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Commonwealth Cedar Spills

David Savona
Posted: May 2, 2012

Thomas Person, a former software executive who worked with wood in his spare time, was getting deep into his new-found hobby of smoking premium cigars. He immersed himself in the subject, reading books, surfing websites, and he soon found himself intrigued by cedar spills, the thin strips of wood used to light a cigar in the most elegant of fashions. So he wanted to buy some—and found none. So he turned to his woodshop and decided that he was going to make some himself.

Person had worked for a company that was acquired by Adobe, and soon found himself without a job but with sufficient funds to allow himself to do what he wanted, rather than what he must. He turned his attentions to making a cedar spill.

The definition of spill as a small piece of wood or paper used to light a fire dates back to the 14th century. For cigars, lighting up with a cedar spill allows for slow, unhurried toasting of the cigar’s foot. Spills cannot light themselves—you light them with a match, lighter or even on the flame of a candle—then use the strip of wood to toast the foot of your cigar.

Person turned to the cedar sheets that come inside many cigar boxes. He split one into a workable spill, lit it, then began lighting his cigar. “The charcoal fell on my shirt,” he said. Unhappy with the result, he turned to a woodmill, and asked for veneers of Spanish cedar (a wood that’s actually a type of mahogany), the kind of wood used to make most cigar boxes and to line humidors. Spanish cedar has only a faint aroma, low moisture content, and does not have the strong aroma of aromatic cedar, which would ruin a smoke.

He enlisted his cigar smoking friends and began testing, from thinnest to thickest. After the thinnest sample burned like a fast fuse, nearly taking out his eyebrows, he turned to a safer and more scientific experiment, locking the wood in a vise before lighting them up.

“I called it burn testing,” he said. “I wanted something that looked neat, something that comes to a point.”

He settled on a strip that was far thinner than the sheets found in cigar boxes, then had them cut into a shape roughly 11 inches long, thicker at the end where it was to be held, and getting thinner and thinner, up to a rounded tip making it easy to light on a match, lighter or candle. His spill was ready.

Commonwealth Cedar Spills get their name from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where Person is based. The spills, which are patent pending, come “60 plus” to the box, which retails for $30. Each gives about 30 to 40 seconds of burn time, plenty of time to light your cigar.

Spills are elegant and fun to use, and take some time to get your cigar going, putting you in the mindset to relax and smoke. “It’s roast and toast,” he says. “Don’t scorch and torch.” They’re not for outdoors use, nor are they for those who are in a rush. And they can be a little messy. Take a look at this video we shot showing the proper technique of lighting up with a cedar spill.


The company can customize the spills with names, logos or sayings for an additional charge. They went on sale recently, and are presently in a small number of shops. For more information, visit cedarspills.com.

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Comments   10 comment(s)

Float Dub May 2, 2012 3:57pm ET

They're cool. But 50 cents a pop? Damn.


Bradly Belko May 2, 2012 4:56pm ET

I think these would be good if you had friends over for a smoke.


Andrew Stevens — Darwin, N.T., Australia,  —  May 3, 2012 7:44pm ET

I've bought a box.
After your first purchase refilling the box gets cheaper. Plus the specialize in personalizing the box and spills for each customer. Won;t be using them on every cigar i smoke but they'll prob replace my matches for a while


Thomas Person — louisville, KY, USA,  —  May 8, 2012 4:59pm ET

We are just trying to bring back a rather old tradition that really adds value to the cigar smoking experience. Whether you buy a box or a bundle you are getting the highest quality material and a personalized item. Hopefully you will start seeing spills within cigar maker boxes you purchase right off the shelf; stay tuned on that point or check out our website for more updates - cedarspills.com

Keep on herfing!

Tom Person
President, Commonwealth Cedar Spills


Sydney Liquete — Philippines,  —  May 11, 2012 8:11am ET

They don't ship to the Philippines?


Daniel Boggiano — Woodhaven, NY, USA,  —  May 18, 2012 10:05pm ET

I grabbed a box too. Looks like a nice way to add to the relaxation of cigar time.


Thomas Person — louisville, KY, USA,  —  June 21, 2012 1:47pm ET

I am happy to say that we will be shipping internationally later this year, at least that is the plan. Things can happen but it seems this will com about this fall.


Rose Baumann July 17, 2012 12:28am ET

I do historical reinactments and I love the thought of Bringign it back around.
Rose


Gary Bazdell — Ottawa, ON, Canada,  —  August 2, 2012 5:10pm ET

Interesting, but I do have rather expensive lighters that have "relax" built in.


William Collier — Tooele, UTAH, United States,  —  May 17, 2014 1:08pm ET

I'm a fairly seasoned cigar smoker of about 18 to 20 years, one thing I learned early on was that how you light your cigars is almost as important as how you store and maintain them. When it comes to lighting a cigar the old way has always been thin strips of cedar or wooden matches, now many cigar smokers use fancy pretty jet flame lighters to light their cigars which looks cool but it changes the cigars flavor, and not in a good way..

Using lighters of any kind can ruin the flavor of a cigar, the reason behind using cedar strips or wooden matches is that it helps maintain the cigars balance and flavor profile, because with lighter fluids your sucking the fumes of the burning gasses through the entire cigar and it changes the tobaccos properties and the flavor profile. Wooden matches do a pretty good job of keeping a cigars flavors, but a strip of cedar will actually bring the flavors out even more. There's a reason cigars are stored in cedar vaults and cigar boxes and humidors and all that kind of stuff, and it's because the properties of cedar helps to keep the cigars stable and allows them to continue aging and the longer a cigar ages the better it gets, and as long as the cigars are maintained at the proper temperature and humidity they will continue to age and never go bad, some smokers like higher humidity content and some like lower levels, personally I prefer to keep my sticks at the 67/69 range and it has always maintains my cigars perfectly for years that way, I have cigars I've had aging in my humidor for ten years or more that continue to only taste even better the longer I age them and it makes a fairly decent cigar into a pretty damn good cigar. I'm in no hurry to smoke an average cigar and can wait as long as I need to.

So anyways back on topic, so lighting your cigars with cedar strips or wooden matches is much more then just looking elegant or cool or whatever, there's a specific reason behind it and that is that your cigars will simply taste better. Try an experiment for yourself, take three cigars that are the same label and blend and light the first one with a lighter, any kind will do, and toast and light your cigar and smoke it about a quarter of the way where the flavors are starting to really kick in and then sit it down and take a sip of your whiskey to cleanse the palate a little and then light the second cigar with a wooden match, make sure to let all the sulphur burn off before using it to light your cigar because you don't want to be sucking sulphur through your cigar, and smoke the second cigar until the flavors are starting to kick in again while smoking it compare the taste between the first and second cigar, put it down and take another sip of whiskey, compare the aftertaste between the first two cigars you tried and then take your third cigar and light it with a strip of cedar, and again smoke it to the flavor kicking in point and you should be able to taste the difference between the first two cigars and the third cigar? Instead of putting down the third cigar smoke that puppy to the nub and it will only get better with each puff.

So even though they say these cedar spills are elegant and cool and remind you to take your time, the reason for using them has nothing to do with taking your time or the elegance of it, it's because cedar when burning is going to help bring out even more of your favorite cigars flavors, and enhance the overall flavors in the tobaccos, it's even a bit nostalgic because it's the way old Cuban cigar makers have been lighting their cigars for generations because they know what few others do about how to get the best taste and enjoyment out of their cigars. As for me I use 4 1/2" inch wooden cigar matches to light my cigars, however if I have strips of cedar available your damn straight I'd use them before a match any day of the week, it's always a good thing to take your time and enjoy your favorite cigars as much as possible. when I'm into a really good smoke I always hate for it to end especially if I get that one exceptionally delicious smoke that I never want to end and makes me wish every cigar in the box tasted as great as that one did.

I always keep the thin sheets of cedar that come in a lot of cigar boxes and cut them into small 3" inch long strips about 1/2" inch wide and I can pretty much come out with enough strips to light every cigar that came in the box with the cedar sheet, yeah I'll probably buy a box or two of these strips and use them when I don't have my own strips because they are a bit on the expensive side but are probably worth the price to keep my cigar smoking up to par. One thing I always noticed when living in Florida is that every little cigar factory I bought cigars from always had little bundles of cedar strips to give their customers that bought their cigars and I always took a handful to light my cigars with and haven't lit a single cigar with any type of lighter since, and probably never will again..


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