Introduction: How to Make a Spile(for Collecting Sap)
Spile: noun 1. a small wooden peg or spigot for stopping a cask.
For purposes of collecting sap from a Maple or Birch, it's the tube mechanism that you tap into the tree to allow the goodness to flow out of, which in turn can be evaporated and boiled for delicious syrup.
If you are interested in my Tapping Experience that I detailed just recently, visit the 'ible here:
Read on below to learn how to make your very own Spile.
Step 1: Staghorn Sumac
As I was collecting sap on my first tapping day, I stumbled upon some Staghorn Sumac, which is perfect for making Spiles(and whistles, too!). The Natives did this, so it's totally old-school and legit.
Staghorn Sumas is Native to the Northeastern U.S. and Southeastern Canada. The branches have a velvet-like covering, and in the Spring look oddly Tropical, with their leaves and red-velveteen cone flower.
Saw off only what you need.
The diameter of your Spile should be between 5/8" down to 3/8", so a length of branch should give you a variety of sizes that will all work. Each Spile should be between 2.5-3.5", any shorter and it may not reach into the container, any longer and removing the pith starts to get tedious.
Step 2: Tools to Help
Naturally a pull saw makes quick work of cutting the branches into clean segments, but you can certainly just use a pocket knife for the job. Included within the first photo are two styles of Spiles, one plastic and one aluminum.
A wire coat hanger works great, but I wanted to try out a variety of tools to see what worked best for removing the inner pith. It is soft and can be pushed through easily. (Best to do this right away, while the branch is freshly cut, rather than waiting a day or two as it starts to dry out.) I found that a strong rod with a blunt edge worked best.
Step 3: Pushing the Pith Through
The hardest push is the first one, the rest get easier. Intermittently tapping the Spile and blowing through the contents helps. Careful not to suck instead of blow... might be a little powdery and bother your lungs.
Step 4: Whittling the Bark Off
Depending on the condition of the branch you got, the bark may already be peeling off. It is not necessary to whittle all of the bark off, but you can if you like the look or want to seal it up with beeswax. You should taper the end that will be tapped into the tree, though, as they will compress against each other for a snug fit. I like to wait until just before I put them into the tree to do the tapering, so the ends are still moist.
I decided to do some decorative carving on one, kinda looks like a a totem pole! The deeper notch in the middle is actually functional, and will hold the wire handle of the sap-collecting container.
These make cute gifts that any Tapping neighbor would be sure to appreciate!