Military Challenge Coin Displays (What Got It All Started)

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Project by Chadwick posted 01-31-2014 11:50 PM 6237 views 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

About a year and a half ago (mid 2012) I was trying to think of something to make my wife for her birthday, and was looking at a shelf with a bunch of her Challenge Coins just laying around collecting dust. I didn’t have much, if any, woodworking skills, but figured if I could somehow make a piece of firewood from the yard hold on to the coins, I’d be in luck. I asked a “handy” neighbor, who introduced me to a Stacked Dado set and a Table Saw.

Cut to today – all of our military friends (and neighbors) that come over have asked me to make one, and they still sell like hotcakes. They’re not any more complex now than they were originally (joint flat on one face, dado grooves, stain, poly, felt grooves) but they have paid for most of my equipment, as my shop and skill set constantly expands. I don’t make nearly as many of them as I used to, but I owe it all to these fun little projects for the funding to explore woodworking and build my tool arsenal!

-- -- "Shortcuts will never make up for the time lost because of one bad accident." --

4 comments so far

View A.Scott's profile


230 posts in 3088 days

#1 posted 02-01-2014 01:14 AM

Nice display for your Challenge Coins, that is something I have wanted to make for a while. Do you have a video of you making one of these?

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4259 days

#2 posted 02-01-2014 01:33 AM

Inventive idea using firewood! Quick and simple to make, and sell like hotcakes—what more do you want?!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View Chadwick's profile


21 posts in 2859 days

#3 posted 02-01-2014 02:27 AM

@A.Scott – I never actually thought about making a video of the process! It’s pretty simple… the hardest part is finding decent-sized firewood here in the Nevada desert! All the firewood is cut so thin and small… I usually just go to Craigslist and hand-select a wheelbarrow full from whoever will let me :)

The process is as follows:

1) Select the best pieces (ie. bark in the back, flat bottom, not too many dips or holes/knots) and use a handheld ELECTRIC planer to mill the face down to the appropriate angle/design. I’ve found that if you make the “face” too steep, the grooves will be leaning too far forward and the coins will fall out.

2) Run the fairly smooth faces over the jointer to make them flat and even. The more meticulous you are with the hand planer portion (step 1) the less the jointer knives will get knicked up.

3) Set a dado stack to the groove’s width you’re looking for – I usually go about 5/16” which is enough for the average thickness coin and a strip of felt along the back of the groove.

4) Mark your piece where you want the grooves to be (and at what angle), lay the piece face-down on the table saw and tilt your dado blade to that angle. Make your grooves, checking with a coin on-hand to see if the angle is set right and is deep enough!

5) From there, its the finish of your choice! I usually sand to 220, and make them in batches – its a good way to use up all those leftover cans of stain. Two coats fully dried and covered with a few coats of poly. If the backs are natural bark, I usually use a crappy foam brush and dab on a heavy heaping helpful of poly – the spray is just too thin to hold any loose bark together.

6) To add a nice touch, I buy sheets of STIFF self-adhesive felt 8 1/2×11 sheets from Michael’s and cut them into strips to fit the bottom and back of the grooves. Not only does it look nice, it also keeps the coins from rolling out and/or into each other.

-- -- "Shortcuts will never make up for the time lost because of one bad accident." --

View Brett's profile


959 posts in 3871 days

#4 posted 02-01-2014 02:42 PM

Great project idea! And what a great way to get started into a hobby. Also for the “greenies”, you are repurposing wood bound for the pit! Thanks for sharing.

-- Hand Crafted by Brett Peterson John 3:16

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