For this installment of Fan Mail Q&A, we’ve compiled some of the more interesting cigar questions we’ve received about retrohaling, pigtail caps, cigar mold and controlling RH – and we thought our answers were worth sharing out loud. Watch now!
CA’s Cigar Hacks: Cigar Smoking Tips & Tricks
Hack Your Smoking Experience: Cigar Smoking Tips & Tricks to Try
By the Cigar Advisor Editors
Sure, cigar smoking is pretty easy – but it can be even better, when you get creative. If you’re looking for some new fixes or just some cigar smoking tips to get better enjoyment out of the experience as a whole, check out these moves…they’re a little out of the ordinary, but they just might be the cigar hacks that will solve whatever your cigar challenge may be.
Cigar Hack #1: Here’s How to Form a Perfect Cone on Your Cigar Using the Xikar Ashtray Can
One of my favorite cigar attributes is when you get that nice conical shape on the ash, and one of my favorite cigar accessories is the Xikar Ashtray Can. Perfect for travel, I always keep mine in my car at-the-ready. This hack, which I learned by accident (I’ll explain how later), will taper a perfect cone on your ash every time. All you need are two things: a lit cigar and the Ashtray Can.
Before we get started, a little bit about the benefits of a cone-shaped ash…some people – and I’m one of them – argue that a conic ash is another sign of a well-constructed cigar. That cone shows that filler, binder and wrapper are all burning evenly, and highlights the bunching skill that went into constructing the cigar. A second benefit is that a well-formed ash keeps those little pieces from flaking off and flying around, which is especially helpful in keeping your car a little cleaner. And to me, a cone-shaped ash is visually appealing.
When you remove the top of the Can, you’ll notice two wiry objects inside: A circle-shaped loop and a funnel-shaped coil. The loop is used for holding your cigar in an upright position while you’re driving. It also keeps your cigar from bouncing around when you encounter the odd pothole. The coil is the perfect shape for creating a cone out of your ash. Once you get to the point of your cigar where it’s either lose the ash or burn your pants, rather than tapping the ash into the center of the Can, simply twist the ash inside the coil, and VOILA! you have a perfectly-shaped cone. Plus, since the ash is now more uniform, you won’t have little bits of it flying around the car.
Now, for how I wound up discovering this hack: when I first started using the Xikar Ashtray Can it seemed obvious to me that the coil was for tapering a cigar ash. Several months later, I ran into Xikar, Inc. president, Kurt Van Keppel, and complimented him on this feature. I thought it was one of the greatest cigar smoking tips of all time; he responded with a laugh.
“What’s so funny?” I asked. That’s when he told me that the coil was originally designed for snuffing-out cigarettes. So, there you have it.
Cigar Hack #2: Here’s a New Way to Unplug a Cigar
No doubt you’ve run across a cigar that’s plugged: you cut the cap, try to take a cold draw, and you can’t get any air to pass through it. Your first inclination is probably to reach for a drawpoker; actually, that’s not true – you probably swear a little (maybe a lot) first, then reach for a drawpoker (or maybe a bamboo skewer) to try to break up that plug. It’s pretty much the only way to salvage that cigar; but how many times have you run a poker through it, only to crack the wrapper, because the cigar is packed so tight? Or worse – you poke right through the side of the cigar, and make it completely unsmokeable? Try this hack – it’s one of those cigar smoking tips that might just better your odds when it comes to smoking that plugged cigar.
First – get your hands on a very small diameter aluminum tube. Try a hobby store, as the big box tool places probably won’t have these. I found a pack of 4 at a craft place for under $3.50. Next, find a pencil sharpener. You probably have one sitting in your kitchen junk drawer, waiting to sharpen pencils that you don’t own. Thankfully, you didn’t throw it away – because you’re going to insert one of the tubes into the pencil sharpener, and start turning. The idea is to shave one end of the tube down to a blade; imagine if you had a razor blade, but it was circular. Aluminum is easy to sharpen, so go slow – you’re only trying to bring it to a tapered, hollow point. Lightly sand it with a super fine grit sandpaper if you feel any burrs.
With your new-and-improved poker in hand, slowly turn it into the filler of the cigar. I start at the foot, in case the wrapper cracks (which it still might do). The idea here is that the blade will cut – rather than separate – the tobacco in the cigar, and create a hollow through the middle of the cigar for air to pass. Go slow, as the wrapper will only take so much stretching. But if you can make it all the way through to the head, you’ll have basically cored the cigar and the draw will loosen significantly. Slowly remove the tube, purge the tobacco dust out through the foot, and you’re ready to smoke.
Now, I’m sure someone somewhere has already invented or is selling cigar accessories like these – but for under 4 bucks, it’s worth a shot to try on your own, and may just save that ten dollar stick you didn’t think you could smoke.
Cigar Hack #3: I Bet You Never Knew This Can Help Sharpen Your Cutter
We’ve all had cutters that dulled out on us. From the cheapo freebie to the high end bank buster, every cutter will at one point dull out and start uselessly mashing your cigars like a hydraulic press mushing a jar of Play-Doh. But nobody said you have to throw them away! Instead, there are certain ways you can sharpen your favorite or go-to cutters you may not have known about, and I bet you would never guess one of the ways is to use tin foil.
Yes, tin foil is rumored to help bring any cutter back to life by simply rolling it into a loose cigar shape and cutting it. And while it may sound a little kooky, there’s some proof in the pudding. Instead of actually sharpening your blades (which takes off layers of metal to reveal a new, sharp surface), this method deburrs your cutter – which means it smooths out the ridges and any imperfections on your blades, allowing them to function together more easily. The process is simple enough: just roll some tin foil into a cigar like tube, and with just a few snips, you’ll be able to deburr your cutter with ease. So while you’re not actually sharpening your blades, you are ultimately making the cut smoother by removing imperfections.
But for those of you who are unwilling to try this out on an expensive cutter, you may want to travel down a more traditional avenue. The best method is to simply disassemble your cigar cutter if you can, remove the blades, and sharpen them to the proper angle with a rounded sharpener; you can pick one up at any home improvement store. Once you get your desired sharpness, just reassemble and you’re good to go.
The final method that many people never think of is to just wash your cutter in warm water. Every time we cut through a cigar, a thin layer of gummy residue is left behind by the tobacco’s natural oils which can affect the sharpness of your blade, and may even transfer over to the tracks of your cutter, making it feel difficult to open and close. To remedy this, place your cutter in a small bowl of warm water and let it soak for a little while before carefully rubbing down the blades with a washcloth to remove this gum. Once you’re done and it’s completely dried out, give it a spin on your next cigar and you should notice a difference.
Cigar Hack #4: How to Cut a Torpedo Cigar With Only a Punch Cutter…
If you’re an avid cigar smoker, this has likely happened to you: you break out a Torpedo or Belicoso, and realize that the only cigar cutter available is a punch. Maybe you forgot your regular guillotine, maybe a friend gifted you the cigar and you didn’t want to wait to smoke it. Well, you can’t punch the pointed tip of the cigar – and for God’s sake, don’t use your teeth because you’ll annihilate that stick. So here’s one of the seldom-used cigar smoking tips I rely on in this situation, and ONLY if I’m in this situation…
Like a lot of guys, I keep a punch cutter on my keyring. Often times it’s the only cutter I have on me, so when handed a torpedo I have to get all MacGyver and make the best use of what’s in my possession. So I simply use the punch on the “side” of my cigar, (about a half inch below the tip) giving a little extra twist back and forth to create a hole – then remove the plug. Then, I flip the cigar around and do the same on the other side.
As you can see in the last pic, the smoke will draw cleanly from your fine stogie and you will have solved a possible 4-alarm crisis. And to repeat, I ONLY use this last ditch effort when I’m in a pinch – I generally employ a double guillotine for this kind of job. Trust me guys, it works, and it works well… problem solved.
~ Tommy Zman