Roll your own Humidor 2 - The Hang Ten Humidor


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  • 7 months later...

G’day again folks and welcome to part two of “Roll-Your-Own-Humidor”, where we’ll be building the “Hang Ten Humidor” for charity.

In this second part we’ll look at the final design for the Hang Ten; what will be required to build it; from where to source those parts and the necessary preparation to build the box.

If any of you are thinking: “Whoa, too much, not my thing!” I’d say, don’t give up just yet. This will be a very simple build with a lot of shortcuts that will make the joinery, veneering and final polishing remarkably simple. (It’ll be worthwhile reading the last part of the tutorial to learn the easiest way to finish furniture if you read nothing else. It’s so easy, even a Cuban Consul General could do it!)

Because the finished humidor in this tutorial will be auctioned, the joinery I’m going to show you will be different to that I use on the final piece. I’ll be cutting all my boards a little long so I can do my thing after I’ve documented how you can do it yourself with a minimum of tools and practice. Still this gives me a chance to show you what kind of work should go into an heirloom quality humidor and I’ll make a point of explaining what a “fully mitered concealed dovetail” is and why it should be used over any other method in quality furniture like this.

Now I should mention that my original plan for this humidor has changed from doing a box that would fit into my tool cabinet (see below) to a large desktop/tabletop humidor with its’ own table.


Since Rob and I discussed this project and agreed to auction the humidor, my plan has changed yet again. You will still be able to follow along and make a great piece of furniture yourself, but I’m loathe to ship out anything that’s not the best of its kind and the tutorial piece would have been a long way off the mark. So whilst this humidor is larger than plan A and smaller than Plan B, it’s something that I think will be more attractive to the community as whole and hopefully raise the maximum amount for Cubanita Surf.

So, let’s get onto it with a shameless advertisement for conservation:

If I’m buying wood, I try to only get woods collected from the forest floor, reclaimed timbers (you’d be amazed at what you can get out of a 100 year old floorboard) or timbers that are in no danger of extinction. I’d respectfully ask that you do too.

When I’m using timbers on my premium humidors which get the very best of everything, I generally fall back to stocks that my Grandfather hoarded over the years. I’ll post a picture next week of Cuban Mahogany which is all but extinct for the past 200 years if anyone is interested. It was decimated in the times of Thomas Chippendale (200 years ago) as it really is the most beautiful figured wood you’ve ever seen.

So, on with the show! Here are the dimensions for the humidor. Its carcase is about 8” high and 12.5 inches deep. The front is 16 inches. Incidentally, I was trained to do woodworking in imperial measurements, so you’ll have to bear with me if you’re more metrically inclined. The finished box will hold ~ 300 sticks.





The humidor will have an upper and lower tray with humidification mounted under the carcase with a fairly sophisticated humidifier that slides out and increases storage room by a little over an inch. I’m not going to publish this design as it’s a touch sophisticated and if you don’t get it just so, you’ll end up with a leaky humidor. I’d suggest that you trim ½” off each tray and you’ll end up with nearly the same capacity as my shelves for the trays take up a fair bit of space.

The joinery of the humidor will be simple: almost everything will be a “Pinned End Rabbet Joint”. This is simply a grove cut at the ends of the piece of wood, a few holes drilled through them and dowels hammered in. Incidentally, “Rabbet” in the USA is pronounced “Rabbit”, where as in the rest of the english speaking world it’s pronounced “rebate”. So, you tell me who's right? :-P

Irrespective of pronunciation, it’s very simple to make with just a tenon saw and chisel (or Rabbet plane if you have one).

I’ll be showing you how to easily make one of these but I’ll be doing something called a “Full-Blind Mitred Dovetail” on the box and “Zero Clearance Dovetail” on the trays. These are a little complicated and you may want to avoid the effort. I’ll show you what they are and how to make them as we proceed along and remember if you’re following along and you have a question, ask it! (The only dumb question is the one you never ask.)

It’s actually the joinery in these things that has made me stick my head up and write this. I read on a humidor makers website that they used “special invisible joining blocks within the mitre to give it extra strength” and even better “we spray 24 coats of shellac which is only used on the finest furniture” or words to that effect. The rest of us call them bloody biscuit joints and spraying shellac can be done successfully by a one armed blind man with a nervous disorder.

I really don’t know where these guys get off charging $3,000 for a box that is mass produced, impractically shaped and, well, you get a fair idea of my opinion.

For hinges I’ll be using Quadrant hinges which are an absolute bugger to fit. If this is your first foray into woodworking, I’d suggest you avoid them like the plague. Try to get the best you can possibly afford and make sure they’re real brass, not plated steel. Same with the screws for any of the hardware. Spanish Cedar loves steel. So much so it’ll eat it! Brass will lose its lustre but it won’t rust away. Here’s some good quality stop hinges (that’ll open to 95 degrees, the same as a quadrant hinge).

Me, I’m stuck with the bloody quadrant’ll find some cheap ones that look nice here the ones I use are from a company called Brusso and are machined, not cast and they cost about $100 for the pair.

The outside of the box will be veneered, probably with a marquetry pattern, but I haven’t decided just what it’ll look like yet. I’m thinking the outside may be veneered in:




Or Macassar Ebony.


I have some very large pieces of New Guinea Rosewood burr which would make a nice top. That’s a 24” ruler sitting on top of them. I could do a simple marquetry pattern on the top of the box, such as a nautical compass if FOH would like that.

Feel free to help me decide as we proceed. For me, the initial design is more of a guide line and I’ll often call a customer to discuss a change that I think will benefit the project. I did one last year that changed so much along the way that the finished product had no resemblance to the original design! It was just a bunch of bright ideas that seemed too good to ignore, so keep yourself open to varying the build along the way. Make the design yours!

I have a wonderfully simple method for you to use to do the veneering and I can show you a simple way to do the polishing on your finished work so a beginner can do a job worthy of, nay, better than a pro. We call it French Polishing and you’ll love it!


The humidor that I’ll show you can be built easily in a weekend with only these hand tools: a plane; a tenon saw; a chisel (the larger the better); a sharp knife, a ruler and some clamps for your glue up. The weekend after that you can do all of the veneering and the following weekend is more than enough time to do a fully choked French Polish.

So, the first real step is to find a timber yard that can supply you with Spanish Cedar “Dressed All Round” (tell them you want Cederla Odorata D.A.R., you’ll sound like a pro) to your requirements. When you go to a lumber yard that carries exotics, you’ll find all timber is sold “Rough Sawn”. It looks like fence posts. If your timber yard can’t machine the timber to size, ask them to recommend a cabinet maker in the area that can.

Go to them in person; buy the timber, place the order for the machining and once it’s done, LEAVE IT WITH THEM FOR AT LEAST A WEEK! Freshly dimensioned timber moves. It can cup, bow, bend, warp, and twist, everything but dance a jig. When you pick it from them (don’t get it delivered) take a ruler with you to check that everything is straight. If it’s not, get them to fix it for you and wait another week. These guys will probably store it in their warehouse once it’s machined so the temperature and humidity should closely approximate your garage, workshop, driveway or kitchen table where you’ll be working. A change in humidity or temp between their place and yours can bow, warp, twist, etc and you’re back to the beginning of this paragraph...

Me, I’ll cut and plane my Spanish Cedar down to size and I’ll show you some photos of that also.

You’re welcome to adapt the plan above to fit in with your decor, needs, cigar fantasies as you think fit, but for me, finished sizes will be as follows:

Carcase Front & Back: 16” x 8” x 0.75” (2 of)

Carcase Sides: 12.5” x 8” x 0.75”mm (2 of)

Top and Bottom: 16” x 12 ½” x .25” (1 of) & 16” x 12.5” x 0.5” (1of)

Top Tray: 14 ½” x 2.5” x 0.5” (2 of); 11” x 2.5” x 0.5” (2 of)

Bottom Tray: 14.5” x 3.5” x 0.5” (2 of); 11” x 3.5 x 0.5 (2 of)

You’ll also require some Spanish Cedar for tray dividers; 2 hinges, a box lock (optional), your humidifier(s) and a hygrometer if you’re interested in such things. I’m not too fussed about them but everyone else seems to like them.

The height and width of this box at 8” + pretty much guarantees that you won’t be able to make it out of one board, rather, you’ll have to butt join 2 or 3 pieces together. Once again, simple to do!

You’ll notice I haven’t included dimensions for the bottoms of these 2 trays. That’s because there’s so many ways to do them. If you’re a beginner, use plywood with large holes drilled in it and “rails” of Spanish Cedar for the cigars to rest on. If you’ve some experience with woodworking, you can steam bend cedar into a woven basket that you rabbet into the tray, you can make up a single piece of Spanish Cedar and cut grooves or holes into it. My preference is to make something called a “torsion box” which is the same way they make the inside of a wing of an aircraft. It’s very strong, very light and very unusual in humidor construction. It’s also quite good looking.

For humidification, I’d suggest RH Beads from Cigarmony. I’m not getting any payola for this plug (but I’m quite happy to accept a bag of used fivers if Cigarmony would like me to keep mentioning their name...Cigarmony...Cigaaaaaarmony).

Seriously, I’ve been using them for a little over a month now and I’m delighted with the results. RH Beads are sold to humidify a void measured in cubic inches. If you make a humidor to my plan above that’d be ~ 12.5” x 8”x 16” = 1600 cu Inches. Personally, I’d double the manufacturers recommendation, just to make sure that the environment refreshed quickly. It also increases your service interval time.

It’s important to get all of your hinges, humidifiers etc. Before you start building as their dimensions will affect your plans. Humidifiers taller than 1” mean you need to reduce the height of the trays or increase the height of the box or reduce the size of the void in the lid which means raising the cut line for the get the picture.

Hinges are even more important. The box will have a lip running around the inside to help stop moisture leaking out of the lid. If the lip is 0.25” wide, that leaves 0.5” for the hinge to be rebated into so if the distance from the lip of the hinge to the centre of the barrel is more than 0.5”, you’re in strife.

It’s much easier to have all of the parts in front of you and to lay them out “dry fit” to make sure it all goes together as expected.

I’m going to sign off now and start work on the next instalment of this exercise (which is fast becoming more like a stream-of-consciousness blog) where I’ll be showing you how to prep the boards before layout; laying out the joints and cutting them and, time permitting, the glue up and clamping.



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