I have always used a pretty simple tree tapping technique – this is one from last year – 1 ½ pint jar, hung by string on a tap carved from a handy branch by using a sharp knife to make a “gutter” (anyone detect my normal “small sharp knife” preference here )

Anyway, I was lucky enough to see how the professionals do it recently - a metal tap, with a gutter and a hook to hang the collecting bucket from.

So I thought I could improve my normal improvised design

Here’s the prototype

Step 1 locate a suitable (dead) elder – or another similar tree with a soft pith

You can see the suitability for improvising tree taps and other “pipes” from the end of this dead branch

So out with Red’s ever present pocket saw. I’m looking for a branch a little thicker than a fingers width – it needs to wind up about ½ “ thick when the bark is off

I don’t need a lot – the finished tap will be 4” long or so – I cut enough for a couple of failures

So – we cut a suitable section of wood – I try to cut between side shoots, finding a nice straight piece. You can see the soft inner pith of the elder in this shot

Next job is to taper one end to about 3/8” or 10mm in new money

Next I peel all the bark off and shave back to a neat(ish) cylinder

I make a saw “stop cut” halfway through the tap – into the middle of the pith. The cut is 1/3 of the way along the tap from the “blunt” end.

Elder splits really easily, so using the blade of my pocket knife, I rest the blade across the middle of the tapered end and push – a split will run to the “stop” cut

I shape a slightly deeper groove into the stop cut to hang my collecting vessel from

Next I use my knife tip to remove the pith from the centre channel

I Use a twig or bit of wire to push the pith from the remaining solid section

Finally, I improvise a collecting device. This is an old detergent box (handy since it has a lid to keep flies and so on out). A baked bean tin with a hole in would work though as would your billy can

Lastly of course, bore a hole in your tree of choice with knife tip or “brace and bit” if you want to get really fancy – knock in the tap, hang the collecting device from it. Job done

Not as fancy as the metal one by a long chalk - an improvment on last years though!