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How to Make an Ashtray for $10

June 2010 By James 8 Comments

Several months ago, I had an experience smoking some Taboo cigars that we ashed into a rather ingenious tin can ashtray. Ok, it wasn’t that ingenious but it was functional and added a bit to the smoking experience. Im sure almost every cigar smoker has some similar stories of improvised ashing, especially in the early days of discovering cigars. Ashtrays can become like characters of the smoking experiece as much as humidors, lighters and cutters. We become attached to them and they are anchors for memories of good smokes.If you are looking to purchase an ashtray, the market is filled with glamorous and expensive trays that reflect on the cigars’ place among the finer things in life. My desire was for an ashtray that more accurately reflected how I feel about smoking cigars, something that is a real life experience and has feel and emotion attached to it. So I set about making one of my own. I armed myself with the following materials, mostly from the garbage heap at a neighboring construction site.

A few scrap 2×4′s

A small piece of 3/4″ plwood

A dowel rod

A bag of concrete (purchased for $6)

Hand saw, sandpaper, white glue, screwdriver and some screws

Paint (purchased for $4)

I wanted a tray that could be shared by several people enjoying cigars together, so I started by cutting the dowel into half sections about an inch long and split lengthways – these would serve in the concrete mould as the future resting place for the cigars themselves. Using a sharpie I outlined the shape of the ashtray relative to the dowel sections I had cut and one of the smaller scraps of wood. The center square piece of wood would be where the ash would collect.

To hold the concrete, I grabbed some of the 2×4 pieces and cut them to surround the circumference of the dowels and center block. These I also screwed to the plywood and then in turn to each other. I now had a workable mould.

The fun part in all of this is the concrete pouring. I used an old large metal bowl and scooped some concrete, then some water together until the mix was a slurry that was not runny but was still liquid enough to be poured. In it went to the mould. The biggest concern here is to get the concrete intoall the nooks and crannies of the mould, which I accomplished by using a small wooden stick and shaking the mould repeatedly. After cleaning out the bowl, I set the mould aside for 48 hours for the concrete to set.Getting this little block out of its home was no small feat. After removing the sides with the screwdriver and hammer the ashtray would not budge from where it sat over the center piece. I turned the plywood upside down and tapped the bottom with a hammer until it came free. This was nervewacking as a crack was forming during this process which threatened to break the entire piece.

The block was rougher looking than I had hoped. I bought some spray paint that had a bit of viscosity to it, enough to fill in some of the smaller holes and cracks in the ashtray. Several coats later I cut some small feet out of leftover dowel and I ended up with this little beauty.

My impressions after using the ashtray are that it is a little unrefined, but perfectly functional. The next step is to reuse the mould to make a better one, hopefully by tapering the sides to reduce bulk and using wires in the concrete to prevent cracks from forming. Good luck making your own!

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8 Comments »

  • bigmike said:

    Love the article and thanks for the drawings. My question is how did you get feet on the ashtray??? From the first pic it looks like there are 4 feet. Thanks again.

  • Luke - AspiringGent said:

    Hi BigMike, The same dowel that was cut in half length-wise to make the troughs for the cigars was cut into little disks and attached to the bottom. So it is in essence small pucks cut from the same dowel. A nice benefit of this is that you can use them to adjust the ashtray to ensure it sits level. Let us know if you build an ashtray, and how it turns out!

  • bigmike said:

    Well I tried and the first was busted. I messed up in that I poured the quickcrete and bascially didnt have enough to cover the center block of wood so I bought another bag and added more and this formed a cold joint. So when I tried to get the block out of the center the whole thing fell apart. BUT I poured another one last night, one solid piece this time, and I’ll see how it comes out and send a pic. Thanks again.

  • James said:

    I’m glad to see you’re giving it a shot. The beauty of the mold is you can keep trying since a typical bag of concrete will make at least 5 ashtrays. If you’re getting cracking around the base try taking some solid wire, like an old coathanger, and placing it inside the concrete across the bottom before it sets. This will act like rebar and prevent cracking.

  • Vintage Ashtray Shopping | The Aspiring Gentleman said:

    [...] then, do you find an ashtray to impassion the wayward cigar smoker?  Firstly, you could make an ashtray, tuning every detail to suit your personality.  Alternatively, your local cigar shop will carry a [...]

  • Ash Tray project complete... said:

    [...] This looks great! I like the finish you've used. For others interested, here's the link: How to Make an Ashtray for $10 | The Aspiring Gentleman Matt, I'm curious to know what problems you came up against. I'll update the article for others if [...]

  • How to Roast Your Own Coffee | The Aspiring Gentleman said:

    [...] It’s this type of thought that leads to some unique corrollories: making your own humidor, making your own ashtray, growing your own tobacco. And today’s endeavour, roasting raw coffee beans. Coffee [...]

  • Bman said:

    If you ‘paint’ the mould with oil, it’ll release from the concrete a lot easier. My grandfather was a mason and we used this trick all the time on his forms.

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Keywords: ashtray, block, bowl, cigar, cigar smoker, concrete, concrete ashtray, dowel, dowel rod, finer things in life, garbage heap, make your own ashtray, purchase an ashtray, smoking cigars, wood