Humidor Build – Interior Part 2

Hello and welcome!  In this series I am building a walnut and gaboon ebony desktop humidor.  This post will focus on the interior trays, made from spanish cedar and built in the method of kumiko.

Kumiko is the lattice work in shoji and it can range from very simply designed to incredibly complex geometric arrangements.  Shoji are intended to be light and strong and so each and every part must add to the integrity of the structure.  Kumiko latticework are constructed of overlapping joinery, mortise and tenon,  and mitered corner joinery.

A good humidor tray must also be light and take up very little space, made well it should fit nicely into the humidor, moving like a piston as it is installed or removed.  A tray which can retain its shape without twisting as it is installed and removed will be able to be fit nicely, and a piston fit gives the assurance of quality in craftsmanship.

The reason why I’m using a lattice work in the base of the tray, rather than a panel with holes in it, is that the lattice work will allow free airflow and will increase the trays resistance to twisting.   The panel is superior in resistance to racking, however I will be able to counter those forces with tight corner joinery.

The grooves have been made for hinges and the hinges are ready for installation.  A humidor lid must close tightly, so some parts of the cutout for the hinge were different from that of a typical hinge.  Normally the hinge leaves would be installed flush and the the gap between the leaves, set by the manufacturer, is used as clearance for subtle inconsistencies to be hidden between the top and bottom of a box.  For a humidor I take the overall thickness of the hinge and split it in half.  That means the hinge leaf is set slightly below the surface, and there is zero clearance between the top and bottom of the box.

I like to have hardware flush to the outside of the box whenever possible and so I set my hinges in, adding a minor complication.  In this case the hinge has a built in stop, which protrudes from the hinge.  To accommodate this stop I used a 3mm chisel to make a small notch for each part of the hinge allowing it to travel in its normal arc while inset.

Here I am using my birdcage awl to locate and start the screw’s recess.  The awl allows the center of the screw to be set precisely and allows the hole to be started, the steel screw in this size can cut the hole without otherwise pre drilling.  This approach makes for a very reassuring assembly, having moved wood aside, rather than cut it by drilling.  The block of beeswax is there to help things along.


The box is now functional, and hopefully you can now see the purpose of the rear chamfer as well.



I’m considering a hinge called the Neat Hinge II for future boxes, any feedback from those who have used it would be appreciated.

Back to the liners, to hold up the interior tray I’ve created two uprights.  These are cut to fit and placed in, they fit very tightly (I can’t remove them once they’re pressed in) and once some humidity is added to the box the cedar will compress around them locking them in.


I’ve set aside stock to begin the tray, starting with 1/2″ material which I will process down to just under 3/8″.  The 1/2″ material has seasoned without much warping so I’m much more confident in this material than the thinner stock.



I’m running the jack plane long grain on these board, allowing me to take the wind out by biasing my cuts and staggering my starts.  I also bias my cuts toward outside or inside to remove cupping.


Then onto the try plane to true up the surface.


Last the Kanna is used to put a bright finish and remove any lingering roughness.


Now that the thicknessing is complete, it’s time to put square edges on the stock.  I’m biasing the end grain cuts to apply a hint of a taper, which will allow the tray to set into place nicely.  To bring these to length, I mark them using the inside of the box as a reference, then test fit until they seat nicely, this will make for a tray that fits very tightly (too tightly) but will allow me to plane the outside of the tray lightly to fine tune the fit.


While I’m prepping stock, might as get everything ready for the lattice work.


Backing up the material with plywood while I cut the last edge flat.


Now that all stock prep is complete, I can clear my bench and begin dovetailing.  I don’t have a dovetail gauge for 15 degree dovetails, but I like to cut this steep angle on short dovetails.


This angle allows them to actually look like a dovetail and perform well in short heights, however it requires care when cutting to the line as it’s much easier to knick the sides allowing an ugly error to show.

The first cuts are with a rip dozuki.


I then cope out the center waste and saw the shoulders with a crosscut saw.


All set and ready of for the line to be chopped.


I first chop the majority of the waste ahead of the line, leaving about 1/64″ to chop second.  Then chop that and flip the board over.  I undercut slightly so that there is a nice flat on either side of the center.


The finished tails;


For speed I ganged up my cuts on the tail board and cut both ends of each tail board.  Now onto the pin board, I begin by transferring marks.


Then cutout with the rip dozuki and cope out the waste.


All set for a tight fit off the saw.  This is critical in softer woods and small assemblies like this.  A little bit of compression makes for a fitup that locks together tightly.

Finally I chop the lands and can begin a trial assembly.  I don’t want to assemble and disassemble many times, once is even too many but I will do so to try out the assembled tray in the box.


The tray slides into place after some minor tweaking with the hand plane.  I may need to work the outside slightly more after moisture is added to the box liners.


Now that the outside of the tray is assembled, I can begin making the inner frame which will support the latticework and add stiffness to the assembled piece.  The latticework is connected to this inner frame by through tenons and these will be hidden by the tray rather than made visible.  The dovetails on this inside frame are visible, but hidden when installed, all other joinery will be hidden or otherwise disguised.

I begin the frame by marking out for the mitered corner bridle joints.


Followed by cutting out those joints and clearing the waste with a chisel.



We’re left with the interlocking joint with mitered corners.


After creating all four and paring the corners to fit, I test fit inside the tray surround.


Now that it is fitted I can begin the latticework, I do so by first sizing all of the pieces to length, then marking for their outside tenons.


After sawing the tenons I’m ready to saw the half lap joints.  I do this while the parts are ganged up so that they will be perfectly spaced.


After clearing the waste with a chisel I’m ready to assemble the latticework.


Finally I mark out the 16 through tenons and begin chopping them.  One they’re wasted out the frame can be assembled and test fitted.  Finally the finished assembly is glued up and fitted into the box.


Now that the tray is completed I do some minor planing to touch up the outside and ensure a smooth fit.  The fit is going to be adjusted after the tray comes up to working humidity, and safe to say it needs to be ever so slightly loose to ensure that it won’t stick once the humidity rises to a level for cigar storage.

The inside of the box is basically complete, less the humidifier.  Next I can begin French polishing the exterior of the box.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and encourage you to comment and ask questions!

Brusso Hardware can be purchased through my aStore Purchasing through the store helps to support the content provided on this blog.


  1. Excellent work as usual, and thank you once again for going into such detail. That “cedar” looks nice to work with. I do have one question – how is the lattice frame attached to the outer, dovetailed frame? I suppose all it would need is a dab of glue.

    Looking forward to seeing the results of your french polishing!

    1. Thanks Robert!

      The lattice frame attaches to the outer, dovetailed frame, with two laminations (front and back).

      The cedar is pretty nice stuff to work with in terms of planing, chiseling and sawing. If you are thinking about using it, I’d give it plenty of time to season. My stuff is stable now, but it moved quite a bit while seasoning.

  2. Pingback: Humidor Build – Interior Part 1 | Brian Holcombe Woodworker

  3. Pingback: Humidor Build - Interior Part 1 - Brian Holcombe Woodworker

  4. Wow, this is honestly one of the best designed humidors I’ve come across, and I’ve been scouring the internet for a good build/plans. I’m pretty new to woodworking but have been wanting to make a humidor for a while now — I think I am going to try and follow these posts to copy yours, with some slight modifications/omissions maybe, I hope that’s cool…

    Am I right that you did this all by hand? I see you used a variety of different planes within the build, but I’m wondering if I could achieve the same results (or mostly) with just a kanna japanese plane? Or is a kanna more of just a finishing plane and would just take forever to flatten boards that might be twisted etc?

    I only have hand tools: a dozuki and a cross cut japanese saw, chisels and a kanna plane, a square and rasp and some clamps of course – woodworking skills aside, can this build be done with just these?

    Anthony Petrone
    1. Hi Anthony,

      Thank you for your comments and compliments on my work. Very glad that you enjoyed this short series. Similar work can certainly be done with a smaller toolset, especially given the small scale of this project. Just be sure and carefully note where you are taking material off.

      You are welcome to take inspiration from my work rather than to copy, modify to suit your purpose and needs and it will be yours. Every designer finds inspiration outside of their own work.

  5. Yeah you’re right, copy wasn’t the right word. Ideally I’d like to incorporate a drawer in the lower third of the humidor. We’ll see what my skills can handle. I’ll have to practice the techniques on some boxes for my kids first, I think.

    Thanks for replying! Love the blog and your style of work. Really glad I randomly came across it yesterday.

    Anthony Petrone

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