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How To Cut a Cigar – Cutting a Cigar 101

When you purchase a good cigar, you’ll notice how the foot of the cigar (the part you light) is open, exposing the tobacco, but the head (the part you put in your mouth) is not. Instead, the head is sealed with a small, round, piece of wrapper leaf called a cap. The purpose of the cap is to secure the wrapper, but if you plan on smoking the cigar you’re going to need to cut that cap. That’s where this article comes in.

This cap end of the cigar must be cut or pierced for the cigar smoke to be drawn properly, and your cigar-smoking experience begins with the opening of the cap.  A specially made cigar cutter is the tool to use to open the cap so it may be properly smoked and enjoyed, and the type of cut you employ to cut or pierce the cap of your cigar has a major effect on how the cigar will draw and the strength of tobacco in each puff.

The Two Types of Cigar Caps

Before you decide on the type of cutter to use, you will need to know which of the two main kinds of cigar you’re dealing with.

Parejos

The most popular type of cigar is called the parejo or corona. These cigars have a cylindrical body and smooth, straight sides. The foot of the cigar (the part you light) is open. The head is slightly rounded and has a tobacco leaf cap that must be sliced off with a special cutter or punched through with a sharp pointed object before smoking.

Any one of more than half a dozen different types of cutters can be used to snip off or poke through the cap of the parejo, opening the end in a way that monitors the draw allowing the perfect amount of smoke to move through the cigar and into the mouth.

One must be careful of how much of the cap is removed, when cutting a parejo. Remove too much and the wrapper will begin to unravel.

Figurados

A figurado shaped cigar tapers sharply at the head. Whether we are talking about a Torpedo, Belicoso, or Pyramid anyone of these will have the more pointed head, rather than the more softly rounded one of a parejo.

For figurados you may have to cut significantly more in order to open the head enough for a sufficient draw. How much of the end you remove is a matter of personal choice. Because of their shape, figurados seldom unravel, even when cut beneath the cap line.

Due to the pointed head of the cigar, the punch is not a good tool to use on a figurado.

Types of Cigar Cutters

Single Blade Guillotines

The most common cigar cutter is the single blade guillotine. As the name implies, the single blade guillotine has just one blade and takes off the portion of the cap with a chopping motion such as that produced by the old favorite of Madame Defarge during the French Revolution. The cut produced by the guillotine is called the straight cut.

Pros of using a single blade guillotine cutter

– These cutters can be found for any price range.

– Most will cut up to 54 ring cigars – some will even cut a 56 ring.

– You can cut any shape cigar including any of the figurados.

Cons of using the single blade guillotine cutter

– You will need to practice in order to cut your cigar in one quick, decisive movement in order to get a nice clean cut.

How to use the single blade guillotine cigar cutter

1. Get a quality cigar.

2. Look at it and observe the cap.

3. Make sure you see where the cap ends – this is visible by a distinct line.

4. Place your cigar in the cutter in a position about 3-4 mm before the end of the cap.

5. Cut off that piece of the cap with a strong and decisive motion. If you go too slowly, you might ruin the cap as the blade may drag some of the tobacco as it cuts.

You should have a nice, clean, straight cut, exposing the tobacco at the head of the cigar, without going beyond the cap and freeing the wrapper to unravel.

Double Blade Guillotines

Double blade guillotine cigar cutters have, instead of one blade, two blades, one coming from each side to the device. It is the exact same concept as the single blade version but provides a more precise cut.

Pros of a double blade guillotine cutter

– Offers a more precise cut

– These cutters can be found for any price range.

– Most will cut up to 54 Ring cigars. Some will even cut a 56 Ring.

– You can cut any shape cigar including any of the figurados.

–  Some have a spring mechanism that ensures a clean cut every time.

Cons of a double blade guillotine cutter

– Normally more expensive than the single blade version of the same quality.

– Takes practice to get the cutting right.

Process for using a double blade guillotine cutter

Much the same steps are needed to use the double blade as the single blade guillotine cutter.

1. Get a quality cigar.

2. Look at it and observe the cap.

3. Make sure you see where the cap ends – this is visible by a distinct line.

4. Place your cigar in the cutter in a position about 3-4 mm before the end of the cap.

5. Cut off that piece of cap with a strong and decisive motion. If you go too slowly, you might ruin the cap as the blade may drag some of the tobacco as it cuts.

As with the single blade guillotine, this cutter should give you a nice, clean, straight cut. Done right, you will have exposed the tobacco at the head of the cigar, without going beyond the cap and freeing the wrapper to unravel.

Perfect Cutter

The Perfect Cutter is much like the single or double blade guillotine, with one very useful difference. The Perfect Cutter has a back to it. You can just stick your cigar into the cutter and make your cut. The back stops the cigar from going too far through the hole.

Pros of using a Perfect Cutter

– No need to measure or even eyeball the distance on the cap before cutting.

Cons of using a Perfect Cutter

– The hole in some Perfect Cutters is too small to accommodate larger cigars.

How to use the Perfect Cutter

1. Put your fingers in the two outside handle holes.

2. Put your cigar in, holding it against the back of the cutter.

3. Manipulate the cutter to activate the blades and cut off the end of your cigar to the already established distance.

Punch Cutter

A punch cigar cutter is a bullet-shaped device that simply punches a clean hole of a fixed diameter into the head of a cigar. There are three basic types of cigar punches: a bullet punch, Havana punch, and multi-punch.

The bullet punch can be twisted to expose a circular blade, used to cut a hole in the cigar cap. This cut is preferred by some as it exposes less of the filler and binder and reduces the chance of tobacco ending up in the mouth.

In Havana punches the blade is recessed and springs out at the push of a button.

Multi-punches offer different-sized punch holes for different sizes of cigars.

Pros of using a punch style cutter

– The bullet punch is small enough to fit on a keychain

– Punch style cigar cutters are handy, durable, and inexpensive.

– No risk of cutting off too much of the cap

– No cutting skills are required.

– Multi-punch can be set for different sizes of cigars (except as below)

Cons of using a punch style cutter

– Most do not cut a large enough hole for 50+ ring cigars

– Punch cutters won’t work in figurado cigars

– Critics of the bullet punch maintain that the small hole of the bullet punch does not allow enough smoke to come out.

How to use a punch style cigar cutter
These are very easy to use. All you need to do is line up the cutter dead center, and twist. The hole is cut. To make the hole bigger, just insert the punch several times at different places of the cap until you get the desired width.

V Cutter

V-cutters look like guillotine cutters but cut a wedge or “V” shape into the cigar cap rather than completely removing it, creating a clean-looking gash. Good V-cutters penetrate deeper, exposing more filler than straight cutters, which is why some smokers prefer them for thicker gauge cigars.

Pros of using a V-cutter

– V-cutters will expose more surface area, making it easier to draw smoke through the cigar.

– Easier to use than the guillotine.

– This type of cutter is better for larger cigars.

– Also works well on small ring cigars.

Cons of using a V-cutter

– Some V cutters can make too deep a gash allowing too much smoke through.

– Cheap V-cutters can result in sloppy cuts too deep into the cigar, which result in an uneven burn

How to use a V cut cigar cutter

1. Rest your cigar on the inverse dome you will notice on your cutter. (This supports the cigar while you cut.)

2. Manipulate the tool and cut the cigar.

Special Cigar Scissors

Forged from high-precision, surgical-quality stainless steel, cigar scissors are a wonderful choice for a cutter. The original size of these tools is too large to easily carry around with you. However, recently, small, pocket-sized versions have become commonly available.

Cigar scissors are probably the most elegant of all the cutters. Many cigar smokers think of these tools as showpieces rather than everyday cutters.

Pros of using cigar scissors

– This is a classy tool with an old-school flair.

– The jaws will open wide enough to accommodate any ring gauge, making them the perfect cutting tool for larger cigars.

Cons of using cigar scissors

– While other types of cutters are rather easy to master, using these specially designed scissors to cut your cigar takes a bit more skill and practice. Some people would prefer to use one of the other methods, that’s easier to learn and works just as well.

How to cut your cigar using cigar scissors

1. First, dampen the cap a little by putting it into your mouth.

2. Place your fingers in the same positions you would use to hold any pair of scissors

3. Hold the cigar perpendicular to the floor or your desk or table.

4. Next, open the jaws of the scissors, place them at a slight angle to the head of the cigar, and close the jaws very slowly and gently. This will keep the blades from crushing the cigar as you slowly close the jaws.

5. Score around the cigar

6. As you prepare to cut, place the scissors firmly against the cigar.

7. Finally, fully close the scissors with a quick, direct cut.

Cutting a Cigar Without a Cigar Cutter

But what if you are looking forward to that smoking experience and you don’t have a cutter at hand? You still have a few ways to open the cap and enjoy your cigar.

The Bite

Biting the end of your cigar a la Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry movies is one sure fire way of opening a hole in the cap. However, this technique should be considered an emergency measure. Even if you do it right you’re going to get some tobacco in your mouth, and you may take off too much of the cap, causing your cigar to slowly unravel. To use this method, just bite down on your cigar at the spot where you would normally place your cigar cutter. Bite hard and fast, pulling away at the end to remove that small piece of the cap.

The Slice

It’s possible to slice off the very tip of the cap of your cigar with a sharp knife. However, if the knife is not sharp enough, the only thing you may accomplish is mangling the tip.

The Poke

This technique is not a punch cut, which involves a specially made tool, and offer a clean cut hole in the cap. It is more like a poke or a stab. Stick a pencil, pen, or another slender pointed object (possibly a chopstick or match honed to a deadly point) into the cap end of the cigar. You may want to poke the cigar more than one time to make the whole large enough for an enjoyable draw.

The Thumbnail Technique

You don’t need long nails to utilize the thumbnail method for opening the end of your cigar cap. The secret is to use the corner of your thumbnail, which will likely be just sharp enough the cut through the wrapper. Press the corner of your thumbnail into the cap and slowly start to rotate the cigar. Once you get a groove established, just keep going in circles until you’ve made a hole in the cap.

Find out more about these tool-less cigar cutting methods here

How Should I Cut My Cigar?

Cutting your cigar is part of the pleasurable ritual of smoking a cigar. What tool you employ to cut it is part of the overall experience. Other than the restrictions formed by the type of cigar you’re about to enjoy (parejo or figurado) the decision about how to cut your cigar is a personal choice.

Remember that the objective of any cut is to create a sufficient and smooth opening for smoking without destroying the integrity of the cigar. A proper cut will allow equal draw from the core and rim of the cigar.