Today I not only completed my 100 hours of in field work as one of the prerequisites to earning my Master Tobacconist Certification from Tobacconist University, but I also had the wonderful opportunity to apply what I learned yesterday by applying wrapper tobacco to unfinished cigars. As predicted, I was in the back of this expansive rolling room, a place they simply call Production.
I have to profess. Watching the staff perform this task appeared as easy as watching all the other tasks I’ve witnessed. And just as before it turned out to be challenging. And what a challenge it was!
After being provided the necessary tools (chaveta [cutting tool], small metal rolling pin, scissors, small cap cutter, water, glue, and tobacco) we went back over everything I had learned yesterday. This turned out to be a good decision as there was one primary technique I didn’t catch. More on that in a moment.
After the unwrapped cigars have completed their time in the press the buncher passes them onto the person applying the wrapper. And from here the unwrapped cigars receive their blemish free wrapper. After which they are reviewed by any number of floor supervisors who validate the work before the cigars are moved into quality control.
Just as with the bunchers the person applying the wrapper has their station set up with wrapper tobacco on the left all the while keeping them moist. The person applying the wrapper prepares their work area first by removing a wrapper leaf from its cozy and moist staging area and spreads it out on the work surface.
After which the wrapper is cut using a chaveta to the correct size needed for the specific cigar being completed.
Then the unwrapped cigar is rolled around the wrapper leaf. This is done by stretching the wrapper taut as the cigar is wrapped.
Once the cigar is nearly fully wrapped, attention turns to completing the head of the cigar. This is done by wrapping the wrapper around the head of the cigar one time nearest to the shoulder. No one told me why this is done and the only reason I can discern is that this technique holds the tension in the wrapper, so it doesn’t unravel.
The final task to complete is to cut out a cap and place it on the head of the cigar.
Now what I’ve just described is the finishing of a round vitola. Salamones, figurados, torpedos, belicosos, and even pig tail headed cigars have the heads of their cigars finished much differently than what I’ve just described.
Now believe me when I say this was a challenge. I spent eight hours applying wrapper to unfinished cigars and I only completed about 35 cigars. Of course, the floor supervisor that worked with me throughout the day had me redo about half of my cigars. The one primary reason for my rejects and redos was because I just couldn’t get the hang of wrapping the leaf close to the head of the cigar. Nearly every time I had performed this task, I had done it too low on the cigar. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t accomplish this task effortlessly. Add to that the wrapper I was working with was much thinner than wet rice paper and extremely elastic and with each attempt at wrapping the leaf near the head I inevitably tore the leaf and had to begin again. Now this did become a mental challenge and near the end of the day I began mutter English expletives so those around me wouldn’t exactly know what I was saying. They were, however, smart enough to determine it was because I had made yet another mistake.
May your cigar’s ash never fall!