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New humidor blues

Q. I recently received a cigar humidor as a present. I’m not really sure of its quality, and actually tend to believe that it has a bad seal, but it might be that the hygrometer just needs to be calibrated. However, the hygrometer is built into the humidor itself (the face is on the outside of the humidor’s front wall). It’s been reading 56% RH, and I have no idea how to check its calibration because I can’t take it out and place it in a bag with a dish of dampened salt. Do you have any advice?
Also the humidor has a pane of glass in the lid so the inside of the humidor can be viewed. Could this be a problem in maintaining proper humidity in the humidor? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
– Ken in Fitchburg, WI

A. I’m surprised you can’t get the hygrometer out of there, because I remember seeing one removed from a similar model in our cigar store. It could just be stuck from the wood swelling. So, I would give it one more college try for The Gipper, but don’t force it.

That said, let’s assume you set up the humidor by seasoning it properly. If the cigars “feel” supple despite the low RH reading, then it most likely is the calibration of the hygrometer. If they are getting dryer and firmer, then it’s probably more accurate than you think. (However, I’ve rarely seen one of those built-in analog hygrometers that was accurate from the get-go.)

If you can’t remove the unit, then you need something to compare to it. I would purchase a decent digital hygrometer, which you might want to have anyway, b/c it will also give you a temperature readout. Place that in the humidor and compare to the analog. If the digital is closer to 68% – 70% then the analog is wrong and, if it has a set screw, I would adjust it to match the digital . (For even better accuracy, salt test the digital unit first.)

Re the glass top: The only way it will give your cigars problems is if you place the box in direct sun or lamplight. Make sure the box is in a cool and completely shaded spot in your house.

Due to the glass top design, the humidifier is usually placed on the bottom of the box inside a cedar wood frame that’s often placed on one side. Being on the bottom is OK because the warm most air will rise, but it being on one side could affect the cigars closer to it than those farther away. If you can, move it to the middle of the box for more equal distribution of moist air.

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