Last week we delivered the most recent of our commissions to a wonderful new client. This gentleman enjoys a cigar from time to time and asked us to make a humidor to store a modest number of fine cigars.
We were fortunate to be trusted with an open brief. The client gave us a reference point of a family heirloom, an antique ships barograph, and selected elm burr and rippled sycamore as their woods of choice - the rest was up to us!
This was the first time we had been asked to make a humidor. The construction has many similarities to a jewellery box, which we are very familiar with, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.
For instance, a humidor has to maintain a constant humidity - to keep the cigars from drying out and crumbling. To achieve this you need to a create a sealed chamber and introduce water into the mix. Now, there are a couple of things you learn on day 1 in woodwork school, one of which is wood and water are not good bedfellows when it comes to fine work. So the idea of bringing them together in a humidor, was - I admit - something that gave me pause for thought.
The box is made from English rippled sycamore, a light wood with wonderfully patterned lines. The exterior of the box is burr elm — which gives it the wonderfully swirled effect. My wife says the pattern reminds her of wisps of smoke curling through the air; which seems pretty apt for the exterior of a humidor.
A hand carved handle, also in elm burr, is fitted to the lid of a separate storage area, creating a nice contrast of colour and texture. It also brings the smokey swirling pattern of the elm into the interior, creating a balance in the design.
The inside is lined with cigar box cedar, which has a wonderful spiced fragrance that is prized for imbuing a subtle flavour into cigars. It also has the benefit of taking and storing moisture without rotting.
We finished the humidor with a French polish, done with shellac and wax. A well executed French polish is no small job, it can take several weeks to get it just right. Many people are fearful of French polish thinking that it's difficult to maintain and stains easily, this is really not the case, sure it needs to be treated well but it should last a good few decades before it needs a re-polish. A simple wipe with a clean cloth and a spot of wax now and then is all that's required. In fact, we get occasionally get antiques into the workshop for restoration with polish still in good order after a hundred or so years, it's amazing stuff.
The end result, is a rather beautiful and understated humidor which I am delighted with (and thankfully so was the client) I couldn't have asked for more, when he told me that the humidor sits next to his prized antique barograph. I hope the humidor will provide many years of pleasure and just maybe become a family heirloom too.