In making a handmade cigar, two to four filler leaves (depending on the size and strength of the cigar) are laid end to end and rolled into the two halves of the binder leaves, making up what is called the "bunch". Great skill is required to make sure that the filler is evenly distributed so that the cigar will draw properly. Wooden molds are used into which the filler blend (rolled into the binder) is pressed by the "bunchers", with a mechanical press then used to complete the process.In the Havana factory, the same person who eventually adds the wrapper does the bunching. The practice is slightly different in, for instance, the factories of the Dominican Republic, where specialist bunchers work in teams with specialist wrapper rollers. In both systems, the result is that each roller has a supply of ready molded fillers, prepared for what is being made on that day, at his or her work bench.
Surplus filler is trimmed from the end to form a round top. A wrapper leaf is then selected, the remaining stalk is stripped off the binder, and the wrapper is trimmed to the right size (using the central part of the leaf, placed upside-down, to avoid having any veins showing) with an oval steel blade called a chaveta.
The cylinder of tobacco in its binder (the "bunch") is now laid at an angle across the wrapper, which is then stretched as necessary and wound carefully around the binder, overlapping at each turn, until it is stuck down using a tiny drop of colorless and flavorless tragacanth vegetable gum. The cigar is then rolled, applying gentle pressure, with the flat part of the steel blade to make sure its construction is even. Next, a small round piece of wrapper (about the size of a small coin) is cut out from the trimmings on hand to form the cap, which is stuck in place. In the case of cigars such as the Montecristo Especial, twisting the end of the wrapper seals the closed end. This is a version of what is known as the "flag" method of capping a cigar, a highly skilled process in which the wrapper itself is smoothed down to form the cap. The flag method is only used on the best handmade cigars, and never on machine-mades. Finally, the open end is guillotined to the correct length.
The construction of a cigar is a crucial factor in how well you enjoy it. If it is under-filled, it will draw easily, but burn fast, and get hot and harsh as a result. If it is over-filled, it will be difficult to draw on, or "plugged". Good cigars have to be consistent. That relies on skill, quality control, and the resources (reserves of suitable leaf, essentially) to guarantee that this year's cigars are the same as last year's, even if there is a bad harvest.