Humidors #2: First design concept

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Blog entry by McPheel posted 01-05-2016 03:16 PM 1190 reads 2 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Why learn to build a quality Humidor Part 2 of Humidors series Part 3: Humidor #1 Red Oak with Walnut veneer »

Time to plan out the design for my first Humidor. This will be a very basic box built to minimize cuts, make efficient use of lumber and hopefully hold a regular humidity.

I started with a simple dimension that I wanted, I figured an internal box dimension of 12” by 8” would be a nice size to fit a beginners collection of cigars and cigar paraphernalia. I knew I wanted to have a depth of about 6” simply because I wanted to use the approx. factory width of the lumber I get rather than ripping down to a specific width and wasting strips of lumber. Since I only have a number 5 jack plane and a number 4 bench plane I will opt for my lumber S4S. Realizing this after I sketched out the design, I will accept a 5 1/2 or 7 1/4 deep box as well. This won’t change the basic concepts of the design and I can adjust my cut list to reflect this.

I had a few choices to make:

Material: After some research, I quickly noted that I had two real choices for the internal liner box, Spanish Cedar, Honduran Mahogany or three if I cheeped out, which would include American Red Cedar.
—>Spanish Cedar offers protection from tobacco worms, has a high humidity absorption capacity (effective humidity regulation preventing mold) and has an aroma subtle enough to not taint the flavour of the cigars but rather compliments it. Spanish Cedar has a high risk of resin formations appearing, but these can simply be sanded away.
—>Honduran Mahogany has a similar absorption capacity and is even less aromatic, although the protection from tobacco worms is less efficient as a result.
—>American Red Cedar would be a cheaper alternative wood from Spanish cedar and has a lower risk of resin formations. The aroma is much more intense and can alter the flavour of the cigars to be unfavourable.
I have decided on a 4/4 piece of Spanish Cedar because this would go a long way after being resawn to 1/8” strips on the table saw and offers the most desirable effects.

I will try using Red Oak with a nice veneer for the basic box construction for no real reason other than this is the wood my current humidor has used. I have a nice piece of bubinga that I may use without veneer in the future.

Joinery: I have seen examples of humidors with almost every kind of joinery method used. I could try my hand at hand cut dovetails or set up a jig on the table saw for box joints but decided for my first humidor I would use a simple rebate joint which is what I commonly see on store bought humidors. I will try different joinery methods on future humidors and try to determine if the joinery affects the seal in any way.

Top and Bottom: I can either use a solid hardwood, MDF or a quality plywood.
With hardwood, I would have to account for wood movement by inserting a panel of hardwood into small dados near the top of the box which would allow the wood to expand and contract within these dados.
I am hesitant to use MDF as I don’t believe the high humidity levels would be a favorable environment for it.
lastly, a good quality plywood can be used which would allow me to simply glue it into rebates and use a veneer on the outside. This will be a good excuse to try out veneering.

Inlay / Edging: The rebate joint will reveal some end grain on the corners so I have decided that I will search the lumber yard for a nice contrasting wood to cut strips from and place in 1/4×1/4 cuts along the perimeter. I may try getting a wood with a high tannin level and experiment with ebonizing with a iron acetate (Steel wool oxidized and dissolved in vinegar).

Finishing: I haven’t decided how I will finish the boxes yet, I have been using boiled linseed oil followed by multiple coats of shellac on my previous projects and this seems to have a nice appearance and texture, I am open to suggestions.

Time to sketch out the design:
I based the dimensions off of an internal dimension of 12” x 8” and worked from the inside out to determine the external box dimensions. I sketched this out a few times in a notebook until I was satisfied.

This allowed me to begin estimating my lumber requirements and material costs.
I checked out Windsor Plywood’s website to see what they have available and saw that the smallest thickness available for Spanish Cedar and Red Oak was 4/4 which I figured could be ripped down to 2 ~ 2/4 pieces of Red Oak and 4 ~1/8 pieces of Spanish Cedar (Accounting for the saw kerf).

Assuming a minimal requirement being 2’ of 4/4×6” for both the cedar and the oak, I than began planning out my cuts and the order I would cut the wood in.
I quickly realized that I would need to give myself a little more room to breath and decided that since I will be making multiple humidors, I would look at getting more lumber than was required.

As I tend to do, I forgot that a 4/4 S4S piece of lumber would actually be closer to 3/4 which will alter my dimensions slightly on the rebates and basic box wall thickness. I am ok with this, it will just mean a lighter box.

I quickly drew up the design and cut list in sketchup to check my math and layout my cuts.

Hardware: I have decided that I will pick up some cheap $3 quadrant hinges from Lee Valley for these boxes. I will not invest in $55 dollar hinges until I am satisfied that I have found a quality design.,41419

The hygrometer will be a cheap analog model that I will calibrate with a Boveda Pack. By placing the hydrometer in a sandwich bag with the Boveda pack for a few minutes than adjusting the calibration screw on the back until it matches the packs set humidity level.

I estimated that the project would cost about $60 to make, which shouldn’t be to steep of a price point to sell at break even if it works or absorb as a cost of learning if it doesn’t work.

-- Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing - Nick Offerman

2 comments so far

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4388 days

#1 posted 01-06-2016 01:41 AM

Looks like a good plan!

For the box joinery, you could also cut mitered corners, and use splines to reinforce. Then the splines could be contrasting, if you wanted.

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View McPheel's profile


31 posts in 2115 days

#2 posted 01-06-2016 03:57 PM

Thanks Dean, that will likely be box number 2, it will be interesting to see if humidity regulating varies with less deflections within the joint.

-- Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing - Nick Offerman

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