How To Tap A Maple Tree For Syrup-Easy To Learn Demonstration Video, Photos and Helpful Tips | How to Get Maple Syrup From a Tree!

How To Tap A Maple Tree For Syrup-Easy To Learn Demonstration Video and Tips | How to Get Maple Syrup From a Tree!

By: Sherry Trautman | | Last updated: March 20, 2023

Have you always wondered how to tap a maple tree for syrup?  To me, tapping trees and making maple syrup always seemed like such a mystical process! 

  • After learning how maple syrup is made, I now have a much greater appreciation of Michigan maple trees, our land and the process.  Pouring luscious amber colored Michigan maple syrup onto my piping hot pancakes or waffles is now so much sweeter! 

We learned so much by asking questions, taking videos and participating in the demonstration at Maple Syrup Day at Chippewa Nature Center in Midland Michigan. 

Grab our BIG LIST of  Michigan Maple Syrup Festivals to learn more!

Video on How to Tap a Maple Tree for Syrup! 

Watch how to tap a maple tree for syrup in our video above!

  • All of these steps are for trees in Michigan, per the Naturalist at Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan. Obviously, the tree trunk in the photos is used only for demonstrations and has way too many taps.

Step 1: Measure The Tree

Your tree must be at least 12" in diameter.

Step 2: Number of Taps Guidelines

If your tree is less than 12" it's too small. 

  • 12" - 18" = 1 tap
  • 18" - 25" = 2 taps
  • 25" and larger = 3 taps

Step 3: Placement of Your Holes

As you can see in the example above, after the tree has been drilled, it creates "scar tissue" as it is a living tree.  When tapping a tree, you want to avoid those darkened areas around the previously drilled holes.

  • So as a general rule, tap over and then up 4."

Step 4: Place a Stop on Your Drill Bit

Before drilling, it's helpful to place a stop on your drill bit, especially if you are drilling a few trees.  You can see it right above his thumb. 

  • Your drilled hole needs to be just slightly deeper than the spile to allow sap to pool.  The depth is recommended as 1.5 - 2" deep. You can see the length of both the drill bit and the spile above.

Step 5: Drill and Clean the Hole Into The Maple Tree

You can use a small pipe cleaner to clean the hole you just drilled.  We were told it's best not to just blow the wood dust out of the freshly drilled hole as you could introduce bacteria into the hole and you want to keep the tree as safe as you can.

Step 6: Hammer in the Spile

The video above shows all the step including the final step of hammering in the spile. Don't forget to include the hook for your bucket!

Types of Spiles Throughout History 

This is the text corresponding with the numbers 1-5 above of the cool historical spiles. This sample board is from Chippewa Nature Center.

1. Early sap collection was started by slashing the tree bark to get the sap to flow.  Spiles like the two on the left were used.  This method was used as late as 1860.  (Imagine the damage this created to the lovely trees!!)

2. In the 1800's a chisel was used to make a box-shaped hole in the tree and a long wood spile was inserted.

3. In the Mid-1800's, a drilled hole replaced the boxed hole and the short wood spiles were used.  All wood spile were gone by 1900.

4. In 1880, cast metal spiles came into use.  The lower stamped metal spiles are used today.

5. In the 1960s, plastic spiles were introduced. Used with plastic tubing, several trees are connected to one collection pail. 

Step 7: Hang Your Metal Bucket with a Lid!

And now the exciting part happens!  Peer into your bucket each morning to see how much sap you have collected!

Making Maple Syrup at Home

Maple Syrup FestivalTwo Methods for Making Maple Syrup at Home

While attending Maple Syrup Day at Chippewa Nature Center, we saw two methods for making maple syrup at home. 

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