Custom Coin and Knife Holder

I had never understood the coin thing even though I have a jar full myself. This isn’t to say I never heard or read about the historical significance of military coins, called “challenge coins”, and the significance of receiving them from Commanders. This is to say I never thought of them as something to display as a focal point to engage others with stories of how they were acquired. To this point I had lacked understanding until this project was brought to me by a fellow service member. This particular client did have a story to go with their coins as well as one for the knife. These coins and knife did deserve a special home for display and I was happy to be the one to provide that for them. These coins had stories as well did the knife and to present them in a way that brought about discussion was a worthy undertaking.

Coin holder drawings
Print and drawing for project start

As with all my work this started with many drawing and even some mock-up designs to make sure everything worked together. The long hours of transferring ideas to paper just to erase and start over again is well worth the time as opposed to spending days building a project just to throw it aside and start over. The drawing pictured here along with the print ended up being the final draft. You can make out the approximate dimensions I wanted to end with in the top left corner. In this case the final dimensions were not as critical as with some builds. The number and size of the coins varied greatly so the intent was to leave room for expansion but not be so large as to overwhelm the coins themselves. After the sketches I began the initial build of the ends.

Coin holder ends rough
Initial rough cut of the ends

To make the display stand up at approximately a 35-40 deg. angle I had to make the props (for those unfamiliar this is the Aviation branch insignia for the Army and the lobes are to symbolize a propeller from an aircraft) shorter on the bottom end than the top. This is barely noticeable in the picture, but can be seen depicted in the drawing at the top right in the photograph as a diagonal between the wing tip and prop edge. You can also make out the beginnings of a mocked up coin holder to the top left of the photograph. This was one of many as finding just the right angle and depth to cut those out became quite the challenge. For anyone wanting to get into making these I highly recommend keeping good notes of blade depths and angles used. If memory serves me right I made about four of these samples before getting the right set up. Of course I wrote the numbers down….someplace. I have since learned to be organized, at least better organized than I was, small victories in that category.

Walnut material on left and paper and template paper on right

Once the final shape of the ends was complete I began laying out where the inlay material would go to make it as close as possible to the insignia. I decided that doing each individual feather would be a little overkill so went with the basic shapes and this is what I came up with. Started with paper before transferring to template paper which I then used to trace out onto mahogany, which was the final choice for the inlays.

Now that the template was transferred and the inlays prepped I traced them onto the maple using an X-acto knife. I found this made a more precise transfer and also cuts into the wood just enough to avoid chipping and splintering when removing the material to make room to place the inlay. After marking with the knife I used a router and 1/4″ bit to remove the bulk of the material then a chisel to clean up the remainder.

In the end I was happy with the results and more importantly the customer was. I enjoyed the build and it definitely allowed me to flex my creativity. Am looking forward to the next time I get to take on a similar project…

Coin and knife display
Coin display made with room to expand

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