Instead of constantly telling folks how to build the cheapest/most effective humidor in dozens of threads, I figured I'd do a writeup for The Humidor so folks can get a step in the right direction.
1. A cooler, preferably one with a good seal.
2. Humidification device. I prefer Heartfelt 65% beads from www.heartfeltindustries.com
. You'll also want a sock to hold your beads.
3. Empty cigar boxes. These boxes should be from unflavored cigars and can be found, usually for free, from your local cigar shop.
4. A hydrometer
Varies, but this project can be completed for less than $150 with ease.
STEP ONE: The Cooler
The model I have here is a Coleman Xtreme Cooler, 100qt. AmyElizabeth purchased it for me from wal-mart for around $70.
In reality, any cooler will work, but the thicker the insulation and the better the seal leads to better temp/humidity control for your cigars.
So, you've got a cooler...now what?
^Make sure the cooler's drain is closed tightly.
Clean it out with soap and water and let it dry thoroughly. Even if it's brand new, give it a quick wash.
There, you're done monkeying with the cooler itself, wasn't that easy?
STEP TWO: Cigar Boxes
Go to your local cigar shop, buy a cigar or two, then ask politely if they have any spare cigar boxes you could have to keep your cigars in. I've yet to be turned down. If your cigar store says no, ask your cigar smoking buddies, craigslist...wherever. You should never ever have to pay for cigar boxes or spanish cedar planks.
The reason you're using cigar boxes is because spanish cedar acts as a humidity medium for your cigars. Not only will the boxes allow you to store your single cigars in, but the material they're made of will soak up humidity, thus regulating the humidity from your humidifying source more evenly throughout the humidor.
Simply place your cigars in whichever boxes fit them, then place inside your humidor.
^View of my coolerdor. Note the completely random boxes. Free's free right?
^Example of a great coolerdor cigar box. See all that cedar...that's what you want.
^You can also use a ziplock bag to hold your cigars in, tupperware, whatever SO LONG AS you have some cedar boxes in your coolerdor. Here, you can see a ziplock with random cigars in it. If you use a ziplock/tupperware/whatnot, simply make sure it's open a little bit so humidity can enter/leave. A sealed bag will make its own environment which could be bad for your cigars.
STEP THREE: The humidification device
Let me start this by prefacing: I love Heartfelt beads. Having used 3 different humidification systems (sponges, gels and one active system) I can emphatically say that there is no better method for controlling a humidor's humidity than using HeartFelt beads. That being said, if you have a different system that works for you, USE IT.
A Note On Humidity/Temps: The ideal temperature/humidity numbers are 65DegF and 65%RH. If your numbers go a bit higher or lower on either of these, don't stress. If your temperature gets over 70deg and your humidity is at 65% or higher, you may run into cigar beetle or mold issues. If you follow the steps in this writeup, you likely will never have to face these issues.
^These are Heartfelt 65% Beads which have been placed inside one of the bead socks they sell. Total cost for 1/2 pound (which will modulate the 100qt cooler perfectly) was right at $30 shipped.
Once your beads arrive, place them in the sock and tie the sock closed tightly.
^Using distilled water, wet 65% of the beads. There is a huge fudge factor in this technique: I always tend to wet 90+% of my beads and have yet to have an issue with over-humidification
^As you can see, I used very little water. Don't overdo it, but when you do (and I mean when, not if), don't stress. Just shake off the excess water, and put the sock in your humi.
^Now place the sock in your humidor. If you're using the cooler, just place it on the bottom of the cooler.
From time to time, your beads will dry out. I usually check my RH once a month and if it's dipped below 65%, I'll refill my beads. Just keep a random eye on the RH and if it's more than 2pts below 65% (with 65% beads) refill your beads with distilled water.
STEP FOUR: The Hydrometer
Though not necessary, a hydrometer will help you determine what the temperature/RH is of your cigar storage device. They are an inexpensive piece of mind for cigar hounds.
^This is a hydrometer I purchased for around $20 from HeartFelt industries. They can be purchased virtually everywhere cigars are sold. Try to get a digital model as analogue ones aren't quite as accurate.
It may become necessary to calibrate your digital hydrometer, and if so, simply go to this link to learn how: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Cigars-2143/2009/5/calibration-digital-hygrometer.htm
After calibration, place your hydrometer somewhere where you can see it when you open your coolerdore and you're set.
There, that's it, you're done. You can now relax knowing that for the price of a 200 count cedar humidor, you now have the capacity to store no fewer than a thousand cigars in perfect temperature and relative humidity.
WHERE TO BUY:
^I heartly recommend the coleman xtreme line. Don't be afraid to get a large size, you'll fill it up...trust me.
Humidification beads: http://heartfeltindustries.com/proddetail.asp?prod=HB_1_65
Link is for one pound of beads, but you can get 1/2 pounds or less.
Humidification Bead Sock (Mesh bag): http://heartfeltindustries.com/proddetail.asp?prod=DB_2&cat=14
This is recommended to hold your beads for ease of refilling when the RH drops.
This is the one I use and the one in the pictures above.
Cigar Boxes: Your local cigar store for free.
Great deals on cigars: www.cigarbid.com
Sorry about showing you this link, it'll cost you $$$ in the future.
I keep hearing the mantra, "You have to keep your humidor's lid closed! If you open it all the time, you'll kill the RH and your cigars!!"
This, frankly is rubbish. If you have a humidor that has a proper humidification device, you can admire your cigars as long as you want. Once you close the lid, the humidification device will simply aspirate more humidity and voila, your cigars are back to good. Cigars are more hearty than people give them credit for.
Case in point:
^Calibrated hydrometer outside. 40% humidity outdoors today in STLMO.
^Dropped to 34% indoors. This photograph was taken right as I placed the hydrometer in the humidor. I then closed the lid.
^3 minutes later, humidity has climbed to 50% inside the coolerdore.
^Not two minutes after the 50% mark and we're back to 60% with 65 following a few minutes afterwards. Now my cigars are back to an environment with proper RH, despite my having the lid open for 25mins or so while taking pictures.