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Author Topic: Maple sugaring questions  (Read 964 times)

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Offline Jdock

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Maple sugaring questions
« on: February 01, 2021, 09:19:26 PM »
As I have a job which requires very little mental engagement I spend a lot of time doing things like reading this forum. A side effect of this is I wind up with new projects I have neither time, money or knowledge to approach in a reasonable manner. Fortunately I'm pretty stupid and apparently don't learn from past failure so this year you wonderful people have inspired me to make maple syrup. After all, how hard can it be? After the first couple of taps yielded enough sap for roughly a qt of syrup basically overnight and I cooked it the next day on the kitchen stove I was already fully down the rabbit hole, searching for more trees, borrowed a bunch of spiles and tubing from a friend of mine, planning a sugar house, ect....

Now the cold has set back in for a few days and sap is frozen solid I have a little time to improve my system which currently involves 5 gallon buckets and a fair amount of walking through steep terrain. A buddy just gave me an old ibc tote he'd been using for potable water and if I put it on the hill directly behind my garage it'll never see direct sunlight and also be just above my proposed location for the fire pit/ sugar house. Not to mention it's downhill from all my trees aside from the big sugar maple in the front yard.

Here's where my last bit of rational thought begins to admit defeat as I sit here mindlessly watching a machine do the same thing over and over. I keep reading about vacuum on the lines and how much it increases yield per tap as well as extending the productive time. My poor little brain says that if I go to all the trouble of piping everything to a central collection point how hard could it be to add vacuum. At this point I realize that I went over my zero budget when I bought half a dozen food safe buckets and my hvac vac pump probably isn't an acceptable option. I do however have one potential source of free vacuum available 24/7 with little maintenance and using material I mostly have already scrounged.

The main natural resource on my property is change in elevation. A good portion of my property is flat, just in the vertical plane. There's a pretty decent spring near the top, flows enough to consistently keep a 1" pipe full. My thought is something along the lines of a 150' vertical column of water should pull a fair amount of vacuum if one were to y a dry side pipe in near the top. Strategically placed Ball valves could essentially alter the various restrictions and velocities to optimize the system. In my mind this creates a free, perpetual vacuum using energy that's currently being wasted that could be plumbed into my system. There are a few details to work out though. Like how much vacuum is required to be effective? How much vacuum will an ibc take? Would the volume of air being sucked through a 1/2" pipe be enough to make a difference assuming a reasonably tight system. Is the whole thing a waste of time for the 15 or so maple trees I've located that are big enough to tap? Iv got about a quart of syrup worth of experience so any input is valuable to me, even if it just confirms that I'm an idiot.

Offline Stephen1

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2021, 11:39:08 PM »
Your IBC tote will take no vacuum. 
Run 3/8"line down your hill and a natural vacuum will occur. Just the 5/16 line will give you vacuum, not as much but it will work to bring you the sap.
 Make sure the top tap has an extension above the tap. 
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Offline celliott

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2021, 05:48:02 AM »
Youíre right, you already have the ďfreeĒ source of vacuum however youíre going about it the hard way. 
Get some 3/16 diameter tubing. Put 10+ taps, up to 20ish, on each run of tubing. Get your tank as low as possible. Depending on actual elevation drop, your top trees on the line could see 27Ē of natural vacuum. No need to mess around with pipe. Iíve seen systems up to 500 taps set up with 3/16 tubing and zero mainlines. No wire, no mainline pipe, no fittings, no vacuum pump, no releaser, etc. itís a great option for smaller scale such as you describe.
I would recommend a semi rigid tubing all around. Much easier to work with. You can push fittings together by hand with hot water. Get a tension hook tool (less than 20 bucks) or make one and youíre in business. As many dropline tees as you expect taps, a couple end hooks, connectors with hooks, and  of course spouts, should be all you need.
Make your runs as tight as you can, should be no sags. Try and avoid unnecessary zig zags as it actually wastes tubing compared to more straighter runs. Terminate the top of the run with an end hook fitting, wrapped all the way around the tree. At the bottom (tank) end, I would stretch a piece of fence wire over your tank and start your run by hooking the connector with hook in the wire. Add a small length of tubing to go down into the tank.
If you get this far, we can talk leak checking.
BTW, Iíll wager even 15 taps on steep 3/16 tubing will overwhelm your cooking capacity!
Good luck!
Where are you located?
I literally do this for a living. Install maple tubing systems and make sap/syrup. Sounds simple but there is a lot of little nuances and tricks that can make or break and make life a lot easier. From this scale to tens and hundreds of thousands of taps. 
Feel free to ask any questions, Iím happy to answer.
Chris Elliott

Clark 666C cable skidder
Husqvarna and Jonsered pro saws
265rx clearing saw
Professional maple tubing installer and maple sugaring worker, part time logger

Offline Jdock

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2021, 10:12:49 AM »
Chris, you answered the question I forgot to ask, which was tubing capacity. My 15 to 20 taps will all be carried on one 3/16 line if you think it'll carry it. I'm assuming t connectors will connect the 5/16 tap lines into the 3/16 main line?  The system will have to have 2 branches, one with 3 taps and the other with the rest. I can y them together maybe 10' above the tank. Total head might be 75' from the highest tap. I'm in the far NW corner of nc in the southern appalachian mountains. Would be marginal for sugaring if not for the elevation which keeps us from getting the early spring the rest of the state experiences. I really appreciate the advice, I literally knew nothing about it prior to reading your thread while bored at work. 

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2021, 10:37:36 AM »
Im not really sure here but does 5/16 drops into 3/16 mainline make sense?
Proverbs 19:11

Offline Jdock

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2021, 10:44:47 AM »
It doesn't make sense at all unless you're trees happen to have 5/16 spiles already in them due to free equipment and a total lack of planning/ foresight. 

Offline mudfarmer

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2021, 10:49:58 AM »
Im not really sure here but does 5/16 drops into 3/16 mainline make sense?
It doesn't "not" make sense, it's just that it means buying a roll of 5/16 to cut up for your drops and buying 3/16" x 3/16" x 5/16" tees.
I just run everything on 3/16"

Offline Jdock

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2021, 10:57:34 AM »
Next year I'll have all 3/16 stuff currently I have 5/16 spiles and drop lines going into 5 gallon buckets however I have several more trees to tap and some of the ones I have tapped could support another tap. Only thing I haven't seen on Amazon yet is the 5/16 x3/16 x3/16 T fitting

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2021, 11:04:37 AM »
Gotcha. 
Proverbs 19:11

Offline mudfarmer

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2021, 11:14:28 AM »
Hey @Jdock hopefully this link works https://www.rothsugarbush.com/product/516-316-flat-hook-connector/ The words in the link are not what it is, should bring you to "3/16"-3/16"-5/16" Drop Line Health T"

Offline Jdock

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2021, 11:27:40 AM »
That's exactly what I need, plus their prices are half what amazon has on the tubing. Thank you. 

Offline Jdock

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2021, 03:27:22 PM »
The old tarp shed frame will become the sugar house, just needs a few purlins and some slightly used 2v metal to keep the worst of the elements out. A block fire pit dug back into the bank with a ss evaporator pan will be fed from the ibc tote which will go on the bank behind the garage. The main branch of my line will go up the hill on the other side of the tractor and will have to be run under the flat area directly behind the tractor due to not having enough height from the lower trees to run overhead. It's already ditched because it's a swamp at the moment and I can put the sap line through the drain line, unless there's a good reason not to.

Offline Jdock

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2021, 03:33:39 PM »
 
here's where most of my maple trees are, mostly up and to the right<b

Offline celliott

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2021, 07:52:04 PM »
Actually guys, the 3/16x5/16 droplines make all the sense in the world.
Research has found that on 3/16 tubing, when the sap stops running, the vacuum stops however there is residual vacuum stored in the tree. So sap is ďsucked backĒ into the taphole. The first year this isnít an issue. In subsequent years however, that means sap is contaminated from the dirty tubing and bacteria gets into the taphole, thus starting the healing process of the taphole. We avoid this with a vacuum pump system by leaving the vacuum on 24/7. On a 3/16 system, the 5/16 dropline is supposed to give enough expansion room so sap doesnít reach the taphole. A check valve spout is also recommended after the first year, and dropline tee and connectors replacement every 3rd year. There is not enough fall or enough liquid column in a single dropline (or tap) to create vacuum in the dropline.
Jdock, if you can, avoid a Y or tee in your tubing line. Break it up into two runs, even if it means 3 trees on one run.
If you have a leak on the 3, it will affect the whole thing. And you wonít see increased productivity on the 3 tap line either.
Chris Elliott

Clark 666C cable skidder
Husqvarna and Jonsered pro saws
265rx clearing saw
Professional maple tubing installer and maple sugaring worker, part time logger

Offline Jdock

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2021, 09:18:20 PM »
Since I finally worked out how to post pictures, here's the end result of my first time cooking syrup. This is from 3 trees , made the day after I tapped them. After it settled for a while I poured the syrup off the sand.
 

Offline DeerMeadowFarm

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2021, 10:20:38 AM »
A check valve spout is also recommended after the first year,


I've heard a lot of complaints about check valve spouts freezing and/or not operating correctly. Have you experienced this issue?

We run 3/16 tubing and 5/16 drops for the reasons you mentioned as well. We are on our second year of Zap-Bac spouts and other than being more attractive to squirrels than the spouts we previously used to use they seem to be working well.





 

Offline Chuck White

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2021, 10:40:20 AM »
Next year I'll have all 3/16 stuff currently I have 5/16 spiles and drop lines going into 5 gallon buckets however I have several more trees to tap and some of the ones I have tapped could support another tap. Only thing I haven't seen on Amazon yet is the 5/16 x3/16 x3/16 T fitting
The setup you have is just fine, no need to go to the bother/expense of getting 3/16"!
I know that 3/16" is touted to "create" vacuum, but so will 5/16, 1/2, and 1" they all will as long as the line is full and the exit end of the line is downhill!
With your 5/16 lines going into 5-gal pails, Vacuum doesn't even figure in! 
Stick with what you have!
~Chuck~
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1995 Wood-Mizer LT40HDG25 Kohler - Cooks Cat Claw Sharpener and single-tooth setter, 4-foot Logrite cant hook.
Basic mechanical skills are all that's required to maintain a Wood-Mizer

Offline celliott

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2021, 11:43:51 AM »
We donít use the check valve spouts. We use a thin wall polycarbonate spout that seats very well but also holds in the tree for the long haul. I think they do have some quality control issues with them. Some work, some donít, some come apart etc etc. but without a vacuum pump to run 24/7 thatís the best option for 3/16 tubing.

Chuck, youíre right, any pipe can create a vacuum however 3/16 tubing does it much much easier than any of the other choices. 20 taps on a line with good drop and youíll see 27Ē of vacuum (what a high quality pump achieves) naturally! It just doesnít work as well with 5/16, the runs of tubing end up being prohibitively long.
As for the expense, he needs 1 roll of 3/16 tubing and a bag of tees to greatly improve performance over the buckets.
Chris Elliott

Clark 666C cable skidder
Husqvarna and Jonsered pro saws
265rx clearing saw
Professional maple tubing installer and maple sugaring worker, part time logger

Offline Chuck White

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #18 on: February 07, 2021, 07:38:22 AM »
Chris, The idea I was getting at was that there is really no "length" the his runs, just from the tap to maybe 4 feet to the pail!
~Chuck~
Retired USAF 1989, Retired School Bus Driver 2012, now semi-retired Mobile Sawyer, 2018 Silverado 4X4
1995 Wood-Mizer LT40HDG25 Kohler - Cooks Cat Claw Sharpener and single-tooth setter, 4-foot Logrite cant hook.
Basic mechanical skills are all that's required to maintain a Wood-Mizer

Offline celliott

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Re: Maple sugaring questions
« Reply #19 on: February 07, 2021, 07:39:14 PM »
Youíre right, if he desires not to change anything and stick to buckets, no point in changing the tubing up. Even with 3/16 and a 6í dropline to a bucket, not enough liquid or vertical fall to produce an appreciable amount of vacuum. 
The woods he describes is a textbook example of 3/16 tubing doing itís thing. 
The bigger issue I see, if he does change out to a 3/16 system, his cooking system will be totally overwhelmed by the sap heíll get lol
Chris Elliott

Clark 666C cable skidder
Husqvarna and Jonsered pro saws
265rx clearing saw
Professional maple tubing installer and maple sugaring worker, part time logger


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