Day Eleven – Some Assembly Required

My luck today seems limitless.  Tonight, after finalizing plans for a delivery of a new phone to Estelí I was able to resurrect the paperweight I created last week.  Whew! 

As I stated, today I was lucky and that luck found me in the rolling room, a room they simply call the Production Area.  Now don’t get all excited.  Today was all about learning.  Tomorrow, I hope I will be in the back of the room rolling!

For today’s post I’m going to focus on some of the little details I learned about bunching.  Now this isn’t my first visit to a cigar factory and still I learned quite a lot from my lessons today.  Let’s get started!

A cigar is a collection of tobacco leaves which are first bunched together, which are then held together with a binder leaf and then wrapped.  Seems simple enough.  However, I was surprised by the level of detail it takes to create the unwrapped cigar. 

The buncher, that’s the name given to the person completing this task in English, begins by folding (or rolling in on itself) a single tobacco leaf to create a cradle to hold the remaining filler leaves.

From here the buncher will add the required tobacco according to the recipe (or parts list if you’re in the manufacturing sector) all the while rolling each individual leaf before placing it into the cradle they have created.  

This continues until they have filled the cradle with all of the required leaves in the correct quantities.

Once that part is completed the buncher nestles the cradle into the Liberman Machine (just think of it as a big RYO machine).  After which they lay the binder into the machine before cranking the machine’s handle forward which produces the unwrapped cigar.

As each unwrapped cigar is completed it is added to a mold which, when pressure is applied, shapes the unwrapped cigar.

Now, that all seems simple enough.  Let me share with you some of the details I learned.

  • First, the tobacco being bunched all faces the same direction; each leaf’s tip points in the same direction.  
  • After watching nearly a hundred rollers today I will tell you that every one of them had the tip of each leaf on their left-hand side.
  • The binder leaf, regardless of “face up or face down” is always placed so that the leaf’s tip is on the left and the vein is facing towards the buncher.
  • Depending on the length of the cigar being made the buncher may need to remove excess tobacco on either end of the cigar which they then add back to their tobacco cradle, again ensuring that all the tobacco is facing the same direction.
  • The buncher also ensure that all the veins in the bunch line up so that when rolled they all are in the center of the cigar.
  • Depending on the thickness, or desired ring gage, of the cigar the buncher may need to add additional amounts of tobacco throughout the tobacco cradle they created.  This is done to insure an even distribution of tobacco throughout the cigar.  And what amazed me with this technique is that the added tobacco maintains the integrity of the recipe. 
  • The most experienced rollers are awarded a seat at the head of the room while others with less experience sit behind them.  As I have zero experience, I will be sitting in the back of the room tomorrow and it will be AWESOME!
  • After a collection of molds have been filled the buncher will place the molds into a press where the cigars will stay, on average, for an hour-and-a-half.  
  • At the halfway point, at around 45 minutes, the buncher will release the molds from the press, open each mold, and rotates each cigar one quarter turn.  After which the buncher places the molds back into the press for their remaining time.

Only seven-and-a-half more hours until I reach 100 hours!  Tomorrow is going to be a blast!

Until tomorrow… Long Ashes!