The Native Americans taught early settlers how to tap maple trees for sap collection. The settlers expanded on Native American techniques, developing tools for maple tapping. The sap of the maple tree is used for making maple syrup. Virtually any maple tree can be tapped for sap collection, but the sugar maple is the most commonly tapped variety. You can purchase tools and equipment for maple tapping, but you can also improvise your own tools with simple materials.
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To collect the sap from the maple tree, you need to drill into the tree. This requires an electric drill and drill bit. The drilled hole will hold the spout from which the sap will drain. The Backwoods Home site recommends that you drill a 7/16 inch diameter hole. The electric drill is used to drill a hole 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep at an upward angle into the tree. Some people wrap a piece of tape around the drill bit at the 2-inch mark to guide them as they drill into the tree.
The spout, also called the spile, is one of the most important tools in maple tapping, as this is the place from which the sap drains. You can purchase a maple tapping spile or you can fashion your own spile out of metal tubing or hollowed out wood. Spiles are typically between 3 to 3 1/2 inches long. Modern spiles have a hook attachment from which you can hang the bag or bucket used to catch the sap.
Hammer and Hook
A hammer is an important tool in maple tapping because it is used to secure the spile in the side of the tree. The spile is gently hammered into the tree, being careful not to damage the spout or split the tree bark. Split bark will result in a leaky tap. Although most modern spiles come with a built in hook attachment, not all spiles have hooks. In these cases, hooks are purchased separately. The spile is inserted into the loop of the hook and hammered into the tree, providing a place to hang your container.
There are many different kinds of collection containers used in maple tapping. However, all containers are enclosed or have lids to prevent debris from falling in and contaminating the sap. Collection containers can be stainless steel or plastic buckets, gallon milk jugs or coffee cans. You can also purchase specially designed sap bags that are both washable and reusable.
Large, commercial maple tapping operations typically use hoses to transfer the sap to another larger storage container. A hose will run from the tree to another larger hose called the mainline. The mainline connects and drains into a large storage container where the sap is collected and used to create maple syrup.
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