“Cigars” are a broad category of smokable tobacco items that can be loosely defined as “tobacco wrapped in tobacco”. This includes the use of reconstituted tobacco sheets (paper made of tobacco) as a wrapper, or as a binder beneath a natural leaf wrapper. Cigars range from tiny cigarette-sized ones with filters to chair-rung size, Caribbean-style premium cigars made of full-length filler leaf bound in natural leaf, and wrapped in a natural leaf. This discussion relates exclusively to tobacco (either long-filler or scrap) wrapped (and usually bound) in a natural leaf.

A perfectly smokable and delicious cigar can be rolled from well-aged, whole leaf tobacco of just about any variety. The wrapper does need to be mostly free of holes, but otherwise, can be from any class of leaf. That is to say, that a stack of leaf from a variety considered to be “cigar filler” may provide some nice wrappers-if you just look through the leaves carefully. Experimentation is what makes rolling your own cigars such a pleasure.

Learning to roll a cigar is a relatively easy skill to acquire. It usually takes a complete novice about 10 cigars (rolled and smoked one at a time, not made in a batch) to begin to consistently roll a cigar with a proper draw. Rolling a nice-looking cigar may, of course, take longer. But the skill will come naturally with time. [Keep in mind that a novice cigar roller at a cigar factory will roll 100 or more cigars per day. So your first 100 cigars could be considered only 1 day of practice.]

An ugly cigar that offers a good draw, and burns properly is a far better result than a work of art that is too loosely or too tightly rolled. Free-hand rolling, without using a cigar mold, is easier for a novice to accomplish in a way that draws properly, than by using a mold. Learn how to roll, then consider improving the appearance with a mold, if you desire. In the same vein, rolling a cigar that smokes well does not require a chaveta or tuck cutter, or even glue or a rolling board. So long as you have a decent, straight-cut cigar cutter (clipper)–and decent leaf, you can roll a smokable cigar

The only important secret is to bring the leaf into the proper case (moisture content). You can just hand-tear the stemmed filler to a suitable cigar length, and wrap it in a half-leaf on any surface. It may not be pretty, but with practice, it will draw well and will smoke well. And you will be gratified at having rolled it yourself.

Once you have a feel for rolling a cigar by hand-one that draws well, then adding the tools of the trade can allow you to create perfectly artistic cigars-give one to your father-in-law quality-as well as duplicate an exact length and ring gauge. The tools and their use will be discussed in the sections that follow.