Skill Level: Intermediate
Time: 2 Days
If I think about some of my fondest memories with friends, it’s the “guys weekends” away in the North-woods of Minnesota. Canoe-in camping, fishing, and hanging out around the campfire. Inevitably, someone always brings a small travel humidor full of cigars.
I’ve always enjoyed those guys weekends, but I’ve also started to enjoy the occasional stogie while sitting on my deck overlooking the timber. Yes, it’s an unhealthy practice. But life’s too short, you know? After so many of these trips, I’ve started to build my own collection of cigars at home. Rocky Patels, Ashtons, and Olivas... just to name a few. So I figured it was about time to build a half-way decent humidor.
If you are a cigar aficionado, or if you have ever looked into cigar humidor construction, you know there’s some specifics that need addressed. First, a humidor is a controlled environment. It’s meant to hold a certain humidity to help retain freshness of cigars. Also, a good humidor will be lined (or made from) Spanish cedar. You can read more about Spanish cedar on page 76. A point though—you cannot use western red, aromatic, or any other cedar in place of Spanish cedar. Spanish cedar, technically a mahogany, will enhance the flavor of cigars as they reside in the humidor. Other cedars... not so much. Plus, Spanish cedar has a low affinity for expansion and contraction, meaning that once you get your humidor up to the correct humidity, the cedar will have expanded very little.
Stock Prep First
For my humidor, I built the exterior from hardwood, but lined the case with Spanish cedar. You can certainly build the entire humidor out of cedar, but I wanted other properties for the exterior of the case.
Most large lumber yards will be able to order in Spanish cedar. Unfortunately, most of it will be narrow. So, the first order of business is gluing up the narrow stock into wider pieces, like you see in Photo 1. After the glue was cured, I spent a little time planing a face flat. Spanish cedar works very easily with hand tools, so it’s a great time to work on flattening with a jack plane if you’re so inclined. I am, and it was a blast.
With a flat face and a straight edge, I took my stock to the bandsaw and re-sawed the stock to get two thinner boards. Because I had 4/4 stick, I simply resawed it down to half-inch thick panels. After resawing, the best practice is to let the stock sit for a day to acclimate and let it move if it wants to.
A little bit of time at the planer and drum sander brought the final thickness down to 1/4. Because I did all of this prep-work for the stock upfront, I wanted to make sure the panels stayed as flat as possible. So, even though the Spanish cedar is about as stable as you can get, I stickered them and stacked them on the bench. You can see this in Photo 2 below. The biggest thing is to make sure that the stickers are all in line with each other, and to weight the top. Because I didn’t have what I felt like was enough weight to cover the 4 foot boards, I used a clamp to put pressure down on the bench while I worked on the other parts.
The Case Next
Call me goofy if you like (won’t be the first time, nor the worst I’ve been called), but I thought that building the case of the humidor out of ash was rather poetic due to its name. But, ash can be a fairly plain wood. So, as I started to think about building this humidor, I decided I wanted to do something different. For the outside of the case, I decided to heavily scorch and texture the wood.
First thing’s first—clear off the bench of anything flammable (or better yet, go outside). Because scorching is extremely stressful on the wood, I started with extra-thick stock so I could plane down the back and hopefully eliminate any cupping or twisting. To scorch, I use a MAP gas torch. The goal here is to do a heavy burn. When the surface starts to crackle red and the flame flashes bright yellow (see Photo 3), you’re there. Do this over the entire board—I did enough for the case and top at the same time.
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