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Thread: Barrel evaporator, Brick evaporator, or larger more custom build?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    MI
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    1

    Default Barrel evaporator, Brick evaporator, or larger more custom build?

    I don't know if this is the best place for this, because it touches on more than one topic, but here we go!

    I am fairly new to making maple syrup. This is my second year. I've really only got one tree I've been tapping from, but it has 5 trunks, 4 of which are pretty big. Last year I put 2 taps, this year I did 5 taps.

    Next year I am going to have the opportunity to expand BIG TIME. I have been asked if I wanted to tap a 100+ acre property. So my turkey fryer isn't going to cut it next year.

    I've done metal work, so I am planning on making something. But the question is... how big do I go? Its in mid Michigan with lots of maples, I can tap as much or as little as I want. And as long as nothing major changes, I will have the option to do this full time during next years season.

    Right now I am looking at 3 main options.


    1. Barrel arch. Either with steam pans, or a custom pan. This would be my cheapest option, because I have lots of 55 gal drums, and a most of a drum wood stove kit.

    2. Block arch. Again either steam pans or custom pan.

    3. I have an old vending machine that I could easily make into an arch similar to the filing cabinet arches I have seen made. This would have a custom 32x66in pan. I could make a flat pan or put dividers in or whatever.


    The barrel arch could really only hold 2 steam pans so it is limited on size, block arch could be made larger.

    I want to build option 3, but I do not know how many years I will have access to this property. I am sure I would be able to find other places to tap, but if I do not it seems like it would be useless with my measly 5 taps at home. I eventually plan on buying wooded property, but that's not in the current budget.

    Which one do you think I should make? And how many taps would you suggest for that arch?

    What are the downsides to making the big one?

    I would like opinions on the minimum amount of taps to be able to use the big one.... even if I only fire it for an hour.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Middlesex, Vermont
    Posts
    124

    Default

    Alright 85 here goes a long drawn out explanation of my situation. But I will keep it condensed.
    Wanted to boil this year. Hate buying stuff I can build. Came up with this. Went the three steam pan route because they’re cheap and I didn’t plan to make but 3 gallons. Everything you see I either scrounged at the scrap yard or built minus the pans and the roll of gasket.


    First boil went great, but sap hadn’t really started flowing yet.
    Sap starts to really run and I realize how pulled the old too many taps trick on myself. Yup, that’s just over 150 gallons of sap.

    Kindest neighbor bought a new 2x4 drop flue and let me borrow his mason divided pan.

    13gph is max I can achieve on this pan with my home built arch with AUF. I’m running about 75 taps. It took me 12 hours to boil that much sap and a fair amount of wood. I was scorched by the end of the day, the pan did great.
    Advice: set yourself up with what you would like to see yourself doing. If you plan for today you will outgrow it tomorrow. An average 1.5gpt on a decent day is 150. Do that for 3-6 runs and you’ll drown in a small rig. Do your math well and read here tons. Everyone here is awesome. I would definitely plan my arch/pan on what I PLAN to do, not what I’m doing.
    Happy to answer more questions or send more pics


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Mead Maple "It's for the kids..."
    Paul Cerminara
    2019 - First season ever
    -Homemade 275 gallon oil drum arch
    -75 taps, all on traditional buckets and drops into 5 gallon buckets
    -Goal: 3 gallons
    -Season Total: 7.5 gallons - pulled taps after running out of firewood and time
    -Fear: Becoming a member of MT.com and getting bit

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Live in NY, Sugarhouse in Milton VT
    Posts
    133

    Default

    If I were in your shoes I would consider a different option
    Make an arch that is a more standard size - like a 2x4.
    There are plenty of examples and build pics on this forum as well as plans

    You can use it in a few different configurations - as a 2x2 if you put a plate down on the back 24"
    Use it as a 2x4 with flat pans (2x2 front and 2x2 back) or with a rear flue pan and a front pan

    If you're going to tap more than 50 trees only the option 3 you mention is going to be useful

    Read up a lot here, try to make efficient use of your time boiling.



    Alternatively, grow in increments - build the smaller rig for next year and plan to sell it and use it as a learning experience. Then go bigger and better for the following year

    Important things I would want in an arch/evaporator:

    - Blower for good fire control/hot fire/efficiency
    - standard width (24") so I can buy other pans or choose from existing makers
    - adjustable feet (to level)
    - float valve for incoming sap or easy way to regulate flow coming in
    - partitions for gradient
    - draw off valve

    Again, as someone else pointed out, do some reading on other peoples' builds

    Think about how you can make your life easier on boiling days. 12 hours of boiling gets old. It gets old Fast.
    Last edited by TimJ; 04-10-2019 at 12:24 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
    Posts
    891

    Default

    If you are going to build an arch I would a conventional style one. There are many plans and pictures here. With that many trees and being able to do it full time I would go with a 2 x 6 and build it so you can go with drop flues. You can always fill it in with insulation if you go with flat or raised. You can use old bed frames for angle iron and even the metal surrounding appliances for cheap materials.
    Smoky Lake 2x6 dropflu pans and hoods on homemade arch
    Smoky Lake 6 gallon water jacked bottler
    Concentric Exhaust
    250 Deer Run RO
    325 taps

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Peoria, IL
    Posts
    526

    Default

    Wow come tap my 100 acres. What a dream! First thing I would do is survey the woods to estimate how many taps are possible. Ask anyone on here no matter how many taps you decide to start with you always grow. I second 2x6 sized evap. Start with a flat pan for 50-100 taps. Upgrade to a flue pan for up to 200 taps. Add an RO for 500-1000 taps. And if you decide you want a larger evap a good 2x6 will resale easily as it is a popular size.

    But I am reading this right you have a great full time hobby or potentially small business opportunity. Do your research and planning to make sure your equipment is right sized up front to make this endeavor enjoyable and efficient.
    2019 - 150 taps 3/16 shurflo, Deer Run 125 dolly RO - 73 gallons
    2018 - 120 taps 3/16 hybrid (shurflo), 2x6 raised flue w/hood, homemade arch w/ AUF & AOF - 34.5 gallons
    2017 - 60 taps 3/16 gravity, oil tank arck w/ steam pans - 12.5 gallons

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Underhill, VT
    Posts
    19

    Default

    Hey there, as a relative newbie myself, I have a few suggestions that may help.

    - First, once you go past a dozen taps or so, it becomes all about efficiency, even if you are still doing it just for fun. Do anything and everything you can to raise the temp (and even the the sugar content) of the incoming sap before it hits the pan and increase the rate of boils after. Because in the end it will save you time and fuel both which you are going need a lot of especially if you are going to tap 100+ acres.

    - Second, TimJ's 6 arch feature suggestions are good things to consider if you are going to do anything significant. When I went from 6 to 31 taps my second season, I incorporated those types of things and others into my small rig and it definitely improved my quality, efficiency, and sanity.

    - Third: if you are handy with metal and are going to tap more than 50 trees, I would suggest making yourself at least an oil tank evaporator, if not something more like the commercial arches. I built myself what I think is a pretty decent barrel arch (with a divided flat pan) and even with my small RO it would have a hard time keeping up if I doubled the number of taps. Granted I don't yet have a pre-heater but the best it can do right now is about 6-7gph. Maybe with a decent preheater and a drop flue-pan I could get it to maybe 10-12gph but I'd have a hard time finding either in my arch's size unless I custom make them. MeadMaple's rig is a real nice example of something a bit bigger than a barrel arch and it can handle standard 24" wide pans which will open up a lot of options. There is tons of info on here about them and you can always add another section later making it longer if you want expand.

    Good luck and keep us posted!
    -Scott
    2017: Found a new addiction/hobby!: 6 taps, Coleman stove/turkey fryer, graduated to barrel arch, 1.75 gal
    2018: Increased efficiency - 22 taps on 3/16 gravity vac, 10 buckets, homemade extended barrel arch w/ firebrick, warming pan, 20X30 baffled pan, small home-built RO, 11.5 gal
    2019: Same as above now with AUF, home-built float pan, gas sap pump, fewer fire brick but more insulation, maybe a few more taps if the wife lets me. ;-)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Location
    Two Harbors, Minnesota
    Posts
    119

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    I have 80 acres. I can tap 3-400 trees if I could access them. I started with 35 taps 4 years ago. I tapped 235 last year. I built two evaporators and now use them both. One is a 2'x4' and the other is 2'x6'. I got the heating oil barrels for free. I insulated the fireboxes with 3.5" of rockwool and also 2" firebrick. I have them both in my sugar shack now.

    Evaporator 2x4.jpg

    Evaporator 2x6.jpg
    2016- 32 taps, 3 1/2 gallons
    2017- 150 taps, 13 gallons after building an evaporator
    2018- goal is 240+ taps. 20+ gallons.
    2018 Reality- 235 taps, 5 gallons of syrup. Average 50 birch taps and 3 gallons of syrup.
    2019- 180 maple taps, 20 gallons of finished syrup.
    ~ 160 birch taps, 13 finished gallons of syrup.

    Latitude 47.278150

    www.facebook.com/livingoffmyland2015

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Middlesex, Vermont
    Posts
    124

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by billschi View Post
    I have 80 acres. I can tap 3-400 trees if I could access them. I started with 35 taps 4 years ago. I tapped 235 last year. I built two evaporators and now use them both. One is a 2'x4' and the other is 2'x6'. I got the heating oil barrels for free. I insulated the fireboxes with 3.5" of rockwool and also 2" firebrick. I have them both in my sugar shack now.

    Attachment 20005

    Attachment 20006
    Billschi, what are you getting for an evaporation rate on your 2x6? Did a nice job on that. I have got a neighbor interested in my 2x4 but if he does not buy it I plan to stretch mine to a 6 foot and get a raised pan set. Would not take me long to do that. Especially not compared to the time I spent building the arch itself!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Mead Maple "It's for the kids..."
    Paul Cerminara
    2019 - First season ever
    -Homemade 275 gallon oil drum arch
    -75 taps, all on traditional buckets and drops into 5 gallon buckets
    -Goal: 3 gallons
    -Season Total: 7.5 gallons - pulled taps after running out of firewood and time
    -Fear: Becoming a member of MT.com and getting bit

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Underhill, VT
    Posts
    19

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mead Maple View Post
    I have got a neighbor interested in my 2x4 but if he does not buy it I plan to stretch mine to a 6 foot and get a raised pan set. Would not take me long to do that. Especially not compared to the time I spent building the arch itself!
    Yeah Mead Maple, you did a real nice job on your OTE; I can see why your neighbor might want it!
    -Scott
    2017: Found a new addiction/hobby!: 6 taps, Coleman stove/turkey fryer, graduated to barrel arch, 1.75 gal
    2018: Increased efficiency - 22 taps on 3/16 gravity vac, 10 buckets, homemade extended barrel arch w/ firebrick, warming pan, 20X30 baffled pan, small home-built RO, 11.5 gal
    2019: Same as above now with AUF, home-built float pan, gas sap pump, fewer fire brick but more insulation, maybe a few more taps if the wife lets me. ;-)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Middlesex, Vermont
    Posts
    124

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    Quote Originally Posted by SyncroScott View Post
    Yeah Mead Maple, you did a real nice job on your OTE; I can see why your neighbor might want it!
    Thanks! The cool part is that the only money I have invested other than consumables (gas, grinding wheels, welding spool, paint, etc) I have absolutely $0 in it. I am very close with the scrap yard owner so I have an all access pass to the yard. Even the 2 sections of stove pipe were from my chimney guy! I enjoyed the fab very much and loved every minute of my first season!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Mead Maple "It's for the kids..."
    Paul Cerminara
    2019 - First season ever
    -Homemade 275 gallon oil drum arch
    -75 taps, all on traditional buckets and drops into 5 gallon buckets
    -Goal: 3 gallons
    -Season Total: 7.5 gallons - pulled taps after running out of firewood and time
    -Fear: Becoming a member of MT.com and getting bit

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