Challenge Coin Display Stand

Short Description: 

This is not a complicated project, but I found it rewarding.  Last year, my sister asked if I could make a challenge coin display. Now, I had no idea what a 'challenge coin' was, so I had to do some research. She gave me a starting point. She had seen such a display on the TV show 'Criminal Minds'. She gave me a season and episode number, so I went out and bought that episode on Amazon Prime. (It wasn't available on any of the streaming services I have.)  In Season 7, Episode 18,  a challenge coin plays an important role in the plot, and display is shown on someone's desk at 42:25 into the show. 

Challenge coins are used, often by military units or for particular military milestones, to indicate membership in a rare group that has accomplished something difficult. They're also used by some other groups as a sign of membership, such as industry or affiliations.  My sister and her husband had acquired a few over the years related to fan conventions, and they wanted some way to display them.

The example shown in the episode is a single board with slots on top for each coin, in a single row. I gather that would not be large enough for the number of coins they have. So they asked for a tiered stand.

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Sep 01 2022 to Dec 10 2022
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Finished project?: 
Challenge coin display stand in poplar with walnut stain
Work History: 

unfinished version of the displayI did this one fairly quickly so I could send it as a Christmas gift for Christmas 2022. I started it late November and finished it in only a couple of days. (Obviously, its very simple, but I wanted to be careful and make it as finely as I could, so I took my time.)

It's all from one piece of poplar, and stained a dark walnut color. The stock was 3/4" thick and the slots are 3/16" wide (~4.5mm). 

I used a roundover bit in the router table to curve over the top edges of the main board first. Then I cut the slots on the table saw. The angle of the slots and the angle of the leg are the same, but not calculated. I just cut an angle that made sense for the 2 1/2" piece, probably 12 to 15 degrees off of vertical. The one thing I rushed on and should have done differently is that I used my regular Woodworker II crosscut blade for all of the cuts. I should have put the rip cut blade in to get smooth bottoms to all of the cuts.

Now I did use a narrow chisel on the coin slots, to get a smooth bottom to those grooves. But I also should have just replaced the blade itself to get the smooth bottom. The place where this is noticeable . . . you know, that place where you as the woodworker will always know and notice Side of the piece before sanding, showing the mistake on the vertical leg rabbet cutthe flaw . . . is on the first cut for the rabbet for the leg. I cut that just a touch too deeply, and I ended up with the veritical cut going into the bottom of the piece just a bit too far, and you can see the left,right angles of the crosscut teeth on the first cut. Here, let me attach a closeup of the side of the piece so you can see it . . .  

I'm only now just starting, in the new shop that's stable and settled, to get back to enough frequency of woodworking to regain some skills. And that kind of thing irritates me. Stupid mistake.

Anyway . . . the finish. Yes, so it was a minwax stain, black walnut on a poplar piece. It covered well, but the hardest streaks of the heartwood didn't really stain, so we have some kind of attractive grain pattern shining through. Overall, I like the finish. I'm not terribly picky about finishes, but this one worked out. I let it dry for a day, and then sprayed a minwax can spray lacquer over the stain. Finished display stand, ready to wrapSanded it lightly at 220 grit, and sprayed it again. A final sanding and wipe-down and it was ready to go.

I finished it 10 days before Christmas. I boxed it in a custom box I sized specifically for this piece, and typed up the story of how I made it and wrapped it, and shipped it to my sister in time for Christmas. She seemed to like it very well, which I'm happy to see. 

Design Notes: 

I started off as I have typically done lately by opening up a gridded notebook and making some drawings. I needed to understand the typical sizes of these coins, and how many could be places in a certain area. I understand the coins are made by several companies and are usually of very high quality, including fine metals, engraving, enameling, and while many are round, some are odd shapes. So I needed to accomodate a variety of potential coin types.

Most coins are between and 3 and 4 mm in thickness, and around 4.5 to 6 cm in diameter.  (1.75" - 2.0")

I opted for a simple board tray with multiple row slots for the coins, and a riser mounted at the back to lift it to create tiers. Overall, it was going to be about 12" wide, 6" deep, and about 2 1/2" tall. (30cm x 15cm x 6cm)