Tapping is super easy. Here's what you'll need:
Taps- pretty cheap on Ebay, or they might be available used if you look around.
Line- I got some plastic tubing at the hardware store. The tubing should fit snugly over your taps.
Drill & bit to fit the taps- if you don't own one, contact your nearest handyman. ;)
Hammer- probably have one around the house.
Buckets- A clean 5-gallon bucket will do. I had to buy a lid from the hardware store, but to get started you probably don't need a lid. It just keeps the bugs and bark out.
The first time I decided to tap trees, the season was almost over and I didn't have time to make an elaborate set-up. For taps I cut up some pieces of old brake line, and hung some milk jugs off the taps. However, one of the three jugs kept falling off. I wouldn't recommend this setup, but it proves that you don't need a lot of fancy equipment.
1. Drill a slightly upward-slanting hole 2" - 2.5" deep in each tree. Pick healthy trees that are at least 12" in diameter. For bigger trees, you can insert more taps; a 12-27" diameter tree can have two taps, and trees larger than 27" in diameter can have three taps.
2. Use the hammer to gently pound the taps into each hole.
3. Attach your line to each tap. Put the end of the line into your bucket. You only need one 5-gallon bucket for each tree. Therefore multiple taps can drain into one bucket.
There are many ways to make a maple sap boiler. My in-laws gutted out an old dryer and burned wood inside, while boiling the sap down in a canner on top of the dryer. They put it near the woodburner (and thus near the wood). Some people use propane, which is easy but not as cheap as free wood.
In the kitchen, watch the sap closely. As it boils, it will take on a syrup consistency. The syrup will begin to "stick" to a spoon when it reaches this stage. Finish boiling when the temperature reaches 219 degrees F, or 7 degrees above boiling point.
And that's it! You can also filter the syrup through a coffee filter if you want.
This is a great project to celebrate Spring with. Though it is time consuming, real maple syrup fetches a high price, so it might be worth it to make your own. As with any other hobby/project, the key to keeping it frugal is DON'T "invest" too much money too fast into supplies and a heat source. I would advise keeping it cheap the first season, at least, until you know that it is something you want to do every year.
Happy tapping! ...and pancake eating, and waffle eating, and french toast eating.... ;)