Tapping a maple tree is a very simple task. It doesn’t require skill as much as it does time and patience. You have to get all of your gear on and tromp through the waist-high snow with buckets of tools and sap sacks. That is the only part that requires stamina and strength. The rest of it is just time-consuming, but it is kind of fun.
|from left: hammer, hand drill, tap and sap-sack with holder|
To tap a maple tree you need to first identify the tree. A sugar maple (Acer saccharum) has brown twig tips, white splotches up and down the upper branches, and has opposite branches. A red maple (Acer rubrum) has red twig tips, opposite branches, but not as many white splotches.
|Opposite branches on a sugar maple.|
After identifying the tree, you must choose either a small tap or a large tap to use for the tree. Match a drill-bit to the size of the tap and drill at a 20-degree upward angle into the tree. make sure to keep at least the length of a hand away from the any other old tap holes.
Once the drill-bit is a finger length into the tree,
keep the drill going in a forward motion, but pull the drill slowly out of the
hole in the tree. It is important to keep drilling at a forward motion when
pulling the drill out because that clears most of the sawdust. If you don’t do
this, sawdust gets compacted in the back of the hole. This prevents sap from
flowing. To make sure, use a stick to clear any remaining sawdust.
|hand distance away from old tap hole|
|drilling at a 20 degree upwards angle|
When you finish drilling your hole, take the tap that corresponds with the size drill-bit that you are using and lightly tap it into the tree (If you hit the tap too hard, it might break). Stop hammering once you reach the collar, which is located in the middle of the tap. if a tree is 12-18 inches you can put one tap in, and if a tree is more than 18 inches in diameter you may put in two taps.
|12 inch tree|
|lightly tapping the tap into the hole|
|the tap in the tree|
Once the tap is fully hammered in, go get a sap sack and a sap sack holder. Put it together and test to make sure that the sap sack securely in the sap sack holder.
|the sap sack hangs on the tap|
Now all you have to do is wait. After a while, you will have full bag of sap, which you will need to boil down.
by Booth and Miguel