Let’s make syrup!

Earlier today, after looking at a few more websites and pictures of various rocket stove designs, I got it into my head that I would just go out and make the thing.

Why not?slab

I used a rectangle of cement that was poured by the Drennans, the people who lived here while my dad was growing up.

Just barely legible on the slab is written, “Drennans’ Dogwood Dell”

Anyway, I laid the slab our away from the seed room and started carrying bricks over to it.

Some of these bricks I’ve had for almost 20 years just waiting for the right time and project.base layer

They are mostly fire brick and refractory soft brick, of various shapes and sizes, with a few red brick mixed in.

Directly on the slab I laid a bed of 16 red brick with a row of soft brick along either side. This would be my base.

Why red brick?
I really couldn’t tell you.

Then I ran 3 courses of fire brick in a long skinny rectangle.

 capped fire box

I capped off the fire box with a large fire brick, I have no idea where it came from.


The chimney was proportioned roughly the same size as the firebox opening (which I didn’t like) so I took a red clay chimney tile and set it into the existing opening.

Then I just built up around the tile a couple of layers of fire brick, switching to soft brick until the final course, which is one level above the top of the chimney tile.

let'g get it going
The entire lower section was then covered in soft brick, 1 layer along the sides and back and 2 layers over the fire box.
4 pieces of broken kiln shelf are used as the supports for the pot with the syrup in it.
At 1:00pm Leah lit the first fire.
It was about 50 degrees and falling with a pretty good wind out of the NNE.
syrup cooker v1.0The chimney started drafting properly from the start, but as things slowly began to heat up I felt that the firebox was too close to the chimney so I added a cinder block outside of the firebox opening with hard brick for walls and cap.

From no fire at all, it took about 1 hour 20 minutes to bring 10 gallons of maple sap to a boil burning only pine at first, then adding maple and ash as it heated up.

We cooked the sap till it got dark and started to rain. night fire

For whatever reason I just can’t get enough of looking at a fire burning in a brick firebox at night.

final cooker for now

After a little thinking on things over night, I decided that I wanted the chimney even taller and that there needed to be something to deflect the heat up the sides of the pot.
So I added 4 more courses of brick.

Just letting it vent straight out the sides seems a waste.steamy cauldron
For that, I stood the final course of bricks on end.
The redirection of the heat is made obvious by the additional black carbon accumulating up the sides of the pot.

almost syrup

Considering how much of the water was boiled away and how many hours we fired the cooker, we used remarkably little fire wood in the process.

Still a couple of hours from finished, the syrup is starting to take on the golden brown of maple goodness.

There’s more about making syrup (and sugar!) here:

3 thoughts on “Let’s make syrup!

  1. Looks like a fun and rewarding project….I’ll try that this spring in the Catskills! Last year I tried tapping with my Elder spiles, but only took about a gallon of sap. I strained it and drank it all.

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