Jumping on the Band Wagon

My father smoked both pipes and cigarettes. On occasion, he would also have a cigar, usually machine-mades. I don’t remember him ever enjoying a hand-rolled cigar. When I was still too young to attend school, he would take the band off his stogie and give it to me. I felt like a big deal because I was wearing a ring, just like a grown-up. Of course, if you did the same thing today, society would consider it a health hazard and potentially child abuse. But I digress.

Those of us who enjoy a cigar probably view a cigar band as a necessary evil. A nice band may draw our attention to a particular cigar, but once we get past the initial impression, the next time we’ll think about it is when it’s time to take it off. With some cigars, that process is problematic. Certain paperstocks glue too well, and the band is a struggle to remove. If the person at the factory isn’t careful, a little bit of the glue can get on the wrapper, and when the band is removed, a chunk of the wrapper comes with it.

Now that I’ve been involved in the industry awhile, I’ve got a new appreciation for cigar bands, because I’ve been involved in creating a new cigar or two, and I’ve gotten to see what goes into making a band that’s not only attractive, but helps project the image that the company wants.

Some of the considerations when designing a band are: name, images (artwork), colors, type of paper, use of metallic colors or foil, use of varnish to create a sense of texture, embossing, size of the cigar, location on the cigar, use of multiple bands, placement of logos and a whole lot more.

Usually, once a general direction is given, a designer will come up with one or more concepts. Then the discussion begins about how effectively the design accomplishes the goal. Once in a while, the first draft is perfect, and the fine tuning is done to get it ready for printing, but much more often there will be multiple layers of back-and-forth until the concept gels. Even then, we may have to go back to the drawing board if the execution turns out to be particularly difficult or costly.

If the brand or series of cigars includes a narrow range of ring gauges, the size and shape of the band is fairly easy to develop. But if the line ranges from a 42 ring corona to a 60 ring gordo, then the band has to be created to overlap differently so one band can be used for all of the sizes. It would become unwieldy to make multiple bands for diffferent shapes because of the minimum quantities that the printer will require.

The art files have to be broken apart in layers by color, areas to be varnished, areas that will get foil, and embossing. The printer has to make a die that will cut the band to the right shape and if there’s embossing, another die is needed to raise the selected areas. Then the printing begins, and after they’re done, they have to be shipped to the cigar factory. And I haven’t even mentioned box or bundle design. What’s possibly more amazing, is that the bands only cost a penny or so. When you consider everything that went into making the band, you’d think that they be costlier.

So the next time you’re getting ready to pull the band off your favorite stick, take a closer look and think about how much work went into that little piece of paper.

About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for www.pipesandcigars.com in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at russo@pipesandcigars.com or by calling 1-800-494-9144.