Tree Tapping - Where It All Begins
you know that although Europeans knew how to tap trees, it was
the American Indian who discovered how to make maple syrup?
Indians from New England to Canada were producing maple syrup
from 1664. The Indians made a sloping cut, or gash, two inches
deep and 2-1/2 inches long, in the side of a tree. A knife or
wood chip was put into the bottom of the cut so the sap flowed
down the cut, onto the knife and into a receptacle on the ground.
The receptacles were made either of bark caulked with pitch or
hollowed out logs.
By 1765, the settlers changed the Indians' tapping to tree boxing.
They trimmed off the bark and chopped a 1/2-inch deep square or
rectangular hole into the tree trunk. A sloping trough was put
into the tree trunk to take the sap from the hole, or box, to
a spout or spile, which led the sap from the trough to a receptacle.
Boring holes in a tree started around 1774.
By 1950, the present day tapping was accepted.
Spiles are used to direct the flow of sap from the trunk. Originally
they were wooden, then the Eureka sap spout, made of galvanized
cast iron, took over. It was replaced by metal spiles and buckets
and also plastic spiles for plastic or polyethylene tubing.
The Indians used a basket or tub from hollowed out tree bark as
a collecting receptacle. They were placed on the snow or ground
at the base of the tree. Troughs were used by the colonists until
the late 1840's.
Wooden buckets or pails were introduced as early as 1748, but
weren't common until much later. Wooden buckets were still used
in 1935; then they were replaced by tin-plated buckets because
the wooden buckets dried out and leaked if they weren't painted
every year. Bucket covers have been used since 1870 to keep leaves
and debris out. Plastic tubing, used since 1965, takes sap directly
to a gathering vat or storage tank.