Backyard Set Up Series – StarCat and Dauntless

The below video series offers great tips for setting up and using a StarCat™ or Dauntless™ evaporator in a backyard setting.

If you are seeking arch assembly instructions, please see our StarCat Arch Assembly or Dauntless Arch Assembly. In addition, a Quick Start Guide is available for each pan style. After your evaporator is assembled, come on back to this page for more step by step instruction and helpful tips.

Table of Contents

    1. Leveling the Evaporator
    2. Bricking the Arch
    3. Stack Pipe and Guy Support
    4. Adding Sap to the Pans
    5. Lighting the Evaporator
    6. Drawing Off Syrup with a Continuous Flow Pan
    7. Shutting Down the Evaporator
    8. BONUS FOOTAGE: Boiling on Facebook Live

Chapter 1: Leveling the Ground


    • Measuring Tape
    • Bricks (Qty 4)
    • Four-Foot Level
    • Shovel

Leveling Procedure

Step 1: Measure the footprint of the arch.

Step 2: Select one corner from which to level the other three corners.

Step 3: Double check your measurements.

Step 4: Place your arch onto the bricks. Keep in mind that as the frost comes out of the ground, the ground may shift. You may need to level the foundation multiple times throughout your maple season.

Chapter 2: Bricking the Arch

This video quickly demonstrates the grates and bricks in a Dauntless evaporator. For a more thorough explanation, see the Dauntless assembly video.  For thorough StarCat bricking and insulating instructions, please see the StarCat Assembly video.


Chapter 3: Stack Pipe and Guy Support

In this chapter, we are going to assemble the stack pipe and make sure that it is properly supported.

Video Outline

0:22 – Ideas for Proper Stack Pipe Support
2:10 – Installing the Stack Pipe with Guy Support
3:10 – Planning placement/position of the Guy Support wires
4:40 – Anchoring the wires
6:14 – Creating the Guy Wires
7:40 – Installing the Guy Wires
9:35 – Fastening Screws into Each Joint of Stack Pipe

Installation Tools

    • Safety Glasses
    • Provided Stainless Steel Guy Support
    • Provided 6″ diameter Stack Pipe (6 ft for StarCat / 8 ft for Dauntless)
    • Provided 6″ Elbow
    • Non-flammable cable or wire (We used yellow Binding Wire)
    • Hammer and Splitting Maul
    • Wrench to tighten the Guy Support
    • Measuring Tape
    • Level
    • Anchors for the wires (ie. tent stakes, or cinder blocks)
    • Wire Cutter
    • Self Tapping Screws (3 for each joint)
    • Drill

Chapter 4: Filling the Pans with Sap

In this chapter, we are going to fill the pans with sap so that there is 2″ depth throughout. We will demonstrate the Level Assist feature which is featured on all Smoky Lake Flat and Divided Pans. After that, we will cover some tips for filling and maintaining depth in the Dauntless Drop Flue Pan Sets.

Video Outline

0:10 – Various Pan Styles
0:27 – Flat and Divided Pans (Level Assist and Sight Glass)
1:56 – Dauntless Drop Flue Pan Set
4:20 – Recap

Chapter 5: Light It Up!

In this chapter, let’s make a fire in the firebox and generate some steam!

Video Outline

0:09 Safety First (Fire Extinguisher, Gloves, Safety Glasses Required!)
0:19 Optimal Firewood Size
0:50 Firewood Prep
1:25 How to Load the Firebox
1:58 Dauntless Vs StarCat
2:50 Using the Damper
3:44 How Does Fire Behave When The Door Is Open Vs Shut?
4:56 How Often Should We Add More Wood?
7:09 The Base of the Evaporator is NOT Storage Space
8:02 Steam Is Starting After About 5 Minutes
10:00 Middle Channel Starts Boiling First
10:50 Why Firebrick Temp Matters
11:30 Trickling Raw Sap Into The Pan
13:50 Adding More Firewood
14:18 Preview of Next Video (Thoughts on Coal Build-Up)


    • Safety Glasses
    • Leather Work Gloves
    • DRY, 17″ length Firewood (Split small!)
    • Blow Torch or Lighter
    • Fire Extinguisher (And understand how to use it in case the need arises!)
    • Spare Bucket of Sap for Emergencies

Chapter 6: Drawing Off Finished Syrup From The Evaporator

This section is applicable to continuous flow pans (pans with dividers). Jimmy demonstrates how to use the maple thermometer to monitor syrup progress. How to test density with a Murphy Cup and Hydrometer. And how to know when to open/close the draw off valve.


Chapter 7: Shutting Down

In this chapter, we are going to be shutting down the evaporator for the day.

Video Outline

0.:15 – Overview of Jim’s current evaporator status
2:03 – Reserve at Least 5 Gallons of Sap for Shut Down
3:14 – Spread the Coals Evenly Across the Grates
3:30 – Forced Draft Vs. Natural Draft
3:47 – Thoughts on Coals
4:20 – Using the Damper
4:37 – More Thoughts on Coals and Damper
5:48 – What Will Happen to the Density Gradient in a Divided Pan?
6:55 – Steam Has Almost Stopped
7:45 – Why We Do NOT Brick the Entire Arch
8:05 – Why Use a Lid on the Pan?
8:55 – Preventing Rust

BONUS FOOTAGE: Boiling on Facebook Live

This video was filmed LIVE on Facebook on March 22, 2020. In this video, we draw syrup off of a Dauntless Divided Pan. We also discuss tips and tricks for sap collection.

Posted by Smoky Lake Maple Products on Sunday, March 22, 2020