In its simplest form, a humidor is nothing more than a box specially-built to maintain an internal relative humidity of approximately 65%. Although it seems straightforward, a well built cigar humidor is locked in an eternal battle with the forces of moisture. To put it bluntly: wood moves. When subjected to wild swings in humidity, most species will begin to cup, twist, and warp within minutes. Woodworkers who resaw wood on the bandsaw are quite familiar with this phenomenon. Resawing is the practice of sawing a board in two. Imagine taking a 1-in.-thick 2×4 and resawing it in half; you’d be left with two 2×4’s, each a 1/2-in. thick. The moment that bandsaw blade begins to bisect the board, internal stresses built up over years are set free once the air hits the newly exposed wood. This often results in boards which, although perfectly flat only moments before, have become banana-shaped.

What Makes My Humidors Different

Building a humidor

A "shooting board" is used to align a handplane while trimming the ends of humidor liner pieces. Trimming with a handplane ensures an extremely precise fit.

A Gabriel Humidor is built slowly, one piece at a time, by a single craftsman. I use no automation, nor do I hire any other craftsmen or contract out any of my parts. I function in much the same way my great-grandfather did when he began his ship-building career in 1905, when each peg and nail were pounded by his own hands. But there’s more to it than just old-world craftsmanship. If you purchase a Palmer Line humidor, you’ll be bringing a small piece of Cuba into your own home. I incorporate a variety of materials brought directly from Cuba, into these heirloom humidors. Spanish cedar from Cuba’s Pinar del Rio Province is used in the lids, and a variety of other objects are worked into the designs in a bid to bind these boxes to a land locked in time. Other embellishments I am currently working on include accents made from 17th-century cast iron which originated from the canons that line the old Spanish Fort, El Morro, which guards the entrance to the Bay of Havana.

A Solid Humidor Begins with a Stable Base Wood

The battle against wood movement begins with the proper wood selection. Spanish cedar and mahogany provide unparalleled stability in the face of moisture swings. Their tight, straight grains don’t lend themselves to cupping or twisting, and Spanish cedar has the added benefit of a pleasing aroma. Both woods are a joy to work with and provide the artisan with a firm, stable foundation on which to build a humidor meant to last a lifetime.

Exotic Veneers are Easy on the Eyes

Despite the bad wrap poorly constructed furniture gave veneer in the latter half of the 2oth century, the art of applying thin sheets of exotic woods over a thicker base is a time-honored tradition practiced by the finest European craftsmen for centuries. Remember, very few woods are stable enough to endure the stresses posed by a high humidity environment. By constructing the base of a humidor from a stable species, and adorning it with eye-catching veneers, the cigar smoker is left with an object that is just as durably constructed as it is beautiful.

Sealed Edges

They key to a well-built humidor lay in how well the craftsman understands how wood moves. As it absorbs moisture, wood expands along its width. Although you can’t halt this natural expansion, you can mitigate its effects, and one way to make wood more stable is to control the rate at which moisture is absorbed. In a Gabriel Humidor, all the Spanish cedar liner pieces are sealed with shellac along the end grain. This evens out moisture absorption since it slows the rate water is taken into the wood through the porous end grain. It is in large part, the attention to these sorts of small details that set my humidors apart from the crowd.

Uncompromising Quality Throughout

One of the worst mistakes any craftsman can make is to drop the ball when it comes to hardware. Imagine spending dozens of hours to build a beautiful cabinet of exotic hardwood, only to install poorly-made pressed metal hinges that shake, rattle, and roll with every opening of a door. My humidors are mounted with only the finest hinges of solid brass. They will not oxidize, rattle, or fail. In short, the quality of my hinges match the quality of my craftsmanship.

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