An appealing alternative to purchasing a new humidor is converting an existing piece of furniture. You’ll be guaranteed that your new humidor will be one-of-a-kind, and it’s a good way to give an old piece of furniture or musical instrument a new life – not to mention that it’s quite possible no one will suspect that your creation is a humidor, at least not at first glance!
You can convert almost any piece of furniture into a humidor as long as you pay careful attention to your measurements. Pieces narrower than 22 inches (55 cm) will not accommodate cigar boxes. An interior depth of less than 14 inches (35 cm) will also prove problematic, as the humidification system must have ample space to circulate air up to the humdior’s ceiling from its position against the back wall. This “air shaft” must remain unobstructed by cigar boxes.
In addition, the distance from the back of the doors, when closed, to trays or boxes should be at least 0.8 inches (20 mm). An optimally sized piece of furniture is at least 24 inches (60 cm) wide and at least 14 inches (35 cm) deep. Height is not as important, as long as you take care to ensure adequate air circulation.
In principle, there are two different ways to approach this kind of project. If you are dealing with a piece of furniture that is a valuable antique or for other reasons do not want to interfere with its material, you can create an interior box that fits your original piece perfectly and needs only to be inserted.
You must then evaluate whether the existing doors can function as humidor doors, or if it would be better to work with a separate interior door (most often made of glass).
This solution’s advantage is that the interior cabinet can be created in a workshop and needs only to be fitted into the exist-ing piece, leaving it essentially intact.
The only real alteration you’ll need to make is drilling a small hole in the bottom of the piece to insert the humidification system’s power cable. This is acceptable in almost every case.
Interior cabinets can be inserted into wall-to-wall closets, niches, or in unused door openings, and can be designed to blend in seamlessly with the original design. The cost of this type of project is typically higher, because you are essentially building an entire humidor without a decorative exterior.
A much more interesting project for the decently capable home craftsman with access to a workshop and power tools – and who likes a good challenge – is directly converting an existing piece of furniture into a humidor. In this method, the piece’s structure is used as an exterior shell while its interior is transformed into a humidor.
Because this process is by far more interesting and satisfying than simply slotting a ready-made box into a square hole, I would like to give you a concrete example of this type of construction, using a real-life customer commission.
This project involved transforming the lower cabinet of an 80- to 90-year-old credenza into a humidor. Cigar boxes would be stored in the lower levels, and individual cigars in the two drawers.
The cabinet measured 39 inches high, 55 inches wide and 29.5 inches deep. It’s an attractive, eye-catching piece, but it’s not a valuable antique, and the customer found its depth awkward.
So we got out our saws and precision mills, removed the back wall and reduced the depth of the entire piece by 20 inches – a “radical intervention.”
Because the client wanted to be able to see the cigars stored in the drawers, we left two recesses in the wooden panel on top of the drawers into which we could later insert glass. The real challenge with this cabinet was its interior layout, which was full of nooks and crannies.
In addition, the cabinet is narrower in front than back and would not fit a traditional slatted tray.
To address this, we first clad all the irregular areas – such as the paneling on the back wall – with Spanish cedar panels to bring everything to an even level. After that, additional Spanish cedar panels were cut to fit and, piece by piece, we clad the entire interior.
Because of the unusual kerning toward the doors, we were not able to insert a standard slatted tray, so we placed two-by-fours with rectangular and angled recesses on the side walls.
Four support rails were fitted into the recesses.
If you come up against a similar issue, remember that the grooves of the support ledges must be exactly identical in depth, the edging strips must sit exactly at the same height on both sides, and, of course, the support rails must all be identical in height. These steps ensure that the boxes and trays set atop the support rails won’t wobble.
We shortened the two drawers and removed the bottom panels.
We created perforated bottom panels and inserted them into each drawer’s existing frame. The side, front and back wall of the drawers were paneled in sipo mahogany (not in Spanish cedar, due to the latter’s habit of leaking resin). I did not use glue to affix the paneling, as I much prefer the results using a pneumatic stapler, which shoots ¾ inch needles through the wood and holds the paneling very firm.
In addition, wood cladding that is fastened this way does not transmit any of its own expansion or contraction to the furniture, thereby damaging it. Wood can be incredibly powerful …
To light the drawers from inside, we mounted LED lights under the cabinet’s top wooden panel. They were mounted on both sides onto a molding angled 40°.
I recommend that you experiment here a little bit to make sure that the LED strip’s beam angle creates a good lighting effect. Be careful that your LEDs are not too bright, as they can bleach your cigar wrappers. One to 1 1/3 watts per foot is the recommend-ed maximum strength at a distance of 6 inches.
Finally, we built the humidification system and its sensors into the lower cabinet. It is vital that the humidifier mounted onto the back wall can blow freely upward. A precise measurement of the relative humidity – as well as precise control of it – is only possible when air flows freely along the sensor. For this cabinet, I chose the Huminator Mini for the humidification system.
After the sanding dust has been removed and all your power cables are installed, you’ve come to the fun part: putting in your cigars.
Time needed for the complete conversion was about 18 hours. Total costs for labor, material, electronic humidification, lighting and drawers was around $2,850 (EUR 2,500).
Feel free to direct your detailed questions to Marc André at
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Winter Edition 2015. Read more