Roll your own 3: The Phantom Menace


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Wow, Al. Just . . . WOW. Very very nicely done. Great write-up, great pictures, terrific content, and insane wood-working skills and knowledge on display.

These are Classic Posts already, to my mind, and I can't wait to see this project unfold.

Thank you again for taking the time to share this with us.

Hear hear!:clap:

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this is such an invalueable tutorial. Although I'm not building along, I hope to one day have as much free time as Rob and Ken to attempt to build this humidor. I think I can speak for everyone in saying thank you for taking the time and energy to do this. Great job mate!

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  • 7 months later...

G’day again folks and welcome to the third instalment of Roll-Your-Own-Humidor, The Phantom Menace.

This segment is a fill in for those of you who are getting your Spanish Cedar (SC) Machined to size. I’m going to assume that you’ve found a source of supply for dressed boards of Spanish Cedar and that when you receive it you’ll be ready to go. Me, I have to work a little harder.

So to make up for the lack of interest to all and to prove finally that men can, in fact, do two things at once, I humbly submit my first ever cigar review to FOH for your consideration.

But first, on a serious note, I’d like to remind you all at this point that woodworking can be dangerous. Heed the safety instructions that come with your tools, use your common sense, wear safety glasses, ear plugs, practice safe sex (use a false name and go to her place), be good to your mum and make sure you employ all safety guards on your equipment.

Sitting on top of my bench is a 5x4” piece of Spanish Cedar. It’s about 10 years old, well seasoned and just waiting to get the chop. I’m going to start with preparing the sides of the carcase for the humidor. The trays and top and bottom will come next.


SC is a very soft and light wood. You may think “Good, that will make it easier to work”. You would be wrong. Softwoods are more prone to compression. Trying to chisel SC with anything but a razor sharp chisel will compress the wood fibres around the blade before it starts cutting. The same lack of density makes it easier to chip and dent. If you chip or break a piece out of wood the only fix is to glue the chip back in. (Use masking tape to hold it while the glue sets.) If it dents, spit on it. Not in disgust, but immediately applying moisture onto a compression will make the wood swell and hopefully it will rise back into plane. If that doesn’t work, put a wet rag on the dent and a hot iron on the rag. Give it a shot of steam. Make sure you let the wood surface dry out thoroughly before you do any more work.

I have cut a piece from this board 30 inches long, which will be enough length for the front and side. I will need to split this board (called rip cutting) into 4 pieces and butt join two together to give me the 8” I need for the height of the box. I always like a little material left over at this point, just so I can feel confident that when I cut it down there’s enough for it to be all square. The first step will be to plane all 4 sides smooth and square.

But first, time to find a Partagas Serie P No 4 to keep me company. The box code is...gone. The Phantom Menace has stolen another empty box to make into a space ship. Construction is excellent and the leaf looks superb with only a light vein, it’s the colour of Easter Egg Chocolate. Did I get this a week early? I proceed undaunted, risking the wrath of an angry Easter Bunny.

I hold the cigar up to the light, take an antique ½” dovetail chisel with Boxwood English Pattern Handle and wildly slice it at the end of the cap, missing completely and nearly losing a thumb in the process. I steel myself for a second attempt and yes, yes, this time I have definitely stabbed myself in thumb! Over to the first aid kit whilst looking around to make sure nobody saw that.

I sponge the blood from my cigar with my Tee Shirt and damn it! The pre-light draw is too tight. I think I can feel an obstruction just where the cigar narrows to the cap.

I’m not going anywhere near that chisel again to open it up more, too dangerous, so I reach for my trusty cigar tool ( a Black and Decker 75th anniversary 14.4 Volt hand drill with a long 1mm dia. Bit and speed chuck) and start madly boring into the end to clear the obstruction. A voila! Perfection!

I turn on the acetylene and oxygen tanks and in a nanosecond roast the foot, also the first third of the cigar, all of the mid-digital hair on my left hand and some of the paint off the wall. I scream like a little girl and run for the fire extinguisher. The Phantom Menace, who was watching all from around the corner of the door flees upstairs shouting: “Mummmmie, Daddy has done it agaaaain!”

The cigar starts off wonderfully. A mixture of strong Cuban tobacco, burning hair and a Spanish Cedar smell, which I don’t recall in the last few of these I smoked, but nice just the same. There’s also the taste of the foam from the extinguisher which I’ll have to try very hard to forget.

Back to the cabinet making.


Normally, I’d use this long “Jointer” Plane for flattening this out, but because I said I do all this with a minimum of hand tools (starting to regret that now) I’ll use...


This rather small smoothing plane, which will be more like the size of one you may have buried deep in the garage. Alternately, you can buy a new one for less than $20 on eBay. Please note, there are shavings in the throat of this handplane. I haven’t chickened out on the hand tools thing.


Right. Well, I’ve jumped a few photos of me sweating. (I have a very nice planer/thicknesser machine in the corner gathering dust that could have done this in 2 minutes.) I squared the four sides of the board then ripped them to just under 1” thick. You’ll see them in the photo above (besides the Phantom Menace). I’ve intentionally cut them thick so if there is any movement in the board I can give them a light pass with the plane to square them up then thickness them down to ¾”.

Notice there are separators at either end and in the middle between each board and a large “Hold-down”, er, holding them down. This is to allow air to circulate around the boards while the newly machined faces acclimate. The centre of a board is more moist than the outside, that’s why newly sawn boards cup. The hold-down is placed to minimise this cupping.

Second third of the cigar: Thankfully the burning hair smell is gone but the Spanish Cedar smell is really coming through strong now. That foam taste is going to be with me a loooong time to come. A feeling of contentment comes over me as I notice my thumb has stopped bleeding through the bandage and the wall is now only smouldering slightly. I find the dripping of the foam off the wall strangely comforting.

But back to the woodworking.

As I said in the last part of this tutorial, it would be unusual to get a single piece of Spanish Cedar wide enough to make up this humidor so I’ll need to glue two piece together to make up the width.

Lay out all your pieces of wood and start deciding which piece will be used for what. Remember, the best looking face of the board will be the inside of the box (the outside will be getting veneered). Also, best face in for the trays as you’ll see much more than the outside of the tray.

Once you’ve arranged your boards, mark them with cabinetmakers triangles like in the picture below (only using a soft pencil, not a marking pen).

These triangles will clearly show you later as you’re working which is the presentation face, the orientation of the boards and which boards make up which panel.


See the extra line on the second panel above? That means glue-up #2.


Clever huh? Who said Chippies were dumb?

The final 1/3 of the cigar: This is what I love about these P2’s, the last third comes in like an express train. There’s flavours of liquorice, Spanish Cedar and a little nutmeg. Matter of fact, the whole workshop, house, car, everything smells like Spanish Cedar. Even the dog has a mild woody tang which is not unpleasant.

Oh...wait...I get it....

This is a two year old cigar that I feel out-smokes the Monte 2. Construction has been patchy with a few bad drawing smokes in the bunch but for flavour it can’t be beat. Just be careful though. If this review has proved nothing else, Smoking can be harmful to your health.

As a 2 year old: 90/100. At 5 years...I’ll be there to find out...If I don’t incinerate myself first.

And finally, back to the woodworking:


Once you’ve decided which boards you’re going to join and which faces are “show”, fold them together like a book. In the picture below, when I open these boards back out the quadrants I’ve drawn on the ends of each board will make a semi-circle. The reason for this is when you plane these boards any lateral angle you have on the plane will be the same on both boards. When you open them back up, two complimentary angles (say 85 degrees and 95 degrees) will still give you a straight face to the join. If I have done as poor a job at explaining this as I think, let me know and I’ll give it another shot.


Using your trusty handplane, plane the two boards edges straight. Remember to push down on the front of the plane when you start and push down on the back of the plane when you finish to prevent bowing the face.


And when you do finish, you end up with two boards with no daylight showing between them.

Easy huh?...No. It really isn’t. Planing edges like and getting an acceptable result takes practice. This is the reason I suggest you outsource this part of the job if you’re not entirely sure how to do it.


Once you have your nice, straight edges, apply a small amount of glue to one of the edges. I’m a fan of a glue called titebond III for this process. It binds so strongly that the wood around it will fail before the glue joint does.


Smooth the glue over the whole edge evenly. Don’t use your fingers for this. The oils on your fingers will contaminate the glue and weaken it. You also risk gluing yourself to something which is just plain embarrassing.


Now, clamp it up. You want a clamp about every 12” inches. Don’t over-tighten the clamps either. Bring on just enough pressure for the glue to start squeezing out of the joint. You should use the bar of the clamps to line up the boards. Just make sure the faces of the boards are contacting the clamps all the way across.

The clamps shown above are hi-tech, high priced German things, designed to square your boards up for you.


The clamps in this picture cost three dollars each and take an extra 20 seconds each to get right.


The clamping time for your glue will be about 1 hour. Then, take out your new panels, stare at them in awe and then lay them down on a flat surface with some evenly spaced dividers between them, then put a few large bricks on them to help hold them in place. You’ll want to leave it a few days to make sure they’ve stabilised before you proceed.

As much as I’ve enjoyed writing my cigar review today, I should warn you again that doing something the right way in cabinet making can still go wrong and you’ll get a cut or splinter.

Doing something dumb is life threatening.

I’ve used carving chisels to do a quasi Cuban cut on a cigar before and it’s fairly harmless but I’ve also stabbed, cut, broken and burnt myself whilst doing other “harmless” things.

And if I can do it, you can too, so please be careful! I accept no liability for your injuries, death or you burning down your house.

See you in a few days when we’ll start cutting the joinery for the carcase of our humidor.



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