He brought the equipment from the business he owned in Ohio, where he created stainless steel dies from which he makes plastic parts to specifications.
"I can literally make anything," he said.
The tool and die business won't keep him from off-season maple line maintenance, such as repairing the holes squirrels and other animals sometimes gnaw in the plastic lines. In fact, he used his tool and die equipment to create "Critter Patch," a plastic device that joins breaks in the lines. The holes provide frequent and expensive damage.
The Howells also are working with other West Virginia producers to establish industry regulation and a maple syrup makers association.
Maple syrup is graded from Fancy, with a light, delicate flavor, to Grade B, the darkest and most robust syrup. Most of Sugarcreek's is on the darker end of the syrup spectrum. The Fancy grade is considered most desirable by the experts. The high ranking is a throwback to colonial times when settlers wanted a substance that closely resembled refined sugar. The Howells said most people prefer the darker, more flavorful grades.
Connie Howell enjoys the syrup in maple wheat bread, maple glazed carrots and a maple glaze on ham. She makes maple frosting for apple cake, maple fudge, maple pumpkin cookies and a maple cheesecake and said her maple barbecue sauce goes well on chicken and pork.
"I've had more people request this recipe than any other," said Connie Howell, who shared her recipe.
Like most of their customers, she prefers the darker grade, both in recipes and straight, but watches her intake closely.
"I've been diabetic since I was 5 years old. We think God in heaven must be laughing down on us. He put a maple syrup producer with a diabetic," she said.
The Howells sell Sweetcreek Sugarworks pure maple syrup at fairs and festivals and take phone orders. Call 304-758-0432.