How to Make a Spile(for Collecting Sap)





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:

Let's Tap Trees and Make Amber Nectar

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.

Step 5:

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!

Step 6: In Action!



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    10 Discussions

    Sounds different but cool.?(tree) ? (knife/carving tool) ?(ruler)!

    1 reply

    I meant to put this emoji... ?!

    That is a really cool instructable!
    I'm into survival and this could define fly help!

    16, 6:14 AM.jpg
    1 reply

    A nice instructable bringing back old time methods that can help a poor DIY back trader

    1 reply

    I suppose you have to assume that this spile is not intended to be tapped into the tree as a traditional metal one would be. Sumac is very soft wood and maple is wicked hard, so I guess the tree would have to be drilled out first. It is not mentioned in this tutorial, but there is only a very short period of the year when maple sap can be tapped for sugaring. This tends to be in the late winter/early spring, especially on days when the nighttime temperature drops below freezing and the daytime temperature soars up into the 40's and 50's. As soon as buds start to form, it's all over. South facing maple groves on mountainsides often give up the most amount of sap. Don't forget, you'll need to boil down 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup. Once you've gone through all the necessary work, you'll understand why Vermonters have to charge so much for their maple syrup!

    1 reply

    Hey Scottie-D.. thanks for the comment. If you notice, in the intro paragraph, there is a link for a detailed(and pretty funny) instructable on tapping and sugaring. And yes, drilled out, or chiseled out(as I show in the pic above) is necessary.

    Me and my friend used to do that but nothing came from the tree except a group of angry ants came :-(

    Trader supposed to reader backyarder