A cremator operates the furnace in which human remains are reduced to bone fragments and gaseous chemical compounds. He normally works alone, but sometimes has an assistant to help slide the caskets into the furnace. Some cremators also act as funeral directors. A cremator may work for a small, family-owned funeral home or for a large organization.
The job of a cremator requires a basic understanding of science and knowledge of how the crematory furnace works. After he starts the furnace, he normally checks all gauges and thermostats to make sure they are operating properly. He then calibrates the furnace to reach the high temperatures required for the procedure and sets the timer based on the casket materials and body weight of the deceased.
At the end of the process, the cremator waits for the furnace and its contents to cool. He then uses tools to extricate the unburned parts of the casket from the furnace’s interior. These parts are normally made of metal or other non-flammable materials.
Normally, the next step of the cremation job is to carefully scrape the bone fragments, typically referred to as ashes, into a designated container. The remains are commonly rather coarse and are usually broken down to a fine texture by a machine called an electric cremated remains processor. This process may also be done by hand.
The cremator generally then sifts the sand-like material through a fine screen. Any remaining superfluous materials are removed from the mixture before it is transferred to a cardboard box or canister. The desired end product should be fine enough to be easily scattered without any additives. The average weight of cremated remains is around 6 pounds (2.7 kg) for men and 4 pounds (1.8 kg) for women.
The receptacle is generally labeled with the name of the deceased as well as the person to whom the remains are to be transferred. If any jewelry or other personal items remain, he traditionally packs them separately for return to the family. He generally maintains accurate records of all parts of the process.
Maintaining a clean and tidy crematorium is customarily part of the cremator’s job. He is also typically required to assist in the care of the property’s landscaping and memorial service area. Following local and regional guidelines for crematory practices is an important part of his job. Keeping the crematory equipment up to code is also a common job responsibility, as is ensuring all local and regional permits are current.
To become a cremator requires only a high school diploma or equivalent. Most cremator jobs offer on-the-job training. Good mechanical skills and attention to detail are desirable attributes for job applicants.