Humidors 101

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Humidors, Features, Tips and Considerations

What kind of Humidor are you looking for?

There are many choices, of design, size, finish, and features, and  Rest assured you will probably know when you are looking at the right one for you.  For Decor consider matching or contrasting colors, and consider the statement it should make. Like the Old Glory humidor which patriotically stands out with its distressed red white and blue flag decor. So does the aptly named Footlocker, which can hold a massive stash. Your man cave may scream for the up-cycled Ammo Box ideal for workshop areas as it is tough and seals out dust.  These humidors are all carefully lined in Spanish cedar which helps to maintain your cigars in a perfect microclimate.

Capacity?

How large of a humidor do you need? Consider what cigars the user smokes and stores to offer friends and guests. Will they fit? Most humidors will comfortably fit sizes up to Churchills, that is cigars which are about 6“ (18 centimeters) long.If the user’s preference is for longer cigars, and you are shopping small humidors please check the measurements and in doubt do ask the vendor first.

How many cigars do you want the humidor to hold? The numbers listed by the manufacturers are often based on their version of an average selection and average size. This works for most, but not all users We have found that for daily use cigar smokers do not want their humidor cramped and cluttered and therefore these figures by the manufacturers are somewhat exaggerated. We have found that this is a case where a larger shoe does fit better. If the price is an issue we recommend going for less fancy but larger in size.  Some space helps the cigars to “breathe” and allows the humidor’s microclimate buffering properties to remain effective.

Where will this humidor be located?

Humidors should be located indoors where there is relatively little temperature variation, away from heating/airconditioning vents, and not in direct sunlight. Consider the size of the humidor you want and more specifically in relation to where it will be located. It should have adequate space to rest firmly without overhanging the surface where it is displayed, and as most open by lifting a hinged lid, is there enough headroom to open it?

Do you need a lock?

Some humidors come with a lock and keys.  A lock is designed to keep honest folks out and is not a serious security item. So storing your share certificates and millions in cash with your cigars in the humidor is perhaps not too smart as thieves might just take the entire beautiful humidor, and worry about a locked lock later, and there you are!? … However, locks are very good to keep little fingers from your stock and recommended when there are children in the house. Also if the humidor stays unattended in a lobby or workspace where other people come and go unattended.    Also search your past, if like some of us you may have part-taken from grandpa’s humidor as a teenager, you may have reason to fear the same. In this case the protagonist already knows where you keep the key. If you have to worry about staff, family, or friends pilfering your stock then either install a security system, or consider smoking a cigar with your shrink and discuss this issue.

Do you want a window to your cigar world?

A glass top, or glass door humidor is useful as you can see what you have inside before even opening the humidor.

We really like the look and flexibility of the “Cuban Wheel“ humidor or the glass-top humidor with the etched Marine Corps Seal. Your collection of cigars is there to see and peruse, and where the hygrometer is inside you can see its readings through the glass without opening the humidor first.

However, please beware that such a glass-top item should not be where it is exposed to direct sunlight, or bright direct halogen light or swings to sudden cold temperatures as this quickly overcomes your humidity and temperature controls especially on the inside of the glass surface, where condensation can quickly develop and ruin your stock, or damage the Spanish cedar lining.  Glass tops are great for neat and tidy people.

Flat or domed?

Please remember that anything placed on a domed humidor is likely to slide off. Especially pouring a glass of single malt, while it’s balanced on a concave surface is the open invitation for disaster.

As a deterrent to parking drinks and other items, domed humidors work very well. ( -At least for most sensible people). Drinks, especially with condensation or alcohol on any beautifully varnished humidor will ruin the finish.

How are you using your humidor?

Most Humidors are for indoor use only and will not do well in a winter-garden, sun-room or workshop setting, or on the road. Glossy finishes look fantastic and generally are easy to maintain, but will show fingerprints and can get marked or scratched. Especially with rough handling like jostled on the move. Humidors need regular careful wiping with a soft non abrasive cloth. A clean microfiber cloth works well.

If you have a reputation for rough handling. There are many finishes to consider that are both practical and beautiful.

Plastic Herf-a-dor, up-cycled ammo boxes, and sealed briefcase humidors are perfect for rough handlers, and rough environments! While their utilitarian look is appealing only to some, they are the cool and practical choice for the traveler on the move. They typically have a rubber seal which makes them highly water resistant (not submersible), and in the case of plastic cases have foam inserts to keep your cigars at least somewhat protected from the elements.

So, if you are planning to have your cigar space in your workshop, a multi-use man cave, in your racing car, cigar boat, or Double-Decker plane, consider one of the excellently sealed and protected plastic cases. If your plane or PT boat ever saw military service, the converted ammo box with Spanish Cedar lining may be just the right thingt!! Please remember that these cases are excellent short to mid-term storage, but not as ideal as larger wooden humidors for long-term storage and for aging cigars. Humidors made with Spanish Cedar provide excellent properties which are designed to help you to maintain an ideal microclimate for your cigars.

Why does the Cigar Aficionado even need a Humidor?

Because he or she can have one to take care of what he or she wants to care for.

And we look for, and only sell carefully crafted and designed humidors. The humidor’s job is to protect your cigar collection from the elements within a carefully maintained microclimate, to give them longevity and maintain them and age them for your maximum smoking enjoyment.

Why Spanish Cedar?

We are old school and like untreated Spanish Cedar, on the inside of a quality humidor, at least as a strong liner, or even better, the main body of the humidor constructed of Spanish Cedar. This has always been a preferred material for cigar boxes because of the unique properties of this wood, and humidors made entirely without this wood generally do not work as well and are referred to as fakes by some, for good reasons.

Therefore here is a brief on Spanish Cedar. Like most cedars, insects tend not to like it and Spanish Ceder especially does this with only a light fragrance, that seems to go with cigar smoking vs the cedar woods used for a traditional cedar chest or cedar lined attic which may overpower your collection with scent.

Spanish Cedar is neither Spanish nor technically Cedar. Go figure! It nevertheless does look and even lightly smells like cedar. Here are some sources that know the species better than us: https://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/cedrela/ordota.htm referring to this wonderful wood as Cedro hembra (Cedrela odorata)  and calling it the most commercially important and widely distributed species in the genus Cedrela. Known as Spanish-cedar.

Spanish cedar is very porous and has very specific and useful properties to absorb and hold moisture from the air and release it when it gets too dry inside the humidor for your cigar collection and thus acts an important buffer and insulator to help maintain the ideal levels of humidity, as well as insulate and buffer changes in temperature. This is one of those cases where old-school perfection born out of trial and error has baffled the boffins and met scientific proof.

Spanish cedar is relatively light, still very strong and structurally stable over a range of temperatures and moisture, allowing a good craftsman to make a humidor which seals your cigar collection well from the elements and keeps the cigars in the best possible condition.

Spanish Cedar allows your humidor „to breathe“, allowing for a slow exchange of air which keeps the air inside fresh, together with its mold and insect resisting properties keeps that microclimate healthier for your cigar collection. This is particularly helpful in climates like Florida with elevated moisture levels. Also amazingly it is equally effective at helping your cigar collection stay moist in bone-dry centrally heated home sealing out a cold northern winter.

However, please beware of another phenomenon: That of protein deposits which can develop on cigars while they mature and cure with age, which is not at all harmful but often mistaken for mold because the protein crystals look just like mold to the untrained eye and may have you tempted to throw out perfectly fine and good cigars unnecessarily.

Our ammo box humidors are real former ammo boxes, complete with signs of wear and rough handling for which they were built. Cleaned and prepped for cigar use they were carefully lined in Spanish Cedar giving you a tough, watertight steel case with just the right patina and a yet lined with new, perfectly fitted Spanish cedar for its properties to secure and maintain your stash of cigars.

Most humidors and all larger humidors feature open grid Spanish Cedar trays and dividers to complete the structure of your humidor and often allows for a tidy display level of ready to smoke cigars and a catch-all below, for bundles of cigars, lighters, and cutters.

When we commission up-cycled furniture and other containers for specialized cigar storage use, we usually try to line such items in Spanish Cedar and see to it that the doors or drawers seal well.

Why have a hygrometer and humidifier, if Spanish Cedar is so good?

Because Spanish Cedar alone can’t do the job of maintaining the sweet-spot of just enough humidity but not too much. It merely helps with its insulating and buffering abilities. Thus a Hygrometer and humidifier complete the humidor, and all of our regular humidors come with one of each.

The humidifier adds moisture to the air inside the humidor when the relative humidity dips below 70% and the Hygrometer indicates the level of humidity for you to see at a glance. Sometimes it is combined with a thermometer for relative humidity. In an ideal world, this will allow you to keep your cigar at the ideal range of 72% at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

To see or not to see humidity?

These devices come in many shapes, sizes, and technologies. Smaller or many beautifully crafted humidors keep both on the inside and you can quickly check the level of moisture and inside temperature either through the glass top or side or when you open the humidor read the hygrometer attached to the inside. Some humidors also have a space to install or pre-installed hygrometer which read the moisture level on the inside but display it on the outside. That is a nice feature because you don’t have to open the humidor to know that those little piggies inside are happy.

Analog or Digital?

That has become the age-old question. We sell both beautiful looking analog mechanical hygrometers which are reliable, simple and inexpensive, but often do not measure the ambient temperature. Perhaps better, but for old-school folks like us, not as good looking and requiring batteries are electronic digital Hygrometers. Even if you only have one humidor with a mechanical hygrometer you should consider buying a second digital one. Its useful as a backup to keep inside the humidor to help you calibrate the mechanical one,  which may have gone out of whack, well, because it’s mechanical. Once calibrated the mechanical hygrometers look cool and function reliably over many years without the need for batteries. Regardless for most passive humidors, you must still provide a room with preferably the right climate, or at least a steady temperature of 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prep and maintenance items?

Humidors should be pre-seasoned as the artisans who make them usually use kiln dried cedar which is at first not hydrated enough. At Cigarleisure, we make an effort to pre-season each humidor before it is shipped, but sometimes that is not enough. If the wood is still too dry when you add your cigars to the humidor it might actually temporarily act more like a dryer absorbing moisture from your cigars in stead of keeping them in the best possible climate. Please do not splash or wipe your humidor with water, as this may leave water stains or shock-warp the wood. Instead use either a Bovida style moisture pillow, or the provided humidifier filled with distilled water, or in a pinch a new (odorless) moist sponge in a plastic tray or open Ziploc bag. The idea is to not leave water touching wood and thus stains and allow your humidor to patiently absorb moisture into the wood for a day or two with the help of father time, while the humidor lid stays closed. This method of hydrating your humidor takes a few days and needs to be repeated each time your hygrometer goes well below 70% moisture. When you are routinely conditioning the humidor you can do that with your cigars inside, as long as you make sure not to exceed 73% for any length of time, as then cigars tend to soak up water themselves, and may become waterlogged and ruined.

From time to time add distilled water to your hydrator, (regular hard water will stain it over time and may introduce molds) or use seperately a commercial hydrating pillow infused with some water as per instructions. Commercial hydrators work well because they add the right amount of salt or other neutral and moisture controlling chemicals. You can also buy a special ProyleneGlycol solution which has properties to add mositure below 70% and absorb moiture from the inside of the humidor above 72% or so (depending on the solution used).

Our facility is based in Florida where we tend to have just about the perfect average level of humidity in the atmosphere and we further take care to pre-season our products before they come to you, so you will most likely be able to use your new humidor from Cigar Leisure right away.

How do you calibrate a mechanical Higrometer?

To calibrate your hygrometer all you have to do is expose it to a known level of humidity. For this you will have to build a special chamber for this purpose in your house, but lucky for you, the good news is that it will cost only a few pennies:

In a room with a steady temperature around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit gather a pint sized or so Ziploc Bag, a plastic water bottle cap, filled with half a teaspoon salt, and a little clean water: Fill the little cap of a water bottle with salt, and add enough water to make the salt which filled the cap seem quite wet and pasty snow slush. Do not dissolve all of the salt, some undissolved salt must be in the brine for this to work. Place the cap upright into the Ziploc bag (without spilling) and then place the mechanical hygrometer inside and seal the bag carefully … all without spillage. (If you happen to have a Bovida pack use that in stead of the salt cap.) 24 hours later the needle should read 72% humidity at approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or between 21 and 22 degrees Celsius.) If it is off use a small screwdriver and adjust the settings screw to the needle reading the salt/air 72 percent humidity.

It is the copious salt with some liquid brine in the bottle cap that scientifically does the trick as extra salt crystals will dissolve if the humidity is too high absorbing saturated saline water into the dish, and air will pick up water from the dish causing more salt to crystallize if the humidity is less than 72 per cent. All this works best at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius. Hmm, I always wondered why our Cigar Citiy’s Florida sea air is so good for cigar smoking, especially in the cooler months.

In Florida we have another problem, especially during rainy months when the humidity in the air is very high. Cigars will take on more moisture than they need and can then easily go bad. Keeping the moisture level down requires more monitoring than hydrating. The Boveda packets are good for this, so is unscented silica, or a mix of 40% distilled water and 60% propylene glycol in a reasobly spill proof container such as a top perforated soap dish also containing a floral sponge.

Why are your old cigar boxes still useful?

When you buy cigars in boxes these are traditionally also made of or lined in Spanish Cedar, and sometimes individual cigars are even wrapped in a thin shaving of this wood. It is a kind of wood that was originally found in Spanish Colonies, but has also been found to be common in other parts of the world. The word Spanish is therefore not a description of origin but merely a part of the description of the type of wood. Spanish Cedar has some pretty amazing properties, including the ability to buffer and keep stored adjacent air humidity levels at ideal levels for safely storing and keeping cigars at their optimum, and also acts as a mild disinfectant and effective insect barrier, and Spanish cedar is light, strong and relatively easy to fashion into humidors or fashioned into liners or shelves for cigars in air tight cabinets,vessels, rooms or containers to store and age cigars. The humidor liner, and shelf wood while cut or sanded smooth remains untreated, and a little rough, as this maximizes its buffering properties. This untreated raw wood is therefore not always perfect in appearance, as there may be small pockets with very small amounts of oily resin or small cracks, especially where artisans had access to old growth dried Spanish cedar. We sample all of our products, pre-season humidors and check and make shure that they are perfect before we dispatch. I have found this link for a useful description of this wood material as well as others: http://www.wood-database.com/spanish-cedar/ .

You may be tempted but don’t try this:

Humidors have many other uses besides keeping your cigars happy. They are great for other collectibles sewing notions, crafts, and keep other smokables in good condition.

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