[NAFEX] Tapping Maples

Jim Fruth jfruth at tds.net
Fri Feb 22 11:38:03 EST 2008

Mark Angermayer asked, "When should I tap a red
maple?  How do you tap a tree and collect the sap.'

    Here in Minnesota, Red Maple and Sugar Maple start dripping around March 
15th (+/-)  Box Elder and Silver Maple often start in early February, 
whenever it freezes at night and the temperature rises to (usually) 35 F 
degrees.  If the sun is shining on the tap, it could run sooner.  Sap 
usually stops running when the temperature reaches 45 F OR during periods of 
high wind.
    A 7/16" hole is most commonly used which is drilled until you hit 
heart-wood which is usually darker than sapwood, about 3" (+/-) depending 
upon the variety and health of the tree.  Early pioneers drilled trees using 
their 1-1/2" mortising augers and they didn't kill the trees.  You can still 
see some of those huge holes on the bark scars of very old trees.
    To use the American Method for tapping, a 10" tree gets one tap and 
another for each successive 5" in diameter at breast height (dbh). 
Quebecians, I was told. start tapping at 6" dbh and add another tap for each 
succesive 6" dbh; Quebec produces 2/3 of the world's maple syrup which, I 
think, says alot for how they do things.  Whichever method you use, a 30" 
dbh tree gets 5 taps.  I use the Quebec method in the woods and the American 
method where taps are very visible.
    A lot of beginners use tubing of some sort and to keep the sap from 
running out from around the tube, drill the hole 1/32 or 1/64" smaller than 
the tube and taper the tub's end so it can get started into the hole.  Cut a 
notch on top of the spile (tap) to hold your bucket and do not boil it down 
in the house or the wall paper will fall off your walls (seriously).  A 
better spile than tubing is made from 3" lengths of Elderberry, Black Ash or 
any other wood that has in inner pith that can be pushed out with a wire. 
With a wooden spile, you can put a long taper on one end of the spile so it 
will easily fit into any hole.  And it is easy to cut a notch to hold your 
bucket.  To keep wooden spiles from year to year, keep them immersed in 
water or they will likely crack or fall apart.

Jim Fruth
Brambleberry Farm
Pequot Lakes, MN  56472
For jams, jellies & syrups:
(877)265-6856 [Store]
(218)831-7018 [My Cell] 

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