A New Wingman
These days, Domenic Bono has a fellow mechanic wingman: North Korean-born Sung Lee (known as strictly ‘Lee’ by employees).
Lee started in August of 2020 and has never looked back, stating that he is “very happy” with his work at HOH.
HOH Mechanic Tsung Lee
In 2006, Lee fled Communist-run North Korea for a better life in South Korea, and alongside other defectors actually traversed a frozen lake in the middle of the night while being “shot at” by North Korean soldiers.
“We left in the middle of the night to walk across frozen water in wintertime in January. We could hear the loud popping sound of gunfire behind us. Thankfully we were not hit – we made it!”.
After obtaining numerous licenses for building and mechanics in South Korea, Lee left for Canada. Lee found soon work making electrical control boxes in Mississauga, Ontario while spending time reacquiring the very same licenses on Canada soil, as sadly the Korean-issued ones were not recognized in Canada.
Today Lee works alongside Bono to routinely fabricate individual parts out of metal for the machines after they break down. As the machines are over a century old and are no longer in production, the replacement parts required are also no longer in production either.
Sparks fly: Lee and Bono in their workshop
Bono says that in less than 2 years Lee knows more than any of the 5 previous apprentices he has had working under him throughout the past.
“You teach Lee something and he absorbs it fast. We had people who had been here for 5 years and they knew barely half of what Lee knows now. Of course they all left because they just couldn’t hack it” states Bono.
A Well Oiled Machine: Collaborating With The J.C. Newman Cigar Company
“We aim for making around Bandi 9,000 cigars a day” says HOH Productions Manager Joseph ‘Zac’ Costa, who goes on to inform that the overworked machines run 7 hours a day for 5 days a week and are prone to frequent breakdown. “When the parts break down, they typically have to be manufactured right here on site. Arms and cams regularly break down and must be welded back together because we just can’t get them anywhere” says Costa.
A box of Bandi cigars
Prior to 2019, the HOH rolling machines would routinely break down and require rebuilding every 1-2 months.
Thankfully, through correspondence and a careful comparison of notes with the mechanics at the J.C. Newman ‘El Reloj’ Cigar Factory (who also still use the very same antique machines) in Ybor City, Tampa, Bono and Costa were able to greatly improve upon the rolling processes at House Of Horvath to cut the frequency of breakdowns to roughly once a year.
The El Reloj Cigar Factory in Tampa, FLA
Bono and Costa found out that by adding very frequent applications of simple mineral oil throughout each day, the factory was able to increase their production and decrease the occurrence of breakdowns with their rolling machines. The mineral oil doesn’t affect the taste of the tobacco and is now applied 5-6 times each day.
“To make sure that the rollers are regularly applying the oil, we have a bell that sounds throughout the day as a reminder. Oiling those machines regularly is of huge importance” says Costa, “We got that from the Newmans”.
At 6:30 AM, Lee is the first one in the factory and delivers the first applications of lubricant. For the remainder of the day, the all-female rolling staff must apply the remaining applications.
Machine breakdowns weren’t the only thing the J.C. Newman Company has provided a helping hand with.
In 2020 the cigars were suffering from what Costa can only describe as a “candy cane effect”, whereby the wrapper becomes spaced out and exposes a ‘swirl’ of rough binder underneath.
After a trying numerous adjustments and even forging new parts, the problem continued to persist for upwards of 6 months until collaboration with the Newmans proved to identify and correct the problem.