This Jar of maple syrup was made without the help of a hydrometer or thermometer. But for the perfectionists among you, have at it!
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 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). Last week, we did buckets and spiles. Let's add thermometers and hydrometers to the mix!
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. It has a lot of thermometers and hydrometers to choose from and there's plenty of information and pictures so you can make a good choice. Prices on these aren't bad either. 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 and to page 30 for the thermometers and hydrometers
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. And the hydrometer and thermometer display, which is extensive, comes with no guidance. Totally worth a look though, especially if you know just what you are looking for. You can give the inventory a browse here (buckets and spiles) and here (thermometers and hydrometers).
www.leaderevaporator.com - Leader carries a good variety of buckets and alternative collection containers and a couple of hydrometers and hydrometer cups, but no thermometers that I could find. The website is a bit clunky, (for example, hydrometers and the hydrometer cups they are used with are listed on separate pages) but there is plenty of information, including uploaded instruction manuals, for self-education. 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, hydrometers here and hydrometer cups here.
wwww.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. CDL's prices on its vast array of hydrometers and thermometers are also the lowest, however, where the hydrometer cups are remains a mystery to me. Maybe you can figure it out: 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- fewer hydrometers and thermometers. Totally worth a look! Go to the classifieds here, search for what you are in the market for and you'll see what I mean!
On Teaspoon of Sugar, we write about maple sugaring, maple syrup, starting and running a small business, and living the sweet life here in beautiful, downtown Montpelier, Vermont.