If you ask ten different cigar smokers how to cut a cigar, you may get ten different answers. Why is that? Well, we are going to take all the guesswork out of cutting cigars. Our tobacconist, Chris Gwaltney, recently discussed the different variations of cigar cutters and the “right way” to properly use all of them. Here is a summary of what he said:
What to Cut
The purpose of cutting a cigar is to remove enough of the cap to allow you to draw air through the cigar and allow proper combustion. The good news is that cutting a cigar is not like brain surgery, but you should identify the parts of your cigar before getting started. There is the top part of the cigar, which is the cap, or sometimes referred to as the head. Next, you have the shoulder, which is the rounded part that leads to the body of the cigar. At the bottom, you have the feet.
Your goal when cutting a cigar is to take off the very tip, its cap. You don’t want to cut too much off or you might cut into the shoulder and risk the cigar unravelling. If that happens, the cigar will start to come apart and leave you with an unpleasant grit in your teeth. On the flip side, if you do not cut off enough of the cap, you will not get a good enough draw, leaving you feeling like you’re sucking on a thin straw in a double thick milkshake.
What You'll Need
It goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: the first thing you'll need to cut a cigar is a cutter. However, there are ways to sever your cigar without a cutter if you don’t have one. Sometimes, cigar makers will just peel the top of the cigar. We’ve even seen people get creative using pocketknives. Simply put, a cigar cutter is the preferred method. It is much easier to get a clean, uniform cut each time. But what cutter should you buy? There are various types of cigar cutters that vary in price and style. The three most common are the guillotine, v-cutter and bullet cutter, sometimes referred to as a punch cutter.
The most common and probably most iconic is the guillotine cutter. It looks, well, like a guillotine. Instead of “off with your head” during the French Revolution, it’s off with the head, or cap, of your cigar. It is either a single blade, or two blades. You put the cigar inside the cutter, snap it closed and it sheers off the top of the cigar.
Another option is the v-cutter. This is the easiest way to cut a cigar if you are nervous about messing up or taking too much off. It is just going to take a cat-eye shape notch out of the top of the cigar. The downside is, some cigar smokers don’t like the draw. In larger ring gauges, you may not get enough draw, so sometimes you can do two v-cuts to make it look like a cross. However, the perk of the v-cut is you have less opportunity to damage the cigar.
Bullet (or Punch) Cutter
The third method people seem to love is called a bullet or punch cutter. It is a circular razor blade that you insert into the cap and remove a plug of tobacco from the cigar. However, if you do not know what you are doing, you can really damage the cigar. What most people do is put too much pressure on the cigar and they damage the head of the cigar. Another problem is some will try to use this method with a dull blade and jam it into the cigar, damaging the tobacco. The sharper the blade, the better your chances of not damaging the cigar. If you are going to this cutter, ensure it’s really sharp and you use a twisting motion as you cut.
The Perfect Cut
If you are nervous about cutting a cigar for the first time, try laying a guillotine cutter flat on a table. Insert the cigar into the guillotine until the tip touches the table and cut. This way you are assured you are not taking off too much off the top and cutting into the shoulder.
Slow or Fast?
One question we get a lot is, “Should you cut quickly, or should you take your time?”
When you go to cut a cigar and you have checked everything is lined up correctly, it is generally best to cut it quickly. If you snip the cigar with a guillotine or v-cutter particularly, the cutting motion must be swift and quick. With a punch, you can slow it down a little so you’re not applying too much pressure; the blade should be doing all the work.
How Much Should I Spend on a Cutter?
Can you get a great quality cutter for under $10? Absolutely. Can you get a super high-quality cutter for $150-$200? Again, absolutely. Prices and preferences vary. The main quality of higher-end cutters is the type of steel they use. So, the best answer is that it depends on your lifestyle and preference. Do you tend to lose things? If so, buy a $10 cutter so you aren’t upset when it gets misplaced. If you have the budget and want a high-quality cutter that stands up over time, you can invest in one. Just keep in mind you need to send it back to the manufacturer every couple of months to sharpen the blade. Either way, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a cutter that will get the job done.
Now it’s time to practice. Practice makes perfect!
Find the right cutter for you here at TheHumidor.com. We ship nationwide, so you can get one (or one of each type) delivered to your front door.