1. Cigar Tools

a. Chaveta
A chaveta is a flat, steel blade with a curved cutting edge (usually 6 to 8 inches long), but no handle. The chaveta is held by its flat, upper edge, and rocked over the surface to be cut. It is used to trim the outer edge of a wrapper for wrapping a cigar and is also used to shape to the wrapper to the size and contour of the filler bunch.

While any knife (or even scissors) can perform the same function, using a chaveta or similarly curved blade that can be rocked makes the required cuts more effortlessly and more precisely.

WLT Chavet
Stainless steel chavet

Chavetas are not mass-produced for the commercial supply chain. They are niche blades that are usually custom-made by small craftsmen. (In 3rd world countries, they are often made from the worn-out blades of circular saws.) Those made of carbon steel are far easier to sharpen, but will dull more rapidly from use, and will rust, without taking precautions to prevent it. Stainless steel chavetas will never rust, and will require sharpening less frequently, but are more difficult to sharpen, because of the hardness of the steel.

b. Board
Any type of cutting board of adequate size (14″ x 11″ is large enough to roll a very large cigar) can be used for rolling cigars. While some rollers like to use a stone cutting board, because a moist wrapper can be spread on it more easily, the stone surface will rapidly dull a chaveta. Woodcutting boards are what the cigar factories regularly use. An inexpensive, relatively thin, the bamboo cutting board will last for many years of cigar making.

A kitchen cutting board that is concurrently used for food is a poor choice, since the tobacco will pick up food flavors, and food will acquire tobacco dust. A dedicated cutting board, used only for cigar rolling is ideal. After each rolling session, just brush the surface with your hand or a paper towel over the trash can, to clean away the tobacco bits and dust that may have accumulated.

c. Glue
Cigar glue is used to prevent the wrapper from coming off the head of the cigar after it is opened (clipped). If you roll one cigar, and immediately smoke it, then moisture from your mouth will prevent unwrapping. If you instead roll multiple cigars at a time or intend to “rest” the cigar for a time in a humidor, then using glue will allow the cigar(s) to behave like a factory cigar and not unwrap itself, even though fairly dry.

Any natural glue can be used. Each of these is a complex carbohydrate that becomes sticky when moistened and holds two surfaces together when dried. These include most natural, non-latex gums, such as gum acacia, gum Arabic, tragacanth, xanthan gum, and even pectin. Bermacol is most commonly used in cigar factories. The various gums are used as thickeners in many foods, from commercial salad dressings to chocolate milk to canned chili.

Every gum has a taste. Most cigar smokers can taste only some of the gums, while other cigar smokers can taste others. If you use a cigar glue that has a noticeable taste, just switch to another one.

Cigar glue
Cigar glue. This mixture is barely thick enough for use.

Most of these gums come as a powder that must be hydrated for use. Since only a minuscule amount is used on each cigar, mix only a tiny batch at a time. Add the powder to a very small container (like the size of a custard dish or smaller), then add a couple of drops of water at a time, mixing it to achieve the particle-free consistency of a thick, smearable paste. If any of the prepared gum is left over after you have finished using it, for the time being, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. If the prepared gum dries out between uses, you can try adding a few drops of water to reconstitute it. (Some, such as xanthan gum, may require rehydration with warm water.)

Cigar glue is used only at the head end of the cigar binder or wrapper, extending no more than an inch along the outer edge. If you are adding a cap to the cigar, then glue is used as needed to attach it. In applying the glue, wrap the cigar-starting at the foot, wrapping toward the head-to near completion, then use the tip of a finger to very thinly smear a tiny amount of glue to the outer edge, prior to completing the wrap. There should not be enough glue to squish out and be visible. Use of too much glue may allow the wrapper to unwrap before the glue dries sufficiently.
Properly mixing and applying cigar glue requires a little practice. But only a little.

d. Cigar Molds
A cigar mold has two major purposes. The first is to allow any cigar roller to produce a cigar of a very specific size and shape-important for a cigar factory, which will need to pack the cigars produced by different rollers into the same box. The other is to produce many identical cigars at one time-also important to a factory, which offers only a limited selection of possible sizes and shapes.

Wrapped Cigars
Cigars that were wrapped after using molds. [Waikikigun]

For the home roller, the only real advantage is that a mold makes it easier to wrap a perfectly smooth cigar if that is an important consideration. For the complete novice, a mold encourages rolling many bad cigars at once and is probably not a good idea. Once the basic skill has been learned of consistently rolling a cigar that draws well, then using a mold can improve their appearance. But rolling a cigar bunch for placing into a mold is a separate skill that will need to be learned.

WLT Mold
WLT 8-inch x 50 ring, 10 stick cigar mold.

The lid of a cigar mold is different from the bottom of the mold. The bottom is crafted with deep wells into which cigars can be placed, while the lid indentations for cigars are much shallower. Cigar molds are commonly made for 1, 2, 10, and up to 20 cigars, and come in figurado (curved shaped) as well as parejo (parallel or cylindrical) forms. Another consideration is the ring gauge of the mold. If you prefer a cigar of a particular thickness, then select that ring gauge mold. The wells of parejo molds are usually fully open at the foot end, allowing them to be used for any length cigar of a specified ring gauge.

Using a mold is fairly simple. A properly sized bunch of filler is wrapped in a binder, and glue is applied at the head. Usually, the binder is left with its twisted pigtail at the head. The bound bunch is then placed into the mold so that its head is toward the closed end of the bottom mold well, with its pigtail extending through the narrow slot at that end. The fit should be snug, but not truly tight. Once all of the cigars intended for the mold have been placed into their bottom mold wells, the mold lid is placed on top of it, and either clamped or weighted, so that it completely mates with the bottom.

Hand Made Mold
A 2-stick mold with its own clamping screws. Hand-made in Slovenia.

A mold tends to leave a linear crease in the binder on either side of the cigar, where the mold top and bottom meet. To minimize this, the mold is opened after at least 15 minutes, and each bunch is carefully lifted out, rotated 90 degrees, and returned to its mold well. The lid is again placed on top, and clamped or weighted for the remainder of the pressing time-30 minutes, or even overnight.

With a wooden cigar mold, excess moisture in the cigar bunch(s) is slowly drawn out. This does not happen with a plastic mold. But a plastic mold will have a longer service life. Cigar molds are available for a vast number of different cigar sizes and shapes.

e. Tuck Cutter
The “tuck” of a cigar is the same as the “foot” of a cigar-the end at which wrapping begins, and the same end that the smoker will eventually light. The term, “tuck”, comes from the process of tucking the starting tip of the wrapper, as you begin to wrap the bunch. The purpose of a tuck cutter is to cut the foot of a cigar to a specified length, which is set as a set-screw stop along the tuck cutter’s length. When mass-producing identical length cigars, a tuck cutter saves the time required to precisely measure the desired length on each new cigar.

A Tuck Cutter
A tuck cutter with a length set and adjustable blades.

For a home-roller, the primary use of the tuck cutter is simply to obtain a clean, 90 degrees cut at the foot. In the absence of a requirement to produce multiple, identical length cigars, any flat blade cigar clipper can perform that job just as well, and for only a fraction of the cost of a tuck cutter. Whether or not a tuck cutter is attached to the cutting board, or rests on its own stand, a tuck cutter occupies more space in your rolling area, whereas a simple cigar clipper is a tiny, mobile thing.

Tuck cutters are available with differing blade types. Some have a simple guillotine blade, some a blade that can be progressively rotated to a fresh edge, and some with a choice of cutting arcs for differing ring gauge cigars. On some, the cutting edges are easily replaceable (if you can locate the parts), while others must use the same blade for the life of the tuck cutter.

f. Cap Cutter
When creating a triple cap at the wrapped head of a cigar, the final piece is a circular disc of wrapper leaf about the same diameter as (or slightly larger than) the cigar. A cap cutter is a sharp edge that will “punch out” that disc from a scrap of the wrapper. They are usually hand-made from a 1 or 2-inch length of metal water pipe of a suitable diameter, which is then sharpened at one end on a grinder. Many cigar rollers maintain a selection of two or three different diameter cap cutters.

Some commercial cigars are packed in individual tubes, some of which are metal. In a pinch, either the sharp, top edge of such a tube, or even the cap of the tube, can be used for a time as a cap cutter, though it won’t last very long.

g. Rectangular Cigar Mold
To create a cigar with a rectangular or square cross-section (sometimes called box-pressed or square-pressed), abound bunch-filler bound in just the binder, still round is fitted into a wooden mold that squares the sides. After pressing to the desired degree of angularity, the bunch is removed, wrapped in its wrapper, then very gently repressed for rounded corners, or firmly repressed for sharp corners.

Multi Cigar Mold
Multi-place box-pressing cigar mold. [MarcL]