Pioneer Pipes


Adam was over here this week helping me put a few more taps in my maples, among other things. After we finished, he showed me one of the ways pioneers–or anyone today who doesn’t want to spend the money on pipe–could tap a maple. It’s a bit of trouble, so not something most people would do today, but he pointed out that pipe costs money and if someone is putting in a hundred taps, that really adds up.
He cut some box elder branches from my farm and showed me that the center of the wood is soft. Hollow it out.
Plane down the end where it will pour into your collection bucket
And there you have a free tap!
Of course, this takes some time, so if you wanted to put in a hundred free taps like this, you should have started working on it around Christmas…..

Another one that works well is elderberry branches, but since elderberry is good for berries (!), it’s better to choose box elder, which is good for nothing–other than making pipes. And pipes made from box elder could be used for all kinds of other purposes, too. I hadn’t even thought about what people would do in the old days for pipe. It’s not like they had a handy hardware store nearby, and often they had little money anyway. And yet they still wanted maple syrup. Of course. Who doesn’t?!


  1. JustJane says:

    This is one of the things I really like about your site. Reminding us of how it WAS done. You struck gold when you found Adam!

  2. brookdale says:

    I read that the Abenaki Native Americans in olden times would just cut a v-shaped notch in the maple tree and put a water-tight birch bark basket on the ground under the tree. The sap would drip down into the basket, and then they would boil it down over an open fire.
    The sap isn’t running here yet, soon I hope. LOVE the maple syrup!

  3. hepkitten says:

    Great post – I love seeing how things were done! I’ll remember that use for elderberry branches. I just did a post on elderberry syrup on my blog (works uh-mazingly) so it’s good to know there’s other uses for the plant. I’m going to put some in in the spring. (:

  4. whaledancer says:

    Adam is a treasure trove of handy information. Thanks for showing this technique.

    BTW, box elders aren’t good-for-nothing. Since they are maples, you can tap them for syrup, too. The sugar concentrations in the sap aren’t as high, so it takes more sap to make a quart of syrup than sugar maples do, but it still makes a tasty syrup, with a slightly different flavor.

  5. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl says:

    Suzanne, I truly believe you and Adam ought to write a book, incorporating all the stuff he knows. What an absolute treasure he and his knowledge are to you, and to us!!! Give him a “high five” for me, okay??

  6. Barbee says:

    Would be a good wintertime project carving a hundred pipes. We have a cute Sap-Sucker Woodpecker that has spent several hours lately on our old maple tree. It must taste good.

  7. joykenn says:

    When I read your post’s title “Pioneer Pipes” I wondered if you’d taken up smoking. Glad you here it’s on making syrup taps the old-fashioned way. Whaledancer is right, by the way, you can tap box elder trees. If you want the “official” word, here’s a link to some nice information from Ohio State University on making maple syrup that mentions tapping box elders as well.

  8. holstein woman says:

    Last year one of your posters mentioned you could tap any kind of maple. Since I live in Oregon and pull up the small varmints I wonder what the syrup from them tastes like? We moved so I guess I will never know.

  9. Kahuna55 says:

    HI!! I grow bamboo….it is hollow and think..I think it would make a good tap??

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