|It begins, March 2012.. plywood purchased and cut|
|Angled screw holes, ready for joining|
|We made 8 of these in total, about 4x4 feet square (just one corner showing here)|
|Gluing two 4x4 frames together, extra support for the back wall of the cabinet|
|Routering out the grooves for the cross-braces (will make more sense in next photo)|
|Big picture view, all 8 4x4' frames have been clamped tightly together while being routered|
First, the design. I've got a lot of tea, far more than I'll ever consume in a single lifetime no doubt (common scourge of tea lovers, I hear), so the cabinet dimensions needed to be big. Roughly, it's about 4 feet high, 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Another factor in determining the dimensions was the available space in the small overheated room where the cabinet would be placed. Next, we (my husband and I) needed to figure out how to construct the thing. Thus began my evening hobby of reading cigar blogs and forums and making friends with cigar folks discussing the important considerations when constructing cigar humidors. So many options! Should I use an already-constructed cabinet and retrofit it? Should I buy an enormous cooler (like some enterprising DIY cigar aficionados do) for the great insulating capabilities and add a good humidifier/fan unit? Maybe find an old non-working refrigerator, add some humidity and an incandescent light bulb and call it good? I could fill numerous blog posts about all the many options I pondered, but considering this one's going to be a doozey as it is, I'll just stick to what I decided upon and do my best to explain why.
|Wood frame portion nearing completion|
I can hear the cries as I write this -- "HDPE plastic?!? wtf??" Well, I'll tell you. Keep in mind this is all one big experiment, and this is simply what seemed to me the best possible solution to the matter of potential infiltration of non-tea odors into the teas, thus altering the classic puerh taste and aromas. If I change my mind on this (and I may.. we'll see), I'll let you know. Cigar humidors are traditionally lined with Spanish cedar which is an aromatic wood that imparts a desirable light woody flavor to the cigars as well as keeping bugs away. But I don't want my teas to be infused with cedar aromas, no matter how much I like the smell of cedar. Some will argue that there are other wood species available which do not have a strong woody aroma. While it's true that some woods are less aromatic than others, my feeling is that all wood has some degree of smell to it. Put that wood into a warm, moist environment and even the least aromatic of woods is going to give off a certain aroma. The advantage of HDPE food-grade plastic is that it has no detectable aroma. None. Zip. Zilch. It's also extremely dense, slick and ultimately non-porous, which means that nothing sticks to it -- not mold, not mildew, not even any glue or sealant known to mankind (more on this challenging bit below).
|ahhh, there is it! Ready for insulation and HDPE|
Working with the HDPE was tricky. Like I mentioned above, NOTHING sticks to this stuff, so while it would have been super easy to just glue it down to the insulated wood frame (Plan A), we had to improvise (Plan B). You can see in the photos that the plastic is secured by metal screws. Specifically, stainless steel screws with a dab of aquarium-grade silicone sealant in each screw hole. I said that nothing would stick to HDPE, and while that's true, it's also true that stuff (like silicone sealant) will stick to it AS LONG AS the piece stays perfectly still. If you put silicone between two sheets of HDPE, let it dry and then moved the two pieces of HDPE even just a little bit, the sealant would pop right off, but it sticks as long as there's no movement. Hopefully, given the stability of the cabinet (believe me, it's a monster of stability) and the fact that I don't plan to move it once it's in place (barring any unforeseen circumstances), I think the silicone will hold for the purpose we need it for -- to seal the inner chamber holding the teas.
|Rigid insulation cut and ready to install|
|Insulation along back wall in place|
|Placing insulation in side walls|
A note about circulation. This is one of the beauties of this particular humidifier unit. When the unit turns itself on to maintain the humidity level (which you pre-set to whatever you'd like on the main contol) a little fan atop of each unit turns on to direct the flow of air upward (why you don't want to place any tea directly above the units). Then, along the top back corner of the cabinet two additional fans (a bit smaller than the ones on the humidifier units) turn on at the same time (as well as intermittently at other times) to direct the air flow along the top of the cabinet and down the front, in a big circulatory effect. The fans don't operate constantly. They turn on only when the humidifier units turn on, and then intermittently between. The flow of air is very slight, but still discernible if you stick your hand inside the cabinet while they're running.
|Screwing down the back wall of HDPE|
|Cutting and placing side walls|
|Lower right humidifier unit, aluminum angle iron along corner seams|
|View of small fans along top back of cabinet, control unit in upper right|
|Completed unit, sans doors...|
|Yes, it really does get this hot in that room, even hotter|
|7 months later -- tea home!|