'll run the most interesting ones.

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    Nissin, the manufacturer of Cup of Noodles, has been putting their designers to work in order solve various food issues related to Japanese culture. The first product released from the series is Otohiko—a massive electronic fork trained to recognize and combat slurping noises Japanese eaters tend to make while consuming noodles. Observe:

    Apparently, a team of audio engineers with an oversized windshield analyzed slurping sounds of various Japanese eaters. Then, they trained an app connected to the gigantic fork to recognize general slurping sounds so it can mask them with even louder ocean-like sounds. Oh to have been a fly on the wall at these meetings...

    Shinya Kiyokawa supervising production

    All jokes aside, Otohiko is a reminder that tech and design can help make cultural barriers less of an awkward experience. We've seen this addressed by Google with their recent translating earbuds, and now here it is with noodle slurping. Whether this fork is needed and actually helps ease any cultural barriers is up for debate, but Nissin's entertaining commentary on the matter is much appreciated.

    Production of the fork will only begin once there have been 5,000 reservations placed. So please, I beg of you, reserve yours now before December 15th so my set of 5 will go into production. 

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    We believe that, when done right, investing liberates people to create their own destiny. We are driven by our purpose to champion every client’s goals with passion and integrity. We respect and appreciate the diversity of our employees, our clients, and the communities we serve. We challenge conventions strategically to

    View the full design job here

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    Having a bench-on-bench can be useful when you need to get the work up higher, or if you've got a bad back, as designer/builder Les Hastings does. He finds them useful in his shop in Wichita and is now on his third design, which folds up for travel or storage:

    "Here's my latest project, a small expandable bench."
    "It's made out if beech, wenge, holly, Red River gum burl, steel and aluminum."
    "Closed it measures 3 1/2" x 11 1/2" x 22 3/4 long."
    "Fully open it measures 11 1/2" wide x 12" tall x 38 3/4" long."
    "The finish is Waterlox."
    "There aren't any plans. I built and designed this as I went along. Thanks for checking it out!"

    He also machines the hardware himself (except from the pop-up bench dogs, which are the magnetic ones from Lee Valley). Here are a couple of them under construction with fittings he made from brass:

    Here's a look at the hinge mechanism coming together:

    Incredibly, self-taught Hastings designed this without putting pen to paper. "I never draw, I just design as I go, do it in my head," he says. "That's just how I roll."

    During a brief chat, I asked him how the bench came about. "This is actually the third [design] I'm on," he says. The first one came about when he "took a three-day class with Steven Latta on how to build one of these little benches. It was nothing fancy, just to get the work up higher. I was going to build the first one out of 2x4s, then switched to white oak. I still use that one every day.

    "And while I was building it, I was already thinking about the next one: Wouldn't it be cool if it could fold up, be portable? So I started working on that, figured out the hinge and hey, let's dress it up a little. And while I'm working on that one I started thinking about the next one, let's make it a little fancier."

    Next I asked him where he sells these. "No, I can't take any more orders," he says. "I've been trying to retire." Hastings has had a long career with punishing hours, which I'll touch on in a future entry.

    I ask him if he at least has a website where people can see his work. He has no personal website, but "I've got a page on Lumberjocks, on Facebook, and I just started on Instagram," he says. "I just do what I do, I don't care to be famous, by any means, I just like to share my stuff, maybe inspire people."

    Hastings has produced some incredible work, and we'll pick out some more of his projects to show you in the future.

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    This is supercool: NASA has a Global Modeling and Assimilation Office that can take satellite data and run in through computer graphics software, creating stunning visualizations of what's going on on our planet without those pesky clouds getting in the way. This month they released this video of their "2017 Hurricanes and Aerosols Simulation," which tracked tiny particles--smoke from wildfires, dust from the Sahara, sea salt from the oceans--to show you how these contribute to weather patterns:

    To explain what you're seeing:

    This visualization uses data from NASA satellites, combined with mathematical models in a computer simulation allowing scientists to study the physical processes in our atmosphere. By following the sea salt that is evaporated from the ocean, you can see the storms of the 2017 hurricane season. 
    During the same time, large fires in the Pacific Northwest released smoke into the atmosphere. Large weather patterns can transport these particles long distances: in early September, you can see a line of smoke from Oregon and Washington, down the Great Plains, through the South, and across the Atlantic to England. 
    Dust from the Sahara is also caught in storms sytems and moved from Africa to the Americas. Unlike the sea salt, however, the dust is removed from the center of the storm. The dust particles are absorbed by cloud droplets and then washed out as it rains. 
    Advances in computing speed allow scientists to include more details of these physical processes in their simulations of how the aerosols interact with the storm systems.

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    Connected device maker Digital Habits, who previously won a Core77 Design Award for their Open Mirror, have created another device that's caught our eye: The Ambient Light Color Swing. This pendant lamp contains a sensor that allows it to detect the color of nearby objects, then changes its own light to match.

    That's a pretty neat trick, and I've been trying to think of a practical application for it.

    Okay I've got one:

    A subset of people of Asian descent turn red when they drink alcohol. Something to do with enyzmes. I don't get it much, but I've got some friends who turn positively scarlet after a single sip and they find it embarrassing.

    In the '90s some Asian-American friends and I used to go drinking at Decibel, a sake bar on 10th Street in the East Village. Run by Japanese, this bar featured completely red lighting, so everyone looked red in there and my self-conscious friends could drink with abandon.

    So I propose we use this Color Swing light in bars, and once it detects a lot of red-faced folk the lighting changes.

    Oh wait a second--then it would just highlight all of the drunk Asians in a bar, since the lights further away from them wouldn't change. Hmm. Okay, this is a pretty dumb idea and I should delete this.

    No, you know what, I've come too far now and I can't turn back.

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    It's a shame that everyone from name-brand architects to homeowners to neighborhood beautification organizations often miss this important fact: Wood, if not properly maintained, is actually a very poor materials choice for outdoor products and facades.

    Outdoor-dwelling wooden objects need to have a protective coating that must regularly be re-applied. And the object must be designed with seasonal wood movement in mind. When these things are not heeded, this happens:

    These planters are on Lafayette Street. I remember when they first put them in, and I want to say they looked spiffy for about six months. But in the photo above you can see the vertical boards are pinned in on both sides by carriage bolts, meaning that when they expand and contract there is no place for them to go, and they crack.

    Some of the finials have snapped off, allowing rainwater to infiltrate the joints.

    Someone on the neighborhood improvement committee has been desperately trying to save these by attaching bracket after bracket. This person also did not account for expansion/contraction and has probably contributed to the splitting over time.

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    Ron Faris got his start developing brand experiences working for Virgin Media to produce the well-known Virgin Mobile music festival. Inspired by the energy of people waiting in line at the festivals he produced, Faris developed Virgin Mega, a mobile platform to engage communities while they wait in line to participate in experiences they love. 

    Nike took note of Virgin Media's new approach to in-line engagement and decided to acquire the startup in 2016 to help further develop the Nike SNKRS app. We spoke with Faris about some of the considerations he and his team at Nike's digital innovation studio, s23NYC, need to keep in mind while designing for the longstanding and habitual sneaker community. Here, he shares with us a few of those considerations and gives advice to young designers hoping to one day change the way a pre-existing community interacts:

    How would you describe your current occupation?

    I'm the general manager of Nike's SNKRS App as well as the general manager of our digital innovation studio, s23NYC. My occupation is essentially obsessing over new experiences that fuel visual communities.

    What projects are you currently working on at s23NYC?

    Right now we're obsessing over building new experiences that connect mobile millennials and create emotion and energy around sneaker culture.

    What is your favorite part of your job?

    My favorite part of my job is looking at an existing type of behavior from a community and looking for ways to change it or make it better.

    What challenges do you face when trying to bring people together through digital experiences?

    Whenever you're trying to build a new digital experience, especially with the sneaker community, it has to resonate authentically with that community and honor them for all the effort they put in and for all their fanaticism around sneakers. The challenges we face most are that we invent something new—a new type of experience or a new way to get active with sneakers—there's always a bit of a learning curve because of the change in traditional behavior. Anytime you have a change in traditional behavior, you're going to have to figure out ways to train your community to engage in that new behavior. So we test focus groups with members of that community thoroughly so that when they engage with the experience it's done in a truly authentic and seamless fashion.

    The s23NYC studio

    What is the most important quality of someone that is successful in your line of work?

    I think especially for the folks we hire in our studio, the number one value we regard the highest is hustle or drive—the ability to go fanatically beyond the call of duty and obsess over the ideation and execution of a new experience.

    How do you keep your team at s23NYC motivated?

    Our studio is broken up into different pods of people who work feverishly on the features they put to market, and as one of them breaks through and gets recognized, whether it's by the community or by the press, it actually motivates everyone to work harder to support their features that they're working on. It's kind of like a healthy competitive environment in the studio where everyone tries to one-up experiences that we build. I think that starts to really get people to come together in a really unique way to launch next level experiences.

    What is the most widespread misunderstanding about creating brand experiences?

    I think the biggest misunderstanding about building new experiences is that they will automatically go viral or that they will connect and really resonate instantly with a community. The best features of brand experiences really take time to iterate and perfect to get them to a point where they earn the right to go viral. Just by putting something out and watching it—that's just the beginning process, it's not the end.

    Do you have any advice for young designers who are hoping to succeed within the brand experience realm?

    My advice to any young designers is to always stay bold and be fearless. Never let anyone dilute your original inspiration or idea or water it down. Many people will try to water down your ideas to make them more accessible—to make them easier to do. New things are very, very hard to build and they're very much worth the effort.

    Ron and the s23NYC team


    This is the latest installment of our Core77 Questionnaire. Previously, we talked to Levi's Head of Design, Jonathan Cheung.

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    At The North Face, we enable people to live a life of exploration. The Graphic Designer, as a member of the Marketing team, will contribute to the ideation and execution of memorable brand experiences across all platforms. Reporting to a Brand Art Director, the Graphic Designer works independently and collaboratively. This role is responsible for driving execution of integrated initiatives that extend to global marketing, web, social, print collateral, POS, POP and direct mail. Partnership with cross-functional teams is essential to success.

    View the full design job here

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    Interesting furniture design from a man with an interesting background: Alain Gilles is an ex-banker who quit finance to study industrial design. Since opening his studio he's worked on both product design and furniture, and his Frame Sideboard, designed for Italian manufacturer Bonaldo, has caught our eye.

    The "frame" sideboard collection is the result of research into the structural construction of a sideboard and other ways to consider the construction of a sideboard or cabinet.
    The metal structure is the skeleton of the architecture. It supports the internal boards which can be slid in. The side panels and top panel are then applied to the structure while leaving a gap along all the edges to reveal the structure.
    This metal structure then becomes the key feature of the sideboards since it remains visible. This creates a dialogue between the different materials used in the construction of the sideboard: metal, wood, and sometimes marble for the top.
    The edges of the supporting structure are further revealed by small chamfers and large rounded gaps on all the "covering surfaces" in order to create a dialogue with the strict metal structure and create another distinctive feature of the collection.
    Then it is all about using contrasting colours and finishes between the various elements involved in order to present a more unexpected or classical piece.
    Using the same design language and construction logic, different types of cabinet/sideboard have been created.

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    This week at the L.A. Auto Show, BMW unveiled the Roadster version of their already-impossibly-sexy i8. Strikingly, since the original i8's gullwing doors hinge at the A-pillars, BMW's designers were able to port the doors over to the convertible.

    Okay, get ready for some serious eye candy. First, top up:

    Top down:

    How it looks compared to its sibling:

    And the stats.

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    Here's an interesting design problem: Matthias Wandel's wife asked him to replace the three curtain rods on their bay window with a single, continuous one. Commercial solutions exist, but if you're DIY'ing it, how do you support a rod that goes around angles without creating interruptions that would arrest the curtain rings?

    Here's how Wandel did it:

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    This simple steel wire-mesh trash basket is a staple of many an NYC neighborhood. In recent years I've noticed that various neighborhoods' B.I.D.s (Business Improvement District committees) have been lining them with trash bags, as seen here.

    I presume this is an effort to make emptying the can a little easier or tidier. They also stop the cans from leaking, as people will unthinkingly toss half-full drinks in there.

    The problem with this comes on a windy day, when the wire mesh allows the breeze to pass right through, turning the bags inside-out. 

    This one wasn't very full when I snapped the photo, but you can see that the few things that were inside the bag have been ejected.

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    This story is part one of MakerBot's series of design studies, exploring iterative design and the relationship between designers and their tools.

    Bikes are amazing machines. They're simple yet complex; a perfect symbol for the intersection of form and function. For over a century, that beauty has drawn the attention of designers and engineers looking to leave their mark on the bicycle's legacy.

    I'm one of those designers teetering on the edge of full-blown bike obsession—so I set out to design my own custom bike saddle. This resulting sprint is an excellent example of how to go from idea, to sketch, to CAD, to 3D printing—all in a weekend.

    Here's how I did it:

    1. Research Existing Bike Saddles

    I started by organizing saddle designs I've seen in the wild and gathering other environmental influences on ergonomics. My goal was to get a nice bird's eye view of the sort of critical design features that a saddle requires. Does it fit on the bike properly? Can it support a rider? Does it look as good as it functions? For this design, I was inspired by the forms of early supersonic jets and organic cellular structures.

    2. Sketch Form Ideas

    Sketching on paper is a critical step in the iterative design process. By creating thorough sketches beforehand, I'll have a strong plan to refer to once I move over to CAD. This isn't to say that I'll only model what I've sketched—3D modeling will also allow me to learn more about the form as a three-dimensional shape. Exploring the shape in 3D space will help me learn more about proportions, dimensional accuracy, and design for manufacturing or 3D printing.

    3. Create CAD Models From Sketches

    While there are plenty of great CAD tools out there, I decided on Rhino for this particular project. Rhino is a NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines) based 3D modeling tool with a high degree of flexibility and accuracy. The tool works well for a bike seat because it allows for uninhibited form exploration, unlike many other parametric modeling programs.

    In Rhino, I created multiple iterations of my original seat design by cloning the base model and altering features of each iteration. The features range from hole patterns, to the seat saddle profile, and everything in between. Once I'm satisfied with one of these iterations, I drag and drop the .3DM CAD file directly into MakerBot Print, which converts it automatically to a .STL, to prepare it for fast, high-quality printing.

    4. Prepare CAD Model for 3D Printing

    3D printing has come a long way from the days of build-it-yourself kits, but make no mistake—it's still a deep skill set with tons of room for optimization. Here, the two most important things to consider are the print settings and the model's orientation. For my first print, we don't need a super-durable print because I won't be sitting on it just yet, so I can feel free to use faster, more minimal settings; less internal support material (3-5% infill), bigger layers (.3-.4mm layer height) etc.

    Getting a good feel for print orientation takes practice, but one trick worth knowing is that MakerBot Print will automatically generate supports for any angle more dramatic than 68°. With the seat oriented vertically, none of the curves exceed that limit, and the slice preview confirms that the saddle will print cleanly with no supports.

    5. Test Bike Saddle Prototype

    With a physical part in hand, I can now interpret my design with real world context. At this stage, I can mount the saddle to a bike and fine-tune dimensional accuracy and compare the design to existing bike saddles. Once I have a better idea of the changes I need to make, I use a marker to make notes directly on the part.

    Having access to a 3D printer directly on my desk allows me treat it more like a sketchbook, and each 3D print more like a sketch. Because I didn't outsource for the prints, spending a few weeks or a few hundred dollars to get them, they're not precious to me. I can tinker with, write on, or even break the prints knowing I'm not derailing the process, and all the while getting a deeper physical understand of the saddle.

    6. Revise, Print, Test – Repeat

    With the additional notes from my real-world testing, I can now go back into Rhino and make some final design adjustments.

    Being able to print my idea and bring it out to the physical world has given me a ton of additional information to work with. At the same time, my project has gained focus and definition. As I keep printing, testing and polishing my ideas, I inch closer to my final design.

    Adding a texture to the saddle, coring out material to make it lighter, improving the aerodynamic profile of it are just a couple of ideas that I was able to test along the way as I iterated.I was able to immediately test out my ideas by having direct access to my printer.

    7. Print the Finished Design

    With the final design changes made to my CAD model, I can easily send the revised design file back over to MakerBot Print and print my final model. Having tested a wide range of options has given me a very solid starting point for the manufacturing steps that would follow.

    More importantly, I was able to physically test my ideas. Not having them trapped in a flat sheet of paper or embedded on a screen has enabled me to get an in-depth understanding of the real world implications my design decisions have.

    A 3D printer is more than a rapid prototyping tool; it's a sketchbook, a research tool, a second set of hands, and all told—a paradigm shift. By placing it seamlessly in your design process, you can explore broader and deeper, then design faster than ever before.


    MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based 3D printing company, pioneered the first connected desktop 3D printers and operates Thingiverse, the world's largest 3D printing community and file library.

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    This holiday, share your Ultimate Gift Guide with Core77 for a chance to gift yourself some fun prizes. We're on the lookout for your Top 5 holiday gift ideas and will reward the best gift guides with awesome rewards, including gift certificates and designer-approved products. It gets better—three Runner-Ups will each win a handy multitool from Leatherman, one Editor's pick will take home a set of double-ended art markers from Prismacolor, and one Community Choice winner with the most votes will win a Wacom Intous Pro Paper tablet!

    To kick off our first week of gift guides, three submissions chosen by our editors have earned their curators a $25 Areaware gift certificate and a spot in the running for the grand prize come December 15.

    Here are our 3 Editor's Picks:

    This gift guide by Richard Ling is a maker's dream, boasting everything from engraved chocolate holiday cards to tiny electronic synth kits. We love that this guide encourages people to get out and make this holiday season, and we couldn't help but smile at the title!

    Matt Dunkin's "Kitchenware Gifts for the Office Woodsman" solves the mystery of what to get your adventurous friend that still has to work a 9 to 5 desk job. Keep it real, keep it functional, my friends. 

    Speaking of functional, it doesn't get more useful than Andrew Maffett's "Phone, Keys, And..." gift guide. This guide right here features 5 super practical, super durable items for every day carry—who doesn't need to stock up on the essentials, am I right?!

    Honorable Mention

    Everyone here in the Core77 office is a sucker for a good warm beverage and cozy outfit. So, we decided to add an honorable mention this week! Brendan Cawley will be receiving a surprise mystery gift from our team for his "Cozy & Sans Caffeine" guide.

    Thanks to all of those who submitted, and congratulations to our week 1 winners! You'll be receiving a $25 Areaware gift certificate. Check out all the potential items you could snag with your prize here!



    Want in on the fun? MAKE YOUR OWN ULTIMATE GIFT GUIDE HERE— three of next week's winners will be receiving a Farm & Field Tool Mini Bull Buster Pocket Knife courtesy of Hand-Eye Supply! If you didn't win this week, get your friends to vote for your guide, and you could still be crowned the Community Choice winner!

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