Build Your Own Humidor
by David "Doc" Diaz
Revised and expanded: Tuesday December 13, 2011
Great humidors can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, but there are always other options for storing your prized stogies. If you really want to save money and you like tinkering, then you might be a good candidate to build your own humidor. Building your own humidor can be an educational and rewarding experience, albeit risky. The stakes are high; you are putting your hard earned smokes at risk if you are not persistent, careful and vigilant. If you are determined to "build your own," you can use a variety of materials from plastic to precious woods to craft your box. Below you will read about several ways to go about it.
One of my first humidors was a "Tupper-dor." These are easy to put together and can do a fine job of preserving your sticks. On the left below is a photo of a Tupperware humidor that I built to handle a couple of boxes of stogies. I purchased a 33 cup container that measured 14" L x 10" W x 4" D. To make sure you get a box with a good seal, test drive the container in the shop and make sure it holds air by closing the lid securely and then pushing down on the lid. Listen for any escaping air (can you say, "burp?!")
Next, I placed a couple of old cigar boxes in the Tupperware container, primarily so the cigars could be easily stacked and could benefit from the Spanish cedar lining of the boxes. Using cigar boxes also prevents the cigars from direct contact with either the humidifier or the plastic of the container, which might sweat if the box is too humid. You don't have to use boxes, but I would recommend that you at least include some Spanish cedar planks or thin Spanish cedar sheets that come inside some boxes of cigars. Spanish cedar (or Mahogany) will take up excess moisture and prevent sweating in the container. See my list of Spanish Cedar Vendors below.
Finally, I added a digital HYGROMETER (velcro'd to the side of a cigar box) and a small HUMIDIFIER. You can also use a damp sponge, silica gel, or superabsorbent polymers to humidify the box. The cigar boxes will protect the cigars from direct contact with the moisture source, or you can put the moisture source in a separate plastic container. An important note about Tupperware and other plastic containers... you don't need a large humidification source since the Tupperware box is airtight and will hold the moisture in quite effectively. In fact, it holds in humidity too efficiently! Since the box is air tight, you need to be sure to open it up and allow your cigars to breathe about once a week. This is why I recommend adding Spanish cedar to the inside of the humidor.
The bottom line with plastic humidors is that they are fine for temporary storage of your daily smokes and go-to cigars. However, they retain a lot of moisture (since the excess water vapor can't escape), which can make the environment too humid for long term storage of high priced stogies. Be careful not to overcharge any humidifier used in a plastic humidor and remember to open the box at least weekly to allow air circulation. Cigars will take in a small amount of oxygen and emit other gases as they age, if you keep cigars stored for long periods in a plastic container, they will build up a nasty smell (not to mention rot before your very eyes). Keep an eye on the hygrometer and don't let the humidity get out of hand!
For those of you who like videos, here's a pretty good one on How to Put Together a Tupperdor (by the Humidorks).
Ice Chests and Coolers
If you need a bigger storage space, try using larger containers like Igloo or other insulated plastic coolers and/or ice chests. The ice chests and coolers are well insulated and will definitely maintain moisture. The principles are the same as for Tupperware boxes: you need some wood inside to help adsorb/desorb moisture, a moisture source and a hygrometer. I find that Silica Gel beads work well as a humidity source inside airtight containers like coolers and Tupperware. Silica is great at taking up excess moisture and will work with (or without) Spanish cedar to keep the humidity in your Tupper-dors and Cooler-dors just right.
One person wrote his ideas for How to build a large Tupper-dor while another person took time to write their thoughts about building an inexpensive humidor using an Igloo cooler.
Converted Wine Cooler
I owned a wine cooler for years and the motor finally froze up and died. So I removed the motor and gutted the refridge. I built a palette out of Spanish cedar and added a drawer for singles. I finished up with more Spanish cedar plans as shelves. Since it is cheaper, I lined the inside of the refrigerator with mahogany. Spanish cedar is a type of mahogany and they both have the same properties when it comes to the ability to take in and release humidity. The mahogany doesn't have the same pleasing aroma, however.
Humidification is maintained using a Cigar Oasis XL Plus, an electronic humidifier/hygrostat. The Cigar Oasis is an easy, albeit fairly expensive, humidifier that you can just set and forget. It is preset to 70% RH, but is easily reset to other humidity levels. And, it has a digital readout of the humidity levels.
Wine Cooler Conversion - Click photos
Gutted wine cooler
With drawer extended
Wood Humidor Build-Your-Own Kits
The humidor shown at the very top of this webpage (on the right), was built by my son in his high school wood shop class. Yeah, I know, you might be asking "Is that even legal?" Maybe he told his teacher he was making a jewelry box, he wouldn't be too far off on that account. Anyway, I didn't ask. The do-it-yourself kit came from a Popular Mechanics article titled: Fresh and Tasty: Build Our Mahogany Cigar Humidor. The five-page step-by-step instructions were easy to follow, but required some basic shop equipment. Further, if you have a little wood-working savvy, you can change the dimensions and materials to fit your needs. My son changed the materials using a light mahogany structure with plywood top and bottom.
Though he couldn't order any Spanish cedar for the construction of the inside of the humidor, he glued Spanish cedar linings (found in many cigar boxes) to the inside of the lid and to the bottom of the humidor. He also took apart some Spanish cedar cigar boxes and glued the panels to the inside of the humidor to serve as sides and to provide a rail. He added a digital hygrometer and a humidifier. The wood and hardware was really cheap (hinges were brass-plated), less than $20 for those materials. The digital hygrometer and humidification element weighed in at around $20, so the total cost of the project was about $40. The humidor has a fairly good seal but the humidifier must still be reconditioned more often than most fine humidors. Nevertheless, with careful monitoring, this humidor works just fine. After completing the project, my son presented the humidor to me for my birthday. I still use it for short-term storage purposes, it easily holds 100 cigars.
Another kit can be found at U-Bild.com (Humidor No. 871). For those of you who are skilled woodworkers, you might want to read a very fine 3-part article by woodworker Paul Norman Pirollo titled, "Designing and Building a Humidor." Humidors Part One, Humidors Part Two and Humidors Part Three are found online (whitemountdesign.com). This series is not for beginners. You will need to be well-versed in woodworking lingo and skill.
To see many other examples of homemade humidors, check out the following webpage: The Homemade Humidor Album Page (cigargroup.com).
After reading the pros and cons of building your own humidor, you may decide that it's too much work. Fine. Just empty out your change jar (or bank account, as the case may be) and purchase a fine humidor. Nevertheless, it is a rewarding experience to build your own box and it can be a great lesson in the art of caring for your cigars. Please post your experiences and comments below.
About the Author
David "Doc" Diaz is the publisher and the editor of the Stogie Fresh Cigar Publications. He has served as an educator, researcher and writer and has taught in the Health Education and Health Science field for over 30 years. He possesses an earned doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. Doc is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT), having received this certification from the Tobacconist University and is a member and Ambassador of Cigar Rights of America (CRA).blog comments powered by Disqus