View Full Version : Maple syrup!

03-05-2010, 07:35 PM
Anybody here tap trees? The sap is running.

I might try to tap a few and see what I end up with. never done it before, so I'm not sure what's involved.

03-05-2010, 07:45 PM
Come on down to my area this weekend rwc,the neighbor is having their syrup festival again this weekend,and I plan on visiting tomorrow,they have a pretty elaborate set up,most people around here though usually just drill the hole,insert a peice of tubing or pipe,and place a hook over that from which to hang either a bag or bucket.

Watched an Amish gentleman take a 250 gallon tank full of sap,to sell to the neighbors a few minutes ago.


03-05-2010, 10:30 PM
Mmm! Sounds good. I'm gonna give it a try tomorrow. I just have to find some trees that won't be disturbed by people.

I cut down an ole aluminum arrow shaft in 2 1/2 " lengths and have a portable drill I'm gonna use to tap em. Might see about getting some tubing instead though and some gallon milk jugs.

03-05-2010, 11:19 PM
I work with a couple of guys who suger.
ill be getting a half gallon soon

sprinkle on bacon
oooohhhhh bacon candy

03-06-2010, 10:43 AM
i have to wait til sonora pass opens up for the year, but then the lady and i will be headed to our favorite wilderness area. then it's a couple days of simmering up maple and alder syrup and catching trout. i miss the mountains in a bad way.

it's as simple as simmering down the sap slowly til it thickens slightly with a spoon test, then finishing it off even more slowly in a wide, shallow container to the consistency you want.

03-06-2010, 11:29 AM
I REALLY REALLY want to do this, this year. anybody got a good link with instructions, or can somebody put up a simple how-to with a pic or two? I don't want to kill the tree if I can help it (you know, the delicate balance of nature.. don't offend the tree spirits, etc.) but I feel like it is an essential self reliance skill that would bring more comfort to any given wilderness undertaking. Fun Camp project for the kids too. Might make a nice demo type thing for taking out the boy scouts! Heck, It's springtime and what do kids love more than video games? SUGAR!!

and later this year an old fella whose family used to run a sugar cane mill is supposed to show me how to get sugar from that. The stuff grows like bamboo so It could prove to have a lot more uses besides sweetener. Stay tuned for that!

03-06-2010, 11:38 AM
Going out to do it for 1st time right now!

YCC, Pertersons says 1/2 inch hole 2-3 inches deep, angled upward. I'm going to use 1/2 in. pvc for spigot.

03-06-2010, 12:32 PM
going over to my folks place this afternoon and I think me and dad are gonnan try to make the tap and stuff and try it today. found a decent link here (http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Buds_and_Bark/tapping_sugar_maple_index.html)

03-06-2010, 01:27 PM
drill the hole with a clean bit, use a clean tap and when done, plug it snug with fresh cut green wood [showing no signs of fungal infection] and the tree will have as good a chance of survival as a person with a minor cut.

03-06-2010, 01:42 PM
How many trees are you going to tap??? How much syrup are you wanting??? It takes 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!

03-06-2010, 02:08 PM
And that's with Sugar Maples.

03-06-2010, 05:42 PM
Nell, how do you store the sap before boiling down?

here's another good link YCC. http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/PDFpubs/7036.pdf

I tapped a box elder, and a red maple today. Looking for black and sugar maples, but I'm not finding any locally.

I'm amazed how quick the sap flows.

I've got close to two gallons already from today's taps. I have a cooler that I'm gonna store the sap in short term.

03-07-2010, 11:07 PM
Found another real good link with all kinds of info about making maple syrup at home and lots of recipes and such too. http://www.mi-maplesyrup.com/Activities/activities_homemade.htm

At the bottom of the pages is a lil left and right arrow to scroll thru the pages, like a book.

I've got about 3 1/2 gallons of sap in two days. Getting about 1/2 to 1-1/2 gallons a day from each of my 3 taps. It tastes pretty good just drinking it straight from the tree, like sugar water. Mmmm!

My taps are just 1/2" OD plastic tubing running into 1 gallon plastic ice cream buckets w' lids and a 1 gallon water jug. The tubing is a loose fit in the tree and some sap leaks out down the side of the tree, but they're fillin up quick. Yee haa! This is fun.

Hopefully by wednesday I'll have 10-15 gallons of sap and can start boilin it down. I noticed the guy up the street is tapping the trees in his yard. Supposedly he uses it to make beer.

03-07-2010, 11:37 PM
That's great rwc! I really wanted to tap one this weekend, but never got around to it. maybe one of the rainy days this week. I'm following along so keep us posted!

03-08-2010, 06:48 AM
RWC,they store the sap in large tanks,but not for long,their sap is running hard right now,and the Amish neighbor just hauled another 250 gallons of sap down to them yesterday,I am thinking about getting some tubing at work today,and trying tapping a few myself.

I do love fresh maple syrup.

03-08-2010, 09:27 AM
If I may offer a word of caution.
Boiling down sap to make syrup should not be done on the kitchen stove.
Unless you would like to be reminded for years and years of that time you "Glazed" the entire kitchen.
Can you guess how I know this?:innocent:

03-08-2010, 02:10 PM
Thanks a lot Nell. I'd like to know what they filter out the sugar sand with too if you happen to know.

I'll be at 5 days wednesday and will start boiling it down "outside". :) The links are iffy on times it can be stored. One says indefinitely if kept under 40 F, and another says 5 days max or the quality gets affected.

Problems I'm trying to work out.

1) Not having a shallow and wide enough pan to boil down efficiently and an outside burner. I have a small one burner camp stove and will be using that and a large SS kettle hoping for the best. Once I get it down some I'm gonna bring it in and finish on the stove in a smaller shallow pan.

2) A way to filter out the sugar sand. One site said use wool or orlon, and another said you don't really need to.

If this works out halfway decent I might break down, rig up an evaporator and do more next year. I'm just hoping to get a quart this year.

BTW, I moved all 3 taps to the big maple today. I emptied the 2 maple taps out last night and this morning there was almost another gallon, half of which was frozen slush. The box elder had almost zero and the tap tube was frozen solid.

I have a 2-1/2 gallon jug that I'm packing it out in. It's about a mile from the house.

03-09-2010, 11:11 AM
Checking in my tree field guide, it appears that true sugar maples don't occur much this far south. I'm sure there are some around, but short of beginning a "maple quest", what are some alternative trees that can be tapped to make sugar? Anybody have a list?

a few are listed here (http://www.wilderness-survival.net/forums/showpost.php?p=189543&postcount=1), but I was looking for a longer list.

03-09-2010, 11:16 AM
You can tap any tree but most have such a low sugar content that it just ain't worth it.

03-09-2010, 12:03 PM
around here [though not at this elevation] you can get a fair amount of sugar from bigleaf maple and green alder.

03-09-2010, 01:49 PM
According to what I've read, "just repeating what I've heard", Besides the tree species the time of year is crucial. Once the tree begins to grow at the start of the season the sap becomes too bitter or disagreable in some way for use as syrup. There is a small window in late winter for gathering sap for high quality syrup, around 6 weeks. You want below freezing temps at night and above 40 temps in the day.

Black and sugar maples start growing the latest in the season as compared to others which gives a longer season, this along with the higher sugar content and lower sugar sand content make them preferable for commercial syrup production. Longer season, more efficient use of fuel, and less problems refining it after the fact.

Lots of literature out there focuses on the commercial aspect of syrup production, but doesn't take into account the guy like me who is just looking to make a quart or two for fun.

03-11-2010, 02:09 AM
Welp, after 5 days and 3 taps I've got between 10 and 12 gallons of sap, my 56 qt cooler is filled 2" from the top. Still tastes good so hopefully it hasn't spoiled. I'll be boiling it down tomorrow and hopefully finishing it off.

The weather has been above freezing the past two days and nights and the sap has slowed dramatically. I only got 2 gallons yesterday, and only a half gallon today outta 3 taps. My best day was 4 gallons. The 10 day forecast shows only one night barely below freezing, so the run might be over.

I went for a long hike today, 12-14 miles, and ran outta water on the way out. About 5 miles in I was gettin pretty thirsty. I wittled a spile out of a sumac branch, gouged a hole in a box elder w' my knife, stuck the spile in, propped my pop bottle to the spile and on the way back had 1 pint of sap in about 2 hours time, refreshing after a long hike.

Just messin around I made 3 spiles, one from sumac, another from elderberry and a third from some type of tall reed grass. The reed grass was the easiest as it was already hollow, but was real fragile. The elderberry didn't have a lot of pith like I'm used to and kinda broke up as I tried to hollow it out. The sumac hollowed out easy with just a stick and a lil help of the knife.

03-11-2010, 08:13 AM
Good information all around. Thanks. Worth some rep in my book.

03-11-2010, 08:15 AM
I don't know if you've seen this or not.


03-11-2010, 10:20 AM
Once the tree begins to grow at the start of the season the sap becomes too bitter or disagreable in some way for use as syrup

what happens, or at least part of what happens, is that as soon as the active growing season begins [when sunlight is sufficient], the tree consumes a large portion of stored sugars from the sap, so the concentrations drop off dramatically.

as new vegetative growth builds, large amounts of of sap are accumulated in the leafy growth and the trunk's moisture content is lowered, resulting in slower sap flow.

both of these things hinder sugaring, though i'm sure i don't have any kind of full understanding of how it all works.

03-11-2010, 05:17 PM
Thanks for the info Rick and Canid, and YCC. i think I have seen that link. It might be the one YCC posted earlier. I have quite a few links and will post the good ones when I finish. Took some pics of the process and will try to post them as well.

Started with 10 gallons at 11 am and now I'm down to about 5. Half way there. :)

The coleman dual burner stove works good. It will simmer the sap, but it's hard to get a good rolling boil. Boiling point here was 211.5 so once she hits 218.5 she's done, I think. LOL!

03-12-2010, 04:53 AM

I put together a lil pictorial on PB, but it or I scrambled the order of the pics.:blushing:

They are numbered 1-16 though for anyone interested, just some pics of the stages and stuff I used with notes below em describing some of the more important stuff. It's a pretty easy thing to do, more fun than anything. Not a lot of physical work!

It took me just under 11 hours start to finish, but the process could be sped up a lot and I wasn't in a hurry. I simmered the sap for the most part, but coulda boiled it much harder. I'm sure after a couple times doin it the time could be cut in half. Less runnin back and forth, more efficient use of fuel and time, yada yada yada. I wasn't goin for records or efficiency though, just out having fun on the warmest day of the year. :) It almost hit 70 today!

The hardest or stressful part for me was right at the end trying to keep the sap from cooking too much or boiling over. It takes so long to get it down, but once it does it's over in minutes or even seconds. The temp starts climbing and the boiling bubbles get smaller and smaller until it's foam. You can really see the transformation from sap to syrup based on the way it boils and comes off the spoon. A candy thermometer or other method would be nice, but I'm pretty sure you can tell when it's done just by the look of it.

The 40:1 ratio held true. Mine was 42 to 1. I started with 10.5 gallons and ended up with one full quart, with 1/4" headspace, of medium amber colored syrup. Pretty! It's very sweet and mild. So I, or ma nature musta done somethin right. :drool: In the mason jar it looks almost identical to the sumac tea I made last year.

Next year I'll be making gallons if nature cooperates and I have the time. I need to look into a better and more economical way to pre heat the sap, and filter the syrup once complete. I used cheesecloth, but don't think it did too much filtering and was expensive. I've read you can use cotton t-shirts, pillow cases, etc. to filter it quite well. There were lots of small whitish chunks floating throughout the sap.

The cheesecloth did remove a lot. I guess it doesn't really need filtering as you can let the particles settle and pour off the good stuff. But, if ya wanna can it, give it away or sell it, filtering is a good idea. I did not know this, but syrup can go bad and it's best canned and stored in the freezer for long term. I canned mine, but will be opening it up real quick. I don't think it's gonna have time to spoil.

My cost was about 11 bucks. Two packs of cheesecloth, a big aluminum pan, electricity for the stove in the house, and about 10 pints of gasoline for the coleman. Next year the only cost will be fuel and my time.

Anyway, here's a few links I thought were helpful, some have some pretty detailed or different info about the science of it all, history, etc.




The Minnesota or Wisconsin Maple Associations had some good info as well, along with Maine and Vermont, but I don't have the links to them. If'n you're interested Google away! It seems like each producing state has it's own assn and website, and each has slightly different info. Of course Youtube has a bunch of videos, but most aren't too detailed, are too detailed, or they deal more with the commercial aspect of it all. On a side note, I wish the youtubers would just post the videos and not add irritating music or other bizarre effects.

03-12-2010, 08:22 AM
i plan to buy one of these, since i need it anyway:


03-12-2010, 08:23 AM
Well done rwc - great pictures and explanation.

03-12-2010, 08:24 AM
i plan to buy one of these, since i need it anyway:


I picked up one of those last week. It was curb side and being thrown out. Lots of rust and needs a new hose, but hope to get it working.

03-12-2010, 08:43 AM
I really wish I could give you more rep for this, but the system won't allow it. Very worthy of rep in my opinion. Thanks so much for putting this info up for us. It goes right along with "wilderness comforts" in my book. Wouldn't your sumac tea taste a bit better if sweetened?
Really awesome rwc. Thanks again.

03-12-2010, 09:15 AM
I think this is one outstanding tutorial. You did an awesome job on it.

I suppose the next thing is for you to invite all of us over, fix pancakes and let up sample it. Right?

03-12-2010, 10:03 AM
Great job rwc! I have not gotten to try my hand at syruping due to repeatedly being called in on my days off.

The neighbor here pours the syrup into barrels and let them sit for a bit before bottleling,maybe to allow the sediment to settle?? I don't know,thinking maybe I should book a working holiday with them and learn their process.

03-12-2010, 12:46 PM
Looks like RWC has some of that spectacular aura going on. Great post - I have to spread the love, but it looks as though others are sharing it with some positive rep.

Now - when are we coming over for pancakes?

03-12-2010, 05:34 PM
Haha! I now know the genus of the tree and have ordered 6 saplings to put in my little woods. Not sure at what age these trees have to be to start tapping, but if I don't get the benefit, Winnie jnr will:)

03-12-2010, 07:13 PM
Alright, everyone is invited over for pancakes and syrup. BYOB! bring your own batter, I got the syrup. :) In a few more weeks I'll "hopefully" have some fresh walleyes, ramps, fiddleheads, morels and such so you all can stay for lunch as well.

Sumac tea w' a lil maple syrup sounds good YCC.

BTW, after settling over night there's about a 1/4" or less of sugar sand in the bottom. It's much lighter now though. When you hold it to the sky it's more of a medium yellow color. I don't know how to grade it, but I'm calling it grade A medium. LOL!

I'm gonna let it sit for a few more hours and hopefully I can carefully pour off the clear stuff into another jar.

If anyone's gonna try this I'd suggest starting with 10 gallons of sap minimum. 40 gallons would be better. I think it would be easier to control the heat, filter and such if you had more sap and syrup to work with, plus you'd have lots more syrup.

I don't know if it was mentined before or not Winnie, but the minimum safe size to tap is 10" diameter for the health of the tree, but I'd say it's a good investment for winnie jnr. When it comes to trees, and syrup parties, I say "the more the merrier".

03-12-2010, 07:19 PM
Where does the sand come from?

03-12-2010, 07:42 PM
From what I gather it's salts and other sediments that precipitate out of the sap after being heated. It's harmless, but it just makes the syrup appear darker and more cloudy. If it's real bad I guess the syrup could be gritty, but that is not the case with mine.


This link lists the makeup of syrup. I found an old article from the early 1900's where they were trying to extract malic and tartaric acid from the sap of maples.

I'm not so much into the science of it. I use enough science to get er done and that's about it. It is pretty interesting the scinece of maples in general though. They are a quite variable and unique species of tree.

03-12-2010, 07:58 PM
How do you plug the hole when done? I really have an affinity for preserving the balance in nature, and don't want to hurt the trees any more than I have to.

03-13-2010, 12:01 AM
I don't. From what I understand as long as you follow proper tapping methods there is no need and the tree will not suffer. In a year or two, or less the tree will heal itself. People have been tapping the same trees for a hundred plus years with little or no ill effect.

I know of a row of old sugar maples in a long abandoned boy scout camp that are probably 3 to 4 feet in diameter. They have taps that go back a long way and none that I can see have been plugged. The trees must be over 200 years old and were probably first tapped at age 50 or so. At that time in our history people were still actively using all the natural resources around them.

I would think if you plug the tree you are in effect injecting toxins directly into the bloodstream of the tree. It's just like a person, as long as you keep the cut clean and in the case of a puncture wound open and draining it will heal on it's own.

The main things to remember are:

Don't pound your taps in too hard or you'll split the tree.

Don't tap ill or damaged trees that are already stressed. Trees that suffer from defoliation from bugs, etc. should be left be to heal.

If you use copper taps remove them, you should probably remove them regardless, but copper will kill a tree if left in. I wouldn't use copper myself. I used nails this time to hang my buckets and removed them after I was finished. I wouldn't recommend nails, but it was what I had and I only intended to do it the one time.

Never put more taps in per year than the tree can handle and don't put taps too close together during season and from year to year.

Don't drill into the heartwood of the tree. The sap is in the cambium layer which may only run 1-1/2 to 2" deep. you really only need 1" deep taps, but I did mine 2".

The links above have all the pertinent info as to safe maple tapping; tree diameter, # of taps, depth, etc.

They recommend anywhere from 1 to 3" depth, but I think anything over 2" is overkill. As soon as you break past the bark the sap starts running. They sell taps and tubing that are very small diameter, and inexpensive. But you're taps should never exceed 1/2" and even that is overkill, but it's what I used. This is one area where the more primitive you go the more potentially damaging it is to the tree, so investing in some taps that will last a lifetime might be worth it. You can always do it primitively if needed or for experimentation, but I wouldn't go hog wild on it.

According to the one link, a phenomenon of maples and perhaps other sweet sap producing trees is the sap is under pressure inside the tree. The pressure and sap comes from all directions and as soon as you pop thru the bark it starts dripping or even pouring out. Acording to what I read a 3/16" hole drilled one inch into the cambium can yield as much as a 1" hole drilled 3" deep. Also, if you drill into dark, damaged or heartwood it can negatively affect the sap flavor.

Most of the things that negatively affect the trees health also negatively affect the yield or quality of sap.

03-13-2010, 07:08 AM
Thank you for all this information. Good stuff RWC. I have bookmarked this thread for future reference.

03-13-2010, 01:01 PM
You're welcome!

I had french toast this morning w' fresh maple syrup. MMM MMM! This stuff is tasty and it's not real strong like some of the stuff you get in the store. Mine is not very thick. I don't kn ow if that is normal or what, but it's definitely syrup.

I carefully poured off the clear stuff last night into a new jar and the sugar sand that was settled stayed right in the bottom of the old jar. I was worried it would get all stirred up when I tried to pour it off, but it didn't. I only lost about 1/8 of a cup, a few tbsp., of syrup that was left in the bottom with the sugar sand or nitre as some call it. I tasted the syrup with the concentrated nitre/ sugar sand and couldn't tell no difference. It wasn't gritty or anything, just cloudy.

I'm no scientist or nutritionist, but from what I gather the stuff that makes up sugar sand is good for you anyway. People just filter it out to make the syrup pretty and clear.

03-13-2010, 01:58 PM
Great thread RWC! Congatulations on your success!

I tapped one huge one in my front yard, and I mean huge 3 and a half to 4 ft in dia. Not sure what kind but deff a maple. Got about 3/4 a gallon the 1st day and then it just stopped. Got it in the freezer. Just going to thaw it and drink it up!

03-13-2010, 11:47 PM
It tastes pretty good straight up. :)

Easy way to tell the sugar maples, black and sugar, have smooth leaf edges/ leaf margins, whereas the red and silvers have tiny sawtooth pointed edges. They all have big main points where the veins run out to the tip though. It's easy to find the leaves cuz they shed so many. Those are the main 4 used for tapping, but there are others. Sugars or blacks are easy to spot because the bark curls on one side out from the trunk. Some people think they crossbreed too, I might agree. I can't yet tell the difference between a silver and red or a black and sugar, but I can tell the difference based on leaves and bark between the sugars and the seconds. Black and sugar are the sugars and red and silver are considered second choices by most. Of course if a sugarbush farmer farms reds he'll probably disagree with that.

I checked the maples at the boy scout camp today, they're sugars or blacks, and no one has tapped them this year. As I said they are very old, 18 in all running on both sides of what used to be a road, but is now woods. I looked around and found some old taps 10' up on the tree. They probably ran higher too. They've healed over completely and you could barley tell they were taps, and even the taps from last year have begun to fill in. It appears as someone has stuffed a piece of wood in to plug the holes, but it's actually the tree itself doing the plugging. There were more than thirty old taps on one tree that I could make out and the majority of the trees still look quite healthy. They've got to be getting near the end of their lives though.

I found about 12 more sugar or black maples hidden off the beaten path, might tap those next year.

03-14-2010, 06:35 PM
This is a cross section of a tap hole, itís used at the local sugar camp to show how the tree repairs itself.
Here are some of the spiles they used years ago. Itís way different today!

03-14-2010, 07:00 PM
Thanks RWC! It has smooth edges,as does the one in back yard, sweeeeeet! The drawings in my Peterson guide were of red and sugar, new it wasn't red. The sugar didn't have as pronounced points as mine. So now I'm thinking may be a black,thanks again!

03-14-2010, 09:47 PM
Thanks claypick, I wonder how long it took to heal over that much.

You're welcome Ted. My maple ID is not the best. I seem to forget them year to year and end up going back to the books.

Justin Case
03-15-2010, 08:15 PM
Tapping of Mass. cemetery maple trees gets bad rap



SOUTH LANCASTER ó Maple syrup producers are under fire for tapping maple trees in Central Massachusetts cemeteries. The Worcester Telegram reports Monday that at least two cemeteries in Lancaster and one in Petersham have sap buckets on trees that stand along side rows of tombstones. Athol Public Works Director Douglas Walsh said a recent investigation of tapped trees in Chestnut Hill Road Cemetery found that the culprits were neighborhood kids.

In Lancaster's Old Settlers and Eastwood cemeteries, the Lancaster Cub Scout Pack 9 tapped trees as part of a project after receiving permission.

But Lancaster selectmen said they didn't know cemetery trees would be tapped and they received several calls about it.

Walsh said tapping trees along roads is normal, but in cemeteries it's "a little tacky.

03-15-2010, 08:16 PM
Okay. I don't know about you but I don't think I want the title of Head Athol. Just sayin'....

03-15-2010, 08:29 PM
Tapping of Mass. cemetery maple trees gets bad rap



SOUTH LANCASTER ó Maple syrup producers are under fire for tapping maple trees in Central Massachusetts cemeteries. The Worcester Telegram reports Monday that at least two cemeteries in Lancaster and one in Petersham have sap buckets on trees that stand along side rows of tombstones. Athol Public Works Director Douglas Walsh said a recent investigation of tapped trees in Chestnut Hill Road Cemetery found that the culprits were neighborhood kids.

In Lancaster's Old Settlers and Eastwood cemeteries, the Lancaster Cub Scout Pack 9 tapped trees as part of a project after receiving permission.

But Lancaster selectmen said they didn't know cemetery trees would be tapped and they received several calls about it.

Walsh said tapping trees along roads is normal, but in cemeteries it's "a little tacky.

i, and several other people i know get dirty looks hunting mushrooms in cemeteries.
i don't care if it's a battlefield and people actually died there, if i see a morel or a porcini, i'm picking it. period.

03-15-2010, 08:31 PM
And it ain't like those folks are gonna eat them.

Justin Case
03-15-2010, 09:06 PM
Wild Mushrooms scare the hell out of me,


03-16-2010, 12:46 AM
Mushrooms, Maple syup and cemeteries go hand in hand.

I wonder if there's a possiblilty of sap contamination from the leaking caskets.

Justin Case
03-16-2010, 03:54 AM
Thanks, Now I'm scared of maple syrup too now :sneaky2:

03-16-2010, 08:58 AM
There's a lot of sugar maples in our cemetery so I'd like to know.

03-16-2010, 10:39 AM
I was wondering the same thing. The sugar part was been made by photosynthesis and saved in the form of starch, but the water part of it? The roots run far and deep and most likely would mingle with a cadaver! Someone well healed in Botany might know how permeable the root membrane is? My guess is that it would be fine and for sure after boiling.
The tree scar is 5 years old give or take.

03-16-2010, 10:48 AM
This is the local sugar shack. The building on the right holds a 1,700 gal. storage tank.
They bring the sap down from the hills on this sap line.

03-16-2010, 10:51 AM
Hereís the business end of it!

03-21-2010, 07:20 PM
Thanks claypick. I saw a post on another forum where a guy cut an old maple and in crossection you could see old taps that had completely healed over. It left really neat "star shaped" growth rings in crossection.

Nice to see how the big boys do it. i'll take the evaporator.

I have one more pic to share and it shows the sugar sand that settled to the bottom after being filtered thru cheesecloth. http://s101.photobucket.com/albums/m50/shroomer69/Bushcraft%20in%20Michigan/?action=view&current=100_1934.jpg

Might be some dead bodies in there, but I tasted it and it was good. LOL!

05-02-2010, 05:26 AM
great thread

another item on my " to do " list is tapping trees ( birch, maple )

may start with a birch, simply for drinking water
and may try boiling some maple sap

12-13-2010, 07:15 PM
Now's a good time to scout around for maples, gather supplies and such. I'm making a list and checkin' it twice.

12-13-2010, 10:08 PM
are you by any chance gonna make a video of this?

12-13-2010, 11:15 PM
Thanks for the heads up. I've scouted a few down around the lake. got 'em in my notebook. Gotta try to find me one of them taps, or try to talk my dad into helping me make one.
Gotta reread this thread and jog my memory.

12-14-2010, 01:49 AM
CS you know I will, as long as things go as planned that is.

I need to come up with a plan and materials for a very inexpensive woodstove/ evaporator. That way I can legally burn wood to evaporate the sap, no open fires allowed in the city.

I have a source for 3-5 gallon buckets with lids for collecting sap.

Tomorrow I will be checking with a restaurant wholesale guy on some used SS steam table pans for evaporating the sap.

I need to get a hold of some cinder blocks or a steel drum, a section of old stove pipe and about 1/2 cord of wood. The cinder blocks would be easiest, less fabricating. I thought someone posted some plans for a backyard evaporator using scrounged materials, but I can't find it now.

I need to find a 50 gallon + holding tank for the sap and hopefully drill and put a spigot on it. I have no source for the tank, but ideally it would be a plastic food safe 55 gallon drum.

I may purchase some of the small 5/16" commercial plastic taps and tubing as they are inexpensive, pretty nice and will last. I'd like to have 15-30 taps which should easily give me 10-20 gallons of sap on a good day. I'm hoping for 50 gallons a week which should give me at least a gallon of syrup a week. Ideally I'll gather the sap in the week and boil it on the weekend. 6 week season = 6-10 gallons of syrup. Hehehe! Wishful thinking!

I also need to find some folks who are willing to let me tap their trees. I currently only have access to a couple red maples and a few box elder, maybe 6 taps, but will need about 10-30 trees depending on size.

I don't intend to filter the sugar sand this year, just using a pre-filter on the sap for sediment and bugs. The sugar sand/ nitre settles out so removing it is only needed if you want to sell it. I'm not planning on selling it.

Anyway, I have quite a bit of planning to do, people to charm, materials to procure and figured I'd best get started early as I want to have everything ready to go when the sap starts flowing which could be as early as mid Jan., but most likely not until Feb. Every year is different. Now is the time to be getting everything together.

12-14-2010, 02:10 AM
wow youre really going full scale this year huh ^


Im wondering if i should try this, this year. During sping ill be in CA so im gonna have to tap bigleaf maples; which someone said earlier in this thread they work.

The only thing is, theyre not on my property. Theyre in the 300 acre park that borders my little suburban world. I wondering if i got caught, if id be in any trouble or not.

12-14-2010, 09:15 AM
Keep us posted RWC. This will be my first year tapping maples. Between that and my high-hopes of starting a beehive, I should cut my dependence on grocery store-cane sugar by at least 30%. Over the next few years I hope to have enough hives to carry me through a whole year!

12-14-2010, 09:21 AM
RWC - Check your law. We're a no open fire in the city, as well. However, there is an exemption for recreational and cooking fires. We have to acquire a permit but it's free and you have to have a permanent burn site. So you might be able to cook that syrup outside.

12-15-2010, 12:07 PM
Checking with the authorities right now, if it's a no go then my whole plan is kaput, and I'll be back to boiling on the coleman which will limit me to about 5 quarts of syrup at best due to the time it takes to boil the sap. Also, it will mean no need for a 55 gallon drum and extra pans because the sap would spoil before I have a chance to boil it down.

I planned on making an arch out of cinder blocks so technically it is not an open fire, it's a wood burning stove, but I have to wait for the guys to call me back to give a full explanation and get a decision.

12-15-2010, 01:28 PM
You can tap any tree but most have such a low sugar content that it just ain't worth it.

really? whatta bout sweetgum?

12-15-2010, 03:04 PM
Sweetgum doesn't grow in my neck of the woods. You would have boil it down to find
the sugar content in the sap.

12-16-2010, 02:33 AM
ah. hmmm..

12-16-2010, 02:00 PM
Offhand, the trees I've heard to use are any maple family tree, maple, box elder, sycamore and also the birches, I'm not sure if all birches will work though, I've seen folks tap walnut trees too and make syrup. I would be leary of trying other trees that may be potentially toxic or have awful flavor from tannins, chemicals or the like.

If one wanted to experiment with other trees one should determine if the tree is toxic, has high tannin content among other things, and whether or not it even produces a sugary sap that can be tapped. Just remember that anything you use will be boiled down and concentrated. The only thing leaving the sap is water and chemicals that evaporate or change under the heat of boiling, around 212 F. If you use a container that leaches chemicals into the sap they too can be concetrated. You don't want syrup that tastes like tin, plastic, or makes you sprout branches.

The best bet for anyone wanting to tap trees, besides doing it, is to search legitimate sites for info. The sites I use are university websites, syrup producer association websites, and forums and blogs that have people who do this stuff both as a hobby and for a living.

All the info they have is legit. Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusets, Ohio as well as other states all have sites with endless good info on the history all the way to present. Plus, there are endless blogs, forums and such that go into great detail on the subject of tapping different trees and the many uses of sap throughout history.

It's a very simple process, drill a shallow hole in a non-toxic sugary sap producing tree, collect the sap that flows out, boil it until it's 7 degrees above the temp that water boils at in your specific area, pour it on pancakes, eat.

The only tricky part is determining the best trees, depth to drill, time to drill, taps and containers to use, ways to boil it down, and ways to filter and store it both before it's syrup and after. Sap will spoil just like milk.

And remember, once your done, pull the taps and that's it. Don't put a plug of wood in there, the tree will heal itself quite fast. Putting a plug in there is akin to sticking a contaminated piece of wood into a puncture wound on your own arm. Let it bleed! What do you do when you get a puncture wound? You're supposed to keep it open, let air get to it, and let it bleed, ooze, or whatever until it heals and closes itself. Don't use copper taps, copper is toxic to trees.

If things go as planned I'm going to do a complete tut with vids and pics from start to finish.

12-17-2010, 12:54 PM
Cool! I got the go ahead from the fire inspector to construct my temporary arch using cinder blocks and steam table pans.

If you're interested here is a blog that shows the arch close up and in action. I won't be using a blower on mine.


I will have to modify mine by placing a metal plate sandwiched between the first two layers of cinder blocks to bring the fire up off the ground, and will have to place another metal plate or cinder blocks in front to act as a makeshift door.

Their main concern was the fire be off the ground, and be enclosed.

Now I just need to find some cinder/ concrete blocks, metal plate and sone steam table pans. If bought they will cost me around 40 bucks, I don't know how much a metal plate will cost, but if I can rewind my brain I'm sure I've stumbled across some in my travels through the old farm fields and factories around here.

If they're not too expensive I may add a layer of firebrick over the metal plate to help retain the heat, but, I'm thinking they will be.

12-17-2010, 04:21 PM
Awesome. looking forward to seeing your progress on the 2011 batch.

12-17-2010, 05:32 PM
That's really cool. I wonder why they wanted the fire off the ground? Fire creep I guess. Anyway, I'm glad that worked out for you. Did you have to get any kind of permit? Looking forward to your pics/vids.

12-17-2010, 07:52 PM
No permit, they sort of made a special allowance just for me. The power of Maple Syrup. Mmmm! according to the inspector the actual code says no outside burning in city limits period, but they will make exceptions on occasion.

It's pretty neat, because getting the things needed so far has been fairly easy and inexpensive. I tell the people what I'm planning on doing and most show interest and offer help.

I went to buy my SS steam table pans, got three for 15 bucks, 14" x 21" x 4" deep. The guy haggled and haggled over the price and when it was all said and done he gave me 5 bucks back and was offering to give me an outdoor woodburning stove, but was unable to locate it. He wants some syrup when it comes in and will be giving me a call if he finds the stove.

This guy liquidates restaurants and such and had all kinds of goodies. He actually had an electric skillet/ fryer that had a drain spout and everything. It was huge and even had an exhaust hood, all SS. I believe it was marked $2500.00, lol. I told him that would be a bit much for me, but I bet it would evaporate some sap. It was about 4' x 4' x 12" deep.

Also, I found a better deal on the 55 gallon drums at 8 bucks a pop, so I got two. They contained soy and had labels that were marked certified 100% organic. But, they smell grainy and were only rinsed haphazardly at the factory. I hope I can get rid of the smell by washing them good with bleach and perhaps some baking soda.??

When I picked them up I told the guy about the city code and raised platform and he suggested I go down the street and talk to the auto salvage guy, who I didn't know even existed, about the plate steel for raising it off the ground. Sure enough they had a 1/4" piece that was perfect size. The guy gave it to me for 4 bucks, which is good because it saved me gas driving around trying to find one. His buddy is a maple producer in the UP.

The guy I bought the barrels from would have even gave me firewood, but he was running low at the time. But, he gave me all kinds of suggestions for legally obtaining it free, just have to make some calls.

Basically, I just need to get some taps and tubing, cinder blocks and wood and I'm set to go. Oh yeah, and I need about 10-15 trees to tap, kinda the most important part, lol. I have 3 or 4 right now.

The people who I've been talking to seem like they would let me tap their trees, but they don't know how to ID a maple and none are real close.

12-17-2010, 08:03 PM
Man you scored like a bandit. Good deal.

12-18-2010, 02:18 AM
What's a good price for a face cord of good seasoned hardwood delivered?

and does anyone have suggestions for finding free cinder blocks in good condition?

The problem I'm running into is lack of a chainsaw and pickup truck. If I can't get the above two items for real cheap or free they will be my biggest expense, over 50% of my cost of doing this.

I considered bartering for syrup, but if it's a poor season I'll have a bunch of unhappy barterees, don't want to promise what I can't deliver. Not to mention I sold all my canning jars at the yard sale when I moved here, another expense I hadn't considered.

12-18-2010, 06:27 AM
Around here it's about $50 per truckload, so somewhere around $100 per cord.

I'm sure you could offer to pick up limbs for neighbors. A lot of my firewood is just scavenged limbs from the yard. No cost or labor.

Watch out for getting those cinder blocks hot. They will bust! There is a brickyard over in the next town where we get busted blocks dirt cheap. Good blocks are gonna come from the building supply store. Have you thought about chipped or broken red bricks instead of cinder-blocks? It's usually pretty easy to find a few bricks that are damaged and get them real cheap. Back when this house was bricked up, We got the bricks real cheap because of some color flaw?! I couldn't tell there was any flaw LOL.

I sure hope you get the stuff you need. This is a great project.

12-18-2010, 11:33 AM
Cement companies will often produce blocks as well. You might make some phone calls and see if any locally do. As YCC said, you might be able to get some rejects cheap.

The land fill often has concrete of all kinds in it. I've pulled some really nice concrete pillars about 2 feet tall out and use them for flower pot stands around the house. (my wife refuses to go the landfill with me. She gets embarrassed when I start garbage picking). I've seen lot's of brocken blocks. The land fills usually have a special place for concrete. At least they do locally.

You might also try local masons. They may have some odds and ends they can't use that they would let go super cheap.

12-20-2010, 12:34 PM
Thanks, I might have found a source for 100 cinder blocks @ 50 bucks. I don't need 100, but....

After reading thru several blogs and such about the cinder block arches I was under the impression they held up well, but am now finding out after talking to these folks that they may or may not hold up, may not being the most likely scenrio.

I'm getting the idea from these same folks that red brick will pop and crack just the same? They all suggest lining the firebox with firebrick to keep them from cracking.

It's kind of turning into too big a project for my budget. 50 for this and 25 for that is turining into 300-400 dollars which I don't have.

If I knew someone who would fab/ weld cheap or trade for morels or the like I could just buy a piece of steel and have them make me an arch. I'm just not sure what type of steel to use.

12-20-2010, 01:19 PM
if i where in your area i'd jump on a morel trade.

12-20-2010, 03:15 PM
rwc - what do cinder blocks go for in your area? If you buy the lot of 100 could you sell what you don't need? If so, your cost for the blockd could be 0, or maybe you'd even make a couple of bucks.

12-20-2010, 05:12 PM
I'm probably way off beam, and I don't know how big the evaporation pan is, but could you use one of these? Very cheap and may do the job?


12-20-2010, 09:37 PM
Why not modify the arch a bit? I don't know your dimensions so I'm just giving you some numbers so you can visualize. Dig a trench about 3 feet deep, 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. Lay the steel plate across the top of trench leaving both ends open. Cinder block the back end and leave the front open so you can add fire wood. Sort of like a Dakota Fire Pit. The hole would contain the fire and the Marshall should be happy with it. You still control the fire with cinder blocks where it comes out the back. The only thing he might balk at would be the entrance but you might be able to use some cider blocks there. Just sit your serving pans on top of the steel plate and let it cook.

That would get you by with the steel plate you've rounded up and a dozen or so blocks.

12-20-2010, 11:56 PM
I'm going to look at the blocks tomorrow, he's letting them go at .50 cents each and they run from .98 to 1.38 at the brick yard, home depot etc. I'll probably get 50 and that will likely take a few trips. I believe the blocks are around 40 lbs. a piece, not sure. My little car will be pushing it with 10 or 15 I'm sure. At times I do miss the old Dodge 250. I could throw an entire pallet of pavers in it and it would just sink down a couple inches. if i tried that with my car it would crush it flat. But, I can afford to make 3 or 4 trips with the car and still break even on gas.

Anyway, at .50 cents each as long as they last thru this season, which I'm now getting some asurance they should from people who have used this setup, Ill be good. Then I can work on getting one built out of steel once I'm back working and in a new place that is not in town.

People do use barrels modded for the evaporator winnie, that's a good idea. Thanks!

Rick, that would work, but, open flames licking the bottom of the pans are most efficient. Sitting them on the plate would work, but, according to most who sugar would require much more wood and would take a lot longer to start and maintain the boil.

Besides, the fire dept wouldn't go for it. They are very adamant about the raised platform. She even mentioned digging a firepit as a no go as she would like to have one herself. And i'm a little leary about trying to present a new idea since this one is already approved. I don't want them to think I'm him hawwing or unsure.

If the block deal works out tomorrow I'll stick to the cinder block plan for this season. Reselling them would be a great idea if I had better way to transport them here. But, this guy has been sitting on his for a while now. I feel lucky they are still there and he feels lucky to be getting rid of them. He has over 70 new on a palet and maybe as many more scattered about. He's willing to let me take the whole lot, but I just don't have an economical way to transport or store them all. The city also frowns on stored stuff that rodents or the like might make homes in, kids could get into, etc.

Now I just need to find some folks willing to let me tap their trees, the streets here are lined with sugar maples and only one person I know of in this entire town taps. At least with sugaring there is some interest, most enjoy the idea and are excited to hear about it in detail. I did not get such a warm welcome with my Bark tan leather project, lol.

Hopefully, I'm going to visit a sugarbush in the next few weeks and see how they do it as well as get a hands on look at some of the equipment used to gather and process it.

12-21-2010, 12:00 AM
Again, that is a good idea Rick, I like it. Would be real good for someone who could dig in their yard and didn't have the above ground req.

You could even bury a stack in the back to increase airflow and get the ashes and soot up and away from the pans. I think the ground would likely act as firebrick and radiate the heat upwards too, would likely be very efficient.

12-23-2010, 02:13 AM
Well the block idea is out of the question now. Neighbors and family don't like the idea of having a huge cinder block arch in their backyard for 6 weeks.

So, now it's back to the drawing board.

I returned my books for this semester and with the money picked up some 5/16" tree saver spiles, tubing, filter, canning bottles, and the bakery had a couple more buckets with lids for me today.

I got off the phone an hour or so ago with a guy who runs a decent sugarbush here in MI, he has 250-300+ taps and can boil off sap in a hurry. He's licensed and everything, has a "sugarshack" and the whole nine yards. This guy doesn't own one single maple and intends to increase from 300 to ver 1000 taps this season, which equates to roughly 250 to 333 gallons of syrup. He offered to let me come and check out the operation too.

I learned quite a bit from him in our short conversation. I may even be able to sell the syrup I make, not sure if I want to, but it's nice to know I can. And, it's reassuring knowing that you don't have to own a huge tract of land to tap maples. He simply asks folks if they'd let him and does a roadside tapping route in his area.

So, I guess I need to do some door knocking and work on getting another idea for a larger scale evaporator that doesn't cost an arm and leg. Even a small "hobby" evaporator is well over 1000.00 when you count in all the firebrick and extras needed.

I have everything I need except trees to tap and something to boil it down on, lol. That's not much!

12-23-2010, 02:17 AM
P.S. I'll probably have to resort to making an evap/ arch out of sheet metal and angle iron or possibly finding an oil drum or steel barrel to cut down and modify into an arch. We need to be able to move it in short notice, that's the big turn off of the cinder block arch for the family. They want it to be able to be moved and not take up a huge area, kill the lawn, etc. etc.

I pleased the FD, now I gotta please the family and neighbors too.

12-23-2010, 09:22 AM
An old fable from Aesop said "When you try to please everyone, in the end you please none".
I'm sure that after the family and neighbors try some of your syrup on some flatcakes, they'll be happy to have the evap outside next year.

I sure hope you get all the kinks worked out. This is a great project and I want to learn the process.

12-23-2010, 11:25 AM
FYI: this link identifies the range of native North American species of maples. It should give you a rough idea of what maples can be tapped in your area.


They also have a link to the North American Maple Syrup Producer's Manual, which, from what I'm told is the syrup bible. Backyard Sugarin' is another smaller book that has lots of great ideas for the small hobbyist who doesn't want to spend an arm and leg to make syrup.

I'd like to get the bible, but with all the other costs just can't afford it right now.

12-24-2010, 01:18 PM
keep in mind that just as important as the species of maple is the climate it's growing in. even two trees cloned from one parent but grown in different areas will not only develop differently, but produce sap in different volume and sugar content.

12-24-2010, 02:39 PM
I located a 275 gallon fuel oil tank for 60 bucks deliverd, but am waiting on a friend and a relative to hopefully come through with a free one. These are fairly easily converted into arches, so it should be a much more stable, efficient and longer lasting way to boil down sap.

I'm still looking for trees to tap, no takers yet.

12-24-2010, 05:40 PM
rwc - can you find a picture of something similar to what you are wanting to build? I'm having a little trouble visualizing it.

12-24-2010, 05:57 PM
I've taken a 55 gallon drum and laid it on its side. Cut a square hole in one end for a door. cut the top off part way back. make sure you leave it narrow enough and level so the pans will sit on it. then on the back top part of the barrel I've cut a 6 inch hole for a couple pieces of stove pipe, to get the smoke away. take that piece you cut of the top and patch the 1/2 moon opening by the stove pipe. it's ready to go

12-24-2010, 06:23 PM
Here is something similar Crash, but nicer built than what i'm intending and I will be simply setting my pans down in the opening as Randy described. But, I will build up the interior as pictured to get the flames to the pans better, hopefully.


12-26-2010, 10:16 PM
Well I have a couple leads on some Sugar and Red Maples. May check on one tomorrow.

The arch is all desigend out and I may have a source for some nice grates for it too. We'll see!

If I get this thing built it's gonna be a tank, and if I add forced air draft it will be bordering on a forge. I'll be making clouds, lol.

12-27-2010, 05:30 AM
sweet clouds. keep at it. I'm gonna tag a few more maples today I hope, while I try to get hold of taps. great thread rwc!