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Thread: Tap the sap

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Nth Lincolnshire England
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    Default Tap the sap

    I've been asked to do a tutorial with photos on the method I use to tap birch trees for their sap.
    Some of the pictures are a bit poor quality as I couldn't get the camera to focus where I wanted it to.
    First off is tree selection, you don't want tree like this as the sap will be pulled away from the tap

    This is what your looking for a tree with nice smooth bark

    Next you want to make your tap. A living twig is better than a dead one. I don't know why but the sap seems to flow better down a living twig. This size is ideal.


    This length is ideal for the container I had with me

    Carve it flat down one side

    Now carve a v shaped groove along the full length of the flat face


    Carve the end that is going in the tree at this angle

    Now to the tree. Drive your knife into the tree about 1 cm at an upwards angle and then lift it slightly to make the hole a bit bigger

    The sap will start flowing straight away.

    Now insert the end into the hole with the flat face down

    The sap should just run down the tap on it's own. Sometimes you may need to encourge the sap by running a small twig along the underside

    Lastly place your container under the tap

    Happy tapping folks
    Don't sweat the small stuff.....


    Martin

  2. #2
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    Jan 2007
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    Johnstone
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    Default

    I am tapping birch at the moment. birch sap wine here I come
    Harry
    Ps how do you plug your hole after you have tapped. I use a drill and plastic tube then use a dowel to plug the hole.
    Guy Fawkes
    The only man to enter parliament with honest intentions

  3. #3
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    May 2006
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    Default

    We don't tap birch over here but we have commercially available spiles for tapping maples that we buy at the farmers co-op. Most people use plastic these days though. It is not uncommon to have a half dozen or more buckets hanging off the larger trees.

    The Indians just used to use a wood chip in a cut with a birch bark bucket.
    Lloyd

    Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug...


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Glasgowish
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    Default

    Thanks for the tutorial. Forgive my ignorance though, but what do you do with the birch sap once you've collected it? Birch sap wine, as has been mentioned, or are there other uses?

    Cheers,

    Blutack.
    The Canoeist's prayer: "Lord grant me the serenity to walk the portages I must, The courage to run the rapids I can, And the wisdom to know the difference".

    John Muir Trust - Wild Places for Nature & People.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2006
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    Hope, Peak District
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    Haven't tried this yet, but am going to. Do you mean that the v-groove should be facing down?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    West London, UK
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    Default

    Sorry to be dragging up an old thread, but I was searching for info on google and this came up.

    Is there anything that SOTP doesn't cover?

    I have a Birch tree in my garden and I would like to give this a go. But I dont want to risk killing the tree or anything.

    So the questions are:

    - how much sap can I safely take from the tree in one hit, how long till the tree recovers?

    - Can i plug the hole up by carving a birch plug and hammering it in?

    - What am I going to do with the sap. How can I make it into a usefull product?

    Thanks.
    It all started with a folding boat I built at school...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Central Scotland
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    You may get extensive over on the BCUK site.

    Think you can read these as a non member.

    http://www.bushcraftuk.com/forum/sea...688&DoReWrite4

    Nick

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    West London, UK
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    Default

    thanks for the link Nick, lots of good info there.

    To answer my own question for the benefit of anyone else who was wondering:

    - about 2 - 4 pints depending on tree size

    - carve the plug keeping it as clean as possible, you can use a cork (i think a piece of the parent tree woudl be better and more sterile)

    - Best thing to do with it is drink it or make wine. Not worth reducing to make syrup because of low yeild.
    It all started with a folding boat I built at school...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Hunter Lake, Minnesota, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by WhyAyeMan View Post
    We don't tap birch over here but we have commercially available spiles for tapping maples that we buy at the farmers co-op. Most people use plastic these days though. It is not uncommon to have a half dozen or more buckets hanging off the larger trees.

    The Indians just used to use a wood chip in a cut with a birch bark bucket.
    My grandfather preferred birch. It takes about 80 gallons of birch sap to make a gallon of syrup - as vs about 40 gallons of maple sap to make a gallon of syrup. You can also make mollasses out of birch sap.

    I'm just in the process of scouting a new sugar bush as my old sugar bush was sold and the family sugar bush (which I own) is just too far away (about 100 miles from my house).

    To expand on WAM's explanation, Indians would place a wood splint in a tree (maple) and make a V groove in the tree with the point of the V culminating at the splint. As shown in Martin's photo, the birchbark sap bucket would be placed on the ground below the splint. The birch bark sap bucket was made from one piece of bark folded into a rectangular box.

    According to the Cornell Maple Sugar Extention Program, your largest maple tree should have no more than three taps or spiles:

    "A healthy tree 10-17 inches in diameter (31-53 inch circumference) should have no more than one tap. A tree 18-24 inches in diameter (57-75 inch circumference) should have no more than two taps. A tree larger than 25 inches in diameter (79-inch circumference) should have no more than three taps."

    Other sources say four at most.

    A healthy maple tree will give between 10 and 20 gallons of sap per season. Unknown as to how much sap a birch will give.
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