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The Jarmidor: Parts one and Two

By GhostOfTiber in Culture
Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 11:48:06 AM EST
Tags: Jarmidor, DIY, Pipes, Smoking (all tags)

The Jarmidor at one week is working well. For those not in the know, the jarmidor is a project to keep small amounts of high quality tobacco for enough time to please the casual smoker. The project is supposed to be cheap, and work with a minimum of fuss, instrumentation, or maintenance. I wish I had a hygrometer, but the smaller ones which are accurate (read: digital) are expensive ($25+), while you can find big ones for $7 - but you can't calibrate them or fit them into the jar. I've resigned to "do it by feel".

Since I have a fair bit of pipe smoke (cheap - 4oz costs $10 most places, which is a lot of tobacco) I decided it would be my guinea pig.

HOWTO make one below the fold, and observations at one week. If the format is pissing you off, complain to Rusty for image tags. If you want to read the original, click the link at the top which includes pictures.

I like cigars, and I like pipe tobacco, but I can't see myself making it more than a once a week or possibly even more infrequent hobby. However, it's a waste for me to buy two ounces of pipe tobacco or a few cigars and let them sit in the fridge. I wanted a humidor, but I didn't quite want a huge box. The bigger the box, the harder the element has to work to keep things moist. So I knew I wanted a closed system in smaller but reliable format. I also am cheap.

What do you need to build a humidor? Some kind of containment for humidity, something to humidify, and some tobacco. Otherwise it's just a box of wet air. In our case we're going to use a sponge, a salt shaker, a flip top jar and the only thing we can't source from household goods - polyethylene glycol ("PG"). Buy the last one from a cigar shop. Total cost for one jarmidor should be about $10 total, not including the PG.

Take your salt shaker and take the label off. The salt shaker should be glass and barrel shaped. Too narrow an opening really defeats the purpose. Lay it on top of the sponge and get a general idea of the size you want to deal with. If you're feeling ballsy you can freehand cut the sponge, but I prefer to work from templates. In my case, the template is the lid. Lay the lid on top of the sponge, and this gives you a good width to cut. Cut yourself a brick of sponge that fills the shaker without needing to be forced in. It also should come up to the top of the shaker and the general idea is that a sponge is a wick. It's going to wick water out of suspension with the PG, and it's going to wick water out of the air before it condenses in your tobacco.

The next step is to clean the sponges you've cut. Mine were rank with plastic smell. I can't describe it beyond the idea that it was something in the sponges themselves which stank after I cut them. Since I bought sponges without soap in them, I was at a loss to what this was. Point being, how the sponges smell is how the humidor is going to smell. If your sponges are disgusting, your humidor is going to be disgusting. If your sponges don't smell, well, that's a bonus for you since your humidor is going to be odorless. Cigarfags will notice that this doesn't include cedar. The Spanish cedar is different from the American cedar in the sense that it is not aromatic. Spanish cedar is like spongy wood. It's one more layer of protection against condensation. But since we're using PG and not distilled water in a cup, we don't have to worry about it either.

Finally, the jar. Pick a jar attractive to you but can also seal. I use generic jars with a flip top lid suitable for storing spices in or pasta or whatever have you. Since they're designed to keep moisture out, they also keep moisture in, which is what we want. Some people argue for "conditioning" their humidor by putting the element in there for three weeks. This is fine, but we are using glass and not cedar. Also these kind of jars will hold a good amount of tobacco products, but they also are about 1/4th the size of a "standard" (50 stick) humidor. As such you're only worried about the air in the humidor and these should hit their stride in about three days. Remember, there's no real hard and fast rule here. You can buy a hygrometer for measuring the relative humidity but in a completely sealed environment mostly occupied by tobacco, it should be pretty close anyway. Or, think of it this way, the idea is that if the tobacco is already close to 70% RH, the humidification element shouldn't need to do a whole lot to catch up. The easiest way to test this was a build one and put some cheaper (pipe) tobacco in there and try it after a week. If you let tobacco sit out a week, it's going to be paper dry and burn fiercely. If you humidify it, it should smolder properly, or so the theory goes...

The edges of it got a bit dry, but I chalk this up to stabilization of the jar rather than any mysterious force. Pipe tobacco is notoriously "wet", so I expected the edges to dry out a bit to go down to 70% RH. For all intents and purposes, a jar of this size with this much poly glycol should be stable within three days. Since the pipe stuff seems like it's there - just a touch sticky - it's OK. The cigars needed to go the opposite direction since they had been in the fridge. They needed to come up to the right humidity. You know it's the right humidity in there when the cigars are springy without being brittle. Since I have a hand-rolled one (I haven't tried yet), this was my barometer cigar, and he's fine.

The only way to find out though, is to smoke it.

I have a churchwarden made from meerschaum which I use as a tasting pipe since the meerschaum won't absorb the tobacco oil like briar pipes do. While I could thoroughly clean the briars by soaking them in alcohol and rubbing them in salt, if you use a clay pipe the smoke is a bit hotter but the flavor doesn't absorb.

So what are we looking for anyway? The tobacco has to have enough humidity that you get lemon-water in the bowl. This is where briars get "smoked in" - the combination of ash and water dropped from the cooking tobacco works it's way into the body of the pipe through absorption. You let a pipe "rest" between smokes and especially before cleaning so it has a chance to do this. After the pipe cools it won't absorb much more so you clean it then.

The second requirement is that it tastes good. Why risk jaw cancer if it doesn't taste good? Pipe smoke is a lot like the hookah smoke where if you don't overdo it (looking at cigarette smokers) you're not in a risk group. If you're like me and you smoke once a weekend, you're definitely not in the risk group. Or look at it this way - you're in the same risk group as alcohol consumption. But back to the topic of taste, I have some golden cavendish (think of this as unflavored - or cigar flavor), and some Afternoon Delight (house blend). There's blends and there's casings. Casings are things like fruit rollups that fell on the floor. They're not tobacco but rather flavor it. Generally if it's "aromatic", it's got casings, but if it's nonaromatic, it's simply blends of tobacco. This isn't a hard and fast rule. Do keep in mind that tobacco with casing tends to be "wet" (over 70% RH) while tobacco without casings tends to be dry (under 70% RH).

The test here was to take the Afternoon Delight, pack a reasonable bowl, and see how it was after a week in the jarmidor. If I had let it sit out, it would have been dry and terrible. On the other hand, if it gets much above 70% RH, you can't taste anything because it's soup. This was one of the problems I had when I got it, and I had no idea why it sucked. My process to pack a pipe is to fill the bowl with tobacco and smash it down. Repeat two or three times until the draw is constricted but not impossible. Try to keep it uniform. Then sprinkle a bit on top and don't pack it down as much, which gives you something to light. Hold a lighter over the whole thing and puff until you have an even burn. Tada, you win at pipe lighting.

To taste the stuff, try waiting until combustion and condensation leave some juice in the bowl (like a hookah), or you can draw very slowly. The tip of your tongue generally only gets "hot" flavors, but the middle of your tongue is where the actual tasting goes on. As such, unlike a cigar, try moving the end of the stem to the middle of your tongue and then drawing. Notice that drawing isn't inhaling, inhaling is a quick trip to vomittown on the puke express. Also lung cancer. In my case when I did the middle-of-the-tongue trick, I got brown sugar, molasses, and ginger bread. Good stuff.

I would say the jarmidor is working great.


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Related Links
o The Jarmidor
o churchward en
o meerschaum
o risk group
o Afternoon Delight
o Also by GhostOfTiber

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The Jarmidor: Parts one and Two | 35 comments (23 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1 FP Not About Guns (2.00 / 3) (#10)
by Wen Jian on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 06:36:36 AM EST

I may try this myself - I also don't smoke more than once a week and though my tobacco tin does a reasonable job of keeping things moist as I left the plastic wrap in, my tobacco is noticably drying which of course makes for a less pleasant smoke. I'm currently on 'American's Delight', lol.

The thing is, I usually smoke on the hoof rather than while reclining in an easy chair, or more likely, barefoot and dungarees-clad on the verandah/jetty while watching for movement around my gator/squirrel/snake trap. That being the case, I wonder if a convenient man-portable version could be achieved in a tin-sized container. How could I effect a Polyethelene Glycol container that allows air and moisture to circulate in and out, without allowing the PG to leak out? How about placing the PG in a coffee-filter-paper pouch before placing it in the salt-shaker (or whatever I use)?
It was an experiment in lulz. - Rusty

Just make a jarmidor (none / 1) (#11)
by GhostOfTiber on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 07:32:12 AM EST

and take a small portion with you. Travel humidors on the other hand are just small boxes which are made from spanish cedar. If you feel like you won't be content just bringing a portion with you on your travels, build a travel humidor.

If you're not happy with a bag, you're a fine candidate for the spanish cedar. The cedar absorbs the moisture, so what you would do is build or find a small travel humidor, leave distilled water in a dish in there uncovered until it stops evaporating (three weeks, wood isn't nearly as permeable), and then you have a properly seasoned humidor.

Note that this will be 100% relative humidity, not 70%, but since you're not going to have any type of moisturizer in there, this is OK since you can only expect it to go down. I realize I'm asking you to work on something three weeks you're just going to lug around for a walk.

The alternative is "humidor rocks", which are basically pieces of silica gel which are completely saturated with PG+Water. These are, however, expensive, or small, but they don't leak. You add the PG solution to them, the rocks soak it up, then you can either put the rocks in something else or leave them in the jar. Here's a nicer example of this, but this doesn't come with PG solution, nor does it come in a humidor.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Is that the stuff flower arrangers use? (2.00 / 3) (#12)
by Wen Jian on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 07:59:10 AM EST

It was an experiment in lulz. - Rusty
[ Parent ]
Good eyes (none / 1) (#13)
by GhostOfTiber on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 08:20:57 AM EST

The rocks aren't, those are some kind of silica beads which absorb moisture. You can even buy a "water pillow" for your cigars (which can be cut down) which are those silica packets already hydrated.

The gel is the stuff you can find in a flower shop. It's the same stuff they put in pipettes for individual roses or whatever.

The foam blocks (called "oasis foam" at your florist) is also what a lot of DIY humidors use in their setups. The oasis foam comes in both "dry" and "wet" varieties, so make sure you get the wet one if you want to use it. Unlike a regular sponge, however, the oasis foam has a bias and the humidity is only released on the side with holes. Make sure the side with holes is facing UP if you're going to use it.

But again, we're working on such a small scale with a jarmidor here that I didn't feel a need to invest in high end foam. There simply isn't enough volume in the jar to really warrant a ton of money.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

The gentrification of K5 begins....... (2.40 / 10) (#14)
by Hiphopopotamus on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 08:50:48 AM EST

Time to put up 7 Starbucks and get the Volvo's out of the garage!!!!

I'm In LOVE!

+1FP, geeky (1.50 / 2) (#15)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 09:35:47 AM EST

Not enough scotch, however

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
next paycheck (none / 1) (#17)
by GhostOfTiber on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 10:37:25 AM EST

I spent all my money on really well priced assault weapons.

Not kidding.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Wow (1.50 / 2) (#18)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 11:32:15 AM EST

I wasn't aware PA had any significant issues with prairie dogs...

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
[ Parent ]
African Pavement Dwelling Apes (none / 1) (#20)
by GhostOfTiber on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 12:35:22 PM EST

they've moved into our cities and are starting to pour into the suburbs.

Maybe not prairie dogs, but we do have groundhogs. A lot of them. I've eaten one. It's not that great.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

by GhostOfTiber on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 12:10:02 PM EST

Because this is timely, it's a comment. Pet Smart has hygrometers on sale at the moment for $5 (normally $9). They're the dial ones, you can find them in the reptile aisle.

The caveat: Most cigar sites say the dial ones are hopelessly inaccurate. What I did was pull all of them off the shelf and lined them up. The ones which were assembled badly or dropped in shipping or whatever quickly stood out. Since most hygrometers are only accurate to 2% anyway, I just picked one from the mean reading and bought it. Not only is this cheaper than most cigar shops, but with a stock of 10+ to choose from, I know I got one reading pretty close to correct.

The manager was wondering WTF I was doing. I told him I TAUGHT CATS TO SMOKE and ran from the store.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne

ATTN: CRICKET CRAWFORD: (1.50 / 2) (#33)
by Wen Jian on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 03:38:33 PM EST

DO you smoke?
It was an experiment in lulz. - Rusty
[ Parent ]
+1 FP (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by khallow on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 03:09:40 PM EST

Promotes gentrification of K5.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

You should smoke more terbacky (none / 1) (#23)
by Nimey on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 08:15:05 PM EST

so you can die from lung cancer already.
Never mind, it was just the dog cumming -- jandev
You Sir, are an Ignorant Motherfucker. -- Crawford
I am arguably too manic to do that. -- Crawford
I already fuck my mother -- trane
Nimey is right -- Blastard
i am in complete agreement with Nimey -- i am a pretty big deal

DON'T INHALE. (none / 1) (#31)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 08:03:49 AM EST

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

From jaw cancer, then. $ (2.00 / 2) (#32)
by Nimey on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 08:09:14 AM EST

Never mind, it was just the dog cumming -- jandev
You Sir, are an Ignorant Motherfucker. -- Crawford
I am arguably too manic to do that. -- Crawford
I already fuck my mother -- trane
Nimey is right -- Blastard
i am in complete agreement with Nimey -- i am a pretty big deal

[ Parent ]
When I grow shrooms (3.00 / 3) (#24)
by the77x42 on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 09:45:10 PM EST

I use perlite (soaked with water) to keep the humidity high. I'm sure you can use that in your salt shakers and adjust the humidity by taping over holes. I think a 10kg bag of perlite is about $8 at the plant store.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Ideal gas law? (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 08:02:27 AM EST

Please enjoy this article on vapor pressure and saturation of water:

In an open environment, yes, you could simply adjust the rate by which water is diffused. Since I'm working in a fully closed environment, I have to regulate the potential saturation of water chemically or thermally. Since I don't want to try smoking frozen tobacco, that leaves chemically, and that's where the PG comes into play.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Nicotine (2.00 / 2) (#25)
by Brogdel on Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 10:36:42 PM EST

makes my stomach hurt.

I don't care. (2.75 / 4) (#28)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:51:27 AM EST

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Hay Tiber (none / 1) (#26)
by QuantumFoam on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 03:44:18 AM EST

Does the tax increase on roll-your-own tobacco apply to pipe tobacco as well?

- Barack Obama: Because it will work this time. Honest!

Yes (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:51:03 AM EST

Tobacco all around is being sin-taxed.

However, if you live basically anywhere in the US, you can grow your own. That's another article coming out in winter.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

ilike bugler rollyourown (none / 1) (#34)
by Ron Paul on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 05:50:11 PM EST

do you hit your pipe like a bowl?

This [Ron Paul] Diary! has brought Kuro5hin back to life! HUZZAH

Uhm, no. (none / 1) (#35)
by GhostOfTiber on Thu Mar 19, 2009 at 07:33:41 AM EST

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

The Jarmidor: Parts one and Two | 35 comments (23 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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