MacGyver Style Indestructible Maple Sugar Evaporator from Filing Cabinet

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Picture of MacGyver Style Indestructible Maple Sugar Evaporator from Filing Cabinet
For the past few years I've been making my own maple syrup, using techniques found here on Instructables, but I've been doing it the old fashioned way over an open fire. It has worked great for years, but this year I have tapped too many trees and therefore had a problem to solve.
How can I boil more efficiently.
So I took a look at my Mother-in-laws commercial evaporator, then went into my office to contemplate a solution, I should also say my budget for this build was exactly Zero (as usual)
I thought to myself "What would MacGyver Do?"
After Staring at paperclips and duct tape for far too long my eyes came to rest on my filing cabinet, and my hoarder genius mind went to work.
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Step 1: Gather your equipment

Picture of Gather your equipment
Here is what you need
 One old metal filing cabinet
A circular saw or jigsaw
Drill and bits
A couple of old hinges
An old chimney pipe
Boiling pan
A couple of hinges and hasps
Saws all
Sledge Hammer

Step 2: Start Cutting

Picture of Start Cutting
I am not going to go into safety issues, but please use all your equipment responsibly.
Almost all the pictures in this instructable were taken by my five year old.

Lay your boiling pan on the top of your cabinet and mark the width and length (you could measure and draw but I am lazy)

Do not center the pan, you want to leave room to add the chimney

Take your circular saw and reverse the blade (this is a great trick for cutting metal and it's dangerous!)
Cut the opening out

A better tool for this is a jig saw, but I don't have any blades and I was working on a zero budget.

c-b-w11 months ago

Great setup! Do you find that as the sap reduces it burns on the sides of the pan since your pans are inset? I do mine with the same pans on a stacked brick oven, and one year I set the pans down inside like you have them. I found that initially it worked great, but with less in the pan it started to burn on the sides real bad.

jamob1 year ago
Great idea! I like how it's portable to a degree so it could be stored away off season! Where did you get the boiling pan and how much?
potatomansoup (author)  jamob1 year ago
The pan is a steam table pan, i got it at a used restaraunt store, I think it was ten bucks...thanks
TeriBeri621 year ago
Way to go Clay! Getting in touch with your inner MacGyver.
potatomansoup (author) 1 year ago
Glad you like it! I think making syrup is an important part of our culture, keep it going...
blodefood1 year ago
My grandparents had a cabane à sucre and a sugar bush in southern Québec. They used to gather the sap in buckets attached to maple trees in the early spring with horses and sleigh and boil it down to syrup. I remember having sugar on snow in August many years as my grandmother would save snow in large flat pans and freeze it just for that purpose.

Great 'ible! I have to pass this on to my family.
certos1 year ago
Fantastic idea. Will make one of these. any suggestions about how to pour the finished syrup out of the pan without slopping all over the place?
potatomansoup (author)  certos1 year ago
Use a ladle great..
Thanks for the comment!
luckyz21 year ago
What a great idea. I just finished up a week working with my uncle using a commercial evaporator. I am in the process of looking for an evaporator to start myself... I had been looking at designs using old barrels, but this is way better. I am going to try using a 4 high cabinet, but lay it on its back, that way I should be able to run at least 2 pans. thanks for the idea to get me thinking down this road.
potatomansoup (author)  luckyz21 year ago
I've considered that too, but I never find the bigge cabinets, I now have two of these so I can run them side by side... Thanks for the comment! And please vot for me!
parkerpe2 years ago
I love the simplicity and portability of this! We've been hobby sugaring for 4 years using propane and it gets very expensive. The size of your evaporator is nice for storage in the off season and bonus points for re-purposing the file cabinet. Thanks for the 'ible!
potatomansoup (author)  parkerpe2 years ago
Thanks! We are happy with it, I will probably line it with tile or some sort of file brick to enhance the efficiency, but it works great and we get some great syrup.
I love to re purpose stuff like this. Please vote for this in the McGyver contest and the Indestructible Contest.
Of course I voted for you :-)
cheffy12 years ago
could you just remove the guts of the top drawer and bold the front on with some angle stock. leave the bottom drawer as is and have it be able to slide out to refuel?

we did a smoker like that once with a 3 drawer file cabinet. fire on the bottom drawer. open space then punched holes in the top drawer bottom and added a chimney.
it actually made a really good turkey.
vincent75202 years ago
Very nice !…
This is also a pleasure for all the family : it makes it even better !…
potatomansoup (author)  vincent75202 years ago
Yup, the kids love it! We roasted hot dogs in it they had a blast!
Please vote for this
Who do you think I am ???
Why of course I voted !!!...
I did it a soon as a read your Inst'.
I was well raised : I know how to brush my feet on the rug before coming in and when an how to say thank you !!!... ;D
potatomansoup (author)  vincent75202 years ago
Thanks Vincent!
r_harris22 years ago
Many years ago I bought a few abrasive blades for my circular saw, mostly because they were on the clearance rack. Wow, they sure are worth it! A circular saw makes a great metal-cutting tool to light stuff, and I still prefer it over a sabre saw or sawsall for many chopping jobs or straight cuts.

Also: The minute I saw the picture of the filing cabinet, I knew you were a junk-yard-genius. That is some great thinking.
potatomansoup (author)  r_harris22 years ago
Thanks! And the syrup is terrific... I love repurposing's not always pretty but it's always interesting! Please vote for this!