AW Extra 12/19/13 – Asian-Inspired Humidor | Popular Woodworking Magazine
 In Projects, Questions And Answers, Techniques

Asian-Inspired Humidor

An elegant box for cigars or jewelry

By Suwat Phruksawan

I love to create projects
from my scrap pile. Boxes
are my favorites. I built this humidor for
a friend to keep his cigars fresh. The
humidor will fit Churchill cigars one way
and Coronas the other. It’s lined with
Spanish cedar; traditionally used to
impart delicate flavors to fine cigars.

The box doesn’t have to be a humidor,
though. Simply omit the cedar liner
and the humidifier to is transform the
box to hold jewelry or keepsakes.

The design was inspired by Japanese
architecture. At first glance it looks complex,
but it’s just a basic mitered box
with a few added details to dress it up .

I like small projects like this because
the building process moves swiftly and
allows for more hand tool work than I
can normally afford. I hope you enjoy
building this humidor as much as I did.


Build the box

1. Select the woods you want to use with an
eye towards contrast and harmony (Photo 1).

2. Cut the box sides and ends (A and B) to
size, then cut grooves to house the bottom
panel (G) (Fig. A, below).

3. Use a router to create the rabbets on the
top edges of the box sides (Fig. A).

4. Glue up quartersawn red oak for the bottom
panel. The quartersawn oak will expand and contract much less than a flat sawn

5. The bottom panel is a raised panel
with the bevel facing down. Bevel the
panel on a router table.

6. Cut the miters on the box parts
and assemble with the bottom panel.

7. Cut the Spanish cedar bottom
liner (C) to size. Add a couple dabs of
water-resistant glue at the center and
place it at the bottom of the box. Leave
a 1/16-in. gap between the lining and
the box sides for expansion.

8. Cut the side linings and glue them
in place. (Photo 2).

9. Use a sled to cut slots for the
splines (H and Photo 3).

10. Glue the splines in the slots
(Photo 4). I used maple to contrast with
the bubinga and to tie in with the top.

11. Trim the splines flush (Photo 5)
and sand the sides to 220-grit. Be careful
not to roundover the corners or it
will leave a gap where the feet attach.


Build the lid

12. Cut the lid to fit inside the rabbeted
top of the box. I used figured
maple to contrast with the bubinga.

13. Plane a bevel on the edges of the
lid (Photo 6). I found a 1-in. bevel
looks best.

14. Create the lid braces (P) from a
3/8-in. thick x 14-in. long piece of wood
(I used scrap red oak). Cut a rabbet
along the length (Fig. A). Then rip it
3/4-in. wide, and crosscut it to length.

15. Glue the braces to the lid at the
middle only, then use screws towards
the ends.

16. Cut the top liner (K) to fit the
space between the lid braces.


Make the humidor

17. Create a waterproof box from
1/8-in. Plexiglas (Q, R and S)(Photo 7).

18. Cut the humidifier trim (N ) and
assemble to fit the humidifier. Pre-stain
the walnut cover.

19. Cut green floral foam to fit the
humidifier. Cover the foam with cheesecloth.
Cover the cloth with sculpture’s
wire mesh (available at hobby stores).

20. I used clear silicone caulk to glue
the wire mesh and the cloth on the rims
of the Plexiglas box.

21. Rout a hole in the top liner for
the humidifier (Photo 8). Glue the
liner in place.

22. Glue the humidifier to the under
side of the lid with silicone caulk.


Add the legs

23. Edge miter two 1/2-in.-thick x 15-
in.-long pieces of walnut to form an Lshaped

24. Crosscut the blank into four legs
(F). Ebonize the edges of the leg blank
that are adjacent to the box sides.

25. Attach the legs to the box (Photo

26. Plane tapers on all four legs
(Photo 10, Fig. A).


Build the handle

27. Cut the handle and its supports
(L and M) to size.

28. Lay out and cut angled ends on
the handle (Photo 11, Fig. A).

29. Create notches for bridle joints
on both the handle and the support
pieces (Photo 12).

30. Glue the handle to the supports
(Photo 13). Sand the handle smooth
and soften the edges (Photo 14).


Ebonize and finish

31. To create the ebonizing stain,
soak steel wool in vinegar overnight.
Use a coffee filter to strain out the rust
particles. The rusty vinegar reacts with
the walnut’s tannin and turns it black.

32. Raise the grain of the legs and handle
assembly by wiping them down with
water and sand smooth.

33. Brush the rusty vinegar mix on
the legs and handle (Photo 15). The
walnut will turn black almost immediately.
Be careful when staining the legs
because any spill will color the bubinga.

34. Glue the handle to the lid.

35. I finished the box with a 50/50
mix of mineral spirits and pure tung oil.

Cutting List

Fig. A: Exploded View

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. I mostly used
scrap wood
this project: bubinga
for the box , figured
maple for the
lid, walnut for the
feet and red oak
for the bottom. I
bought the
Spanish cedar for
the linings. The
first step is to
miter the box’s
sides and glue
them together
around the bottom.

2. Next, line the
Spanish cedar. The
slightly undersized
bottom panel is
installed first. The
side pieces are
installed last and
cover the bottom’s
expansion gaps.

3. Cut the spline
in the
humidor box.
Build a sled that
straddles your
saw’s fence to
make accurate,
safe cuts. Use a
thin kerf blade.

4. Cut splines so
their grain runs
diagonally across
the corner of the
box, then glue
them in the slots.
This method of
cutting the splines
ensures that they
have uniformlooking

5. Cut the splines flush
with a pull saw. Use
a thin shim between
the saw and the box
side to prevent saw
marks on the sides.

6. Plane a 1-in.-wide bevel
around the perimeter of
the lid. A panel-raising bit
in a router table can do the
job too.

7. The humidifier case is
made from 1/8-in.
Plexiglass that is glued to the
bottom of the lid.

8. The lid is also lined
with Spanish cedar.
Cut a hole in this piece to
house the humidifier.

9. Glue the walnut
leg blanks
the box using a
band clamp. Prestain
the walnut
ends and edges
adjacent to the

10. Use a block plane to
taper the legs and
ease the sharp corners.

11. Cut the angled ends of
the handle with a miter
gauge. Lay out the angles
and cut to the pencil mark.

12. Cut notches in the
handle and supports
on the bandsaw.
The joint needs to be
snug enough to hold
together without glue.

13. Glue the handle
Just a spot of glue is
all that’s needed if the
joints are snug.

14. Shape and smooth the
with sandpaper.

15. Ebonize the walnut by
brushing on rusty vinegar–
a mixture
made from soaking
steel wool in

16. The humidor is ready
to charge with water.
To moisten, lift the lid and
add a few drops of distilled
water through the wire


Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Rockler,, 800-279-
4441, 3/8” Spanish cedar, #18392.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker March 2008, issue #134.

March 2008, issue #134

Purchase this back issue.


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