After about a year of playing around with my Grandad's old humidor, I've finally gotten a decent humidification system going. I'll explain what I've learned, which will be dull for all who have forged this road before, and then talk about about the trials of moving from the South to the upper Midwest/Northlands.
I've had this old milk glass and cedar humidor for a few years now. It's in remarkably good shape considering it was used as a sort of secretary by my grandmother for years, misc. knitting items, etc. While nothing fancy, it is simple, elegant and has the advantage of sentimental history too. It's a basic one drawer, one door cabinet. The door doesn't seal perfectly anymore--though with careful application of water, I can get it to swell shut very well--works just fine.
In the South, this slightly loose door didn't pose a problem. The relative humidity was environmentally high enough, that even in the Winter months, I could stick with my 65% Heartfelt Industry humidity beads with no worries. I did check the RH more frequently, and did lightly dampen the beads a bit more--but that was it. And this little increase in ritual was pleasant.
My set up was thus: one half pound bag of 65% Heartfelt Industry 65% beads, divided equally into three upcycled .22 caliber small, clear ammo trays. I kept two ammo trays slightly more heavily moistened on the bottom level of the humidor, and one tray, mostly 'dry' on the upper shelf. This combo seemed to release/absorb humidity very nicely. The .22 ammo trays don't take up much space, aesthetically I like the clear sides and rectangular shape of the trays--and practically, it's easy to eyeball the trays and decide when I need to add more purified water. On the bottom level of the humidor I have 3 ventilated cedar trays with dividers organizing cigars, then there's a cedar shelf, and on the upper level I have a few small boxes of cigars. Everything stayed well humidified.
BUT THEN...I moved to the upper Mid/Northwestern states--and the cold and dry here threw my carefully regulated system out the window.
After fiddling around far too much with my 65% beads, adding moisture at a much faster rate, getting in the humidor weekly to fuss, etc, I finally got a bag of 70% Heartfelt Industry beads. I generally like my sticks closer to the 65% mark, but what I found was in the cold, dry winter months here, if I swap out the 70% beads, they maintain a much more steady RH of around 67-70%, with far less maintenance. Prior to this change, my humidor was always in the low 60% range and tended toward dryness. Too dry, and my humidor door had a tendency to swing open. Solved this with the higher RH beads too.
When winter recedes, I swap back to my original 65% beads--same set up--and voila! The humidity in the summer maintains fairly well at about 64-66%.
Overall, my RH is far more stable with this system--and the yearly swap of beads is also an excellent opportunity to really get in the humidor, rotate sticks and check everything over carefully prior to the seasonal shift. A sort of Spring Cleaning that keeps me honest with what I'm actually smoking, what I've simply hoarded, sticks I've moved away from enjoying, etc. It's a great time to weed out those less favored smokes and prepare a few surprise care packages for my buddies.