Many of us put together what we need from flea markets and the local hardware store. However, there are many online retailers of those most essential of maple sugaring supplies: buckets and spiles.
One of the questions I get the most is "where do I get sugaring supplies?"
The truth is that we have cobbled together a collection of old galvanized buckets and antique spiles from local hardware stores, flea markets and by word-of-mouth for our hobby. Hardly a satisfying response for the budding sugar maker, I'm afraid. Besides which these sources, especially hardware stores, tend to have supplies only seasonally.
Depending on where you live, Craigslist may be a good choice. We have certainly gone there for bigger items like sap storage tanks with success. But again, supplies are likely to be seasonal.
Some of us are lucky enough to live within driving distance of brick-and-mortar maple sugaring supply businesses and have the time and inclination to go there. But, then again, many of us live in the boonies and just don't.
So what's someone who plans ahead (or is holiday shopping) to do? Let's start with the basics. You have a drill and a 5/16 or 7/16 bit. You have trees. You can worry about sap storage later (5 gallon buckets work great in a pinch). Next week, we'll tackle thermometers, hydrometers, filtering and bottling. Right now, let's talk about the rest of the must-have list for the tapping that begins, for some of us, in January: buckets and spiles.
I've culled through a number of online resources and here's what I've come up with, in no particular order. Please feel free to leave your own links and recommendations in comments for the benefit of all. Thanks!
www.sugarbushsupplies.com - This site has a wide variety of taps at decent prices, and a few different bucket choices. You must place your order by phone, but the folks sure look friendly. The PDF Catalog can be found here - scroll to page 19 for bucket and spile inventory.
www.bascommaple.com – Here you will find a wide variety of items, including used buckets and lids at very good prices. The site suggests that shipping and handling fees are added after you pay, however, and notes that there is a 10% restocking fee. Totally worth a look anyhow, especially if you know just what you are looking for. You can give the inventory a browse here.
www.leaderevaporator.com - Leader carries a good variety of buckets and alternative collection containers. Its line of spiles is more limited, but does include the aesthetically-pleasing, old-fashioned cast ones that carry the company name. Very romantic. You do have to register as a customer to purchase. Check out Leader's bucket and spile inventory here.
www.cdlusa.net - CDL boasts best prices on new buckets and spiles, and carries a grey plastic bucket, the likes of which I've never seen, and which may many-a-marital-argument solve. You have to register as a customer to place an order online, but CDL has brick-and-mortars all over the place if you fancy a visit or like to handle things before you buy them. You can check out CDL's offerings here.
tapmytrees.com - This site looks like it affords the best online purchasing experience out there. It is an easy website to navigate where the buckets and spiles are nicely packaged and - bonus - displayed with other items - like hydrometers and filters - that you might be in the market for. Shipping is free, but you do pay for all this convenience, as the prices are higher, the selection is limited, and the items are sold in sets rather than per each. Still, if you covet convenience and are at all intimidated by your new hobby, probably a good place to pull the trigger; you can see the inventory here.
mapletrader.com – Ah, the eBay of maple sugaring supplies! If you are down with used goods, here is where you will get your best prices. There are lots of old galvanized buckets and lids and old cast-style spiles at MapleTrader. Inventory may be seasonal, but is very good right now. Go to the classifieds here, search on "bucket" and you'll see what mean.