Boxmakers/Humidor Makers Question

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Forum topic by nashvillenative posted 01-18-2021 03:46 PM 311 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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29 posts in 732 days

01-18-2021 03:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: box making humidor ambrosia maple finishing tips ebony

Hey guys,

I’m building an ambrosia maple and ebony humidor for one of my groomsmen and I’ve got a technique question.

I’ve assembled the box, cut and glues the splines but have yet to cut the lid, should I seal it NOW since the inside will be unfinished? Or should I go about cutting the lid and save sealing for last?

The inside will of course be lined with spanish cedar (which I got at woodcraft for 3.99/bdft) and will include a tray, humidifier and hygrometer.

Looking for best practices here.

As always thanks for the sage wisdom.

-- "any dog under 50 pounds is a cat, and cats are useless"

5 replies so far

View Rich's profile


6535 posts in 1599 days

#1 posted 01-18-2021 04:29 PM

A lot depends on the finish you plan to use. If you pre-finish with a film finish like shellac, lacquer or varnish, it will tend to chip out when you cut the lid off. You can do some things to minimize that, but I’d suggest cutting then finishing. Also, if you choose to add a small chamfer to the base and lid, you’d need it cut to do that.

With an oil finish like Tried & True, it matters less, but I still cut the lid off before doing any finishing. I also do any mortising I need to do for the hinges and pre-mount any other hardware. Then I take it all off and finish the lid and base separately.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View nashvillenative's profile


29 posts in 732 days

#2 posted 01-18-2021 04:34 PM

Good point, Rich. I plan on using shellac (which I am SO bad at using) to really get the figure to pop and didn’t think about the chipping.

Also, when cutting the lid I actually use my router table and a 3/32” spiral bit. I’ve tried the band saw/table saw method but I have a much more consistent setup on my router table.

How do you cut your lids?

-- "any dog under 50 pounds is a cat, and cats are useless"

View splintergroup's profile


4687 posts in 2232 days

#3 posted 01-18-2021 04:47 PM

I’m w/Rich. Cut the lid off and finish the hinges, etc before finishing. Among other things, it helps minimize damage to the finish while fitting out the box.

I like to cut tops off using the table saw and depending on issues like preserving spline spacing, etc. I might use a thin kerf blade. I don’t cut all the way through. I’ll leave a sliver of wood to keep the box stable and then use an Exacto knife to free the lid after. There are of course other methods that work well.

I’ll flatten the lid and box on a 20” sander disc attached to a piece of (flat) 3/4” melamine. Good workout for the shoulders 8^)

When finishing, I’ll remove any hardware and place the lid onto the box and usually spray. You can also mask of the lip edges and interior to do the same.

The only time I’d consider finishing before cutting would be if I was going to apply oil to only the outside. Since oil wicks, it is difficult to apply otherwise and not get oil seeping onto the lip area. I’d still apply any final surface coats after cutting the lid free.

View Rich's profile


6535 posts in 1599 days

#4 posted 01-18-2021 06:36 PM

How do you cut your lids?

- nashvillenative

I’ve used the band saw and table saw. I find if I’m really careful and shim all of the kerfs as I go, it comes out good. I don’t have splintergroup’s disk sander, so I just use some sandpaper stuck to MDF.

I like your spiral bit idea though. I’ll try that next time.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View SutnBlue's profile


3 posts in 61 days

#5 posted 01-18-2021 10:08 PM

I’m a bit of a newbie and have trouble getting the hinges perfect with a chisel so I cut the lid off before finishing then install the hinges. If the hinges are a wee bit off I can hide the minor misalignment by sanding then put on the finish. I learned this the hard way one time when I finished with tung oil before cutting the lid off and setting the hinges then had to sand to hide the small misalignment and re-finish. FWIW if I had gotten the hinges right, putting the tung oil on before cutting the lid would have worked well. This was a humidor and I sprayed lacquer on the inside before adding the Spanish cedar so that the wood would have a finish inside and out – perhaps an abundance of caution but as a humidor needs to hold around 70% humidity I figured it was worth doing

I cut my lids on the table saw – full through cut on the long sides and a cut that does not go all the way through on the ends that I finish with a hand saw. The ends hold the top well enough that I don’t need to shim as I cut.

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