Sunday, March 13, 2011

Maple sugar - Tapping the trees

Sugar Maple trees were tapped in several ways over the centuries as seen the the following excerpts.  the 17th cen gash, the spout and troughs, 1792, and 19th century spiles...

While at a great day-long workshop on Maple Sugaring at Genesee Country Village and Museum in New York, we learned the various ways trees were tapped through history, and made some tools such as a sumach spout, wooden spile, wooden trough, and wooden buckets.

Gash - 17th cen.

Baron La Hontan, in his book New Voyages to North America... 1683-1694, observed that the "...liquor is drawn by cutting the tree two inches deep in the wood, the cut being made sloping to the length of ten or twelve inches, at the lower end of this gash a knife is thrust into rhe tree slopingly, so that the water runs along the cut or gash, as through a gutter, and falls upon the knife which has some vessels placed underneath to receive it. [He incorrectly stated that the] gash does no harm to the tree. Of this sap they make sugar and syrup...but few of the inhabitants that have the patience to make them, for as common things are slighted so there are scarce any body but children that give themselves the trouble of gashing these trees."

Spout and Troughs - 1792

"The perforation in the tree is made with an ax or an auger; the latter is preferred from experience of its advantages: the auger is introduced about three-fourths of an inch, and in an ascending direction, that the sap may not be frozen in a slow current in the mornings or evenings, and is afterwards deepened gradually to the extent of two inches.

A spout is introduced about half an inch into the hole made by this auger, and projects from three to twelve inches from the tree. The spout is generally made of the sumach, or elder, which generally grow in the neighbourhood of the sugar trees... 

 [Remove the center pith by burning  or picking out.]

Troughs large enough to contain three or four gallons made of white pine, or white ash, or of dried water ash, aspen, linden, poplar or common maple, are placed under the spout to receive the sap...To preserve the sap from rain and impurities of all kinds, it is a good practice to cover the troughs with a concave board, with a hole in the middle of it."  An Account of the Sugar Maple-tree, of the United States, and of the methods of obtaining Sugar from Benjamin Rush, M.D. Phila: 1792

Spiles - 19th cen.

Spiles or spouts were carved out of wood, or made of cast iron or tin. 

For other postings on my blog on Maple Sugar HERE and Sugar HERE.

©2011 Patricia Bixler Reber

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