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Crematorium Technician here

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kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:11:53

I see lots of threads about cremations and Crematoria. I'm currently a crem tech so please ask me questions and I will endeavor to answer them.

madmomma Thu 31-May-18 13:13:16

What made you go into this line of work? Do you enjoy it?

Marmaladdin Thu 31-May-18 13:15:28

Do people get the right ashes back? My DF (with no insight or experience) thinks we just get any old dust back....

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:15:40

I absolutely adore my job. It's a really taboo subject but I love helping people at their most vulnerable time.

StormcloakNord Thu 31-May-18 13:16:12

This sounds like really interesting work.

I know this isn't your specific line of work - but do you know how to get into working in morgues? I've always wanted to work in a morgue but find it next to impossible to find what kind of qualifications you need?!

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:17:45

@Marmaladdin absolutely 100% of the correct ashes. An ID card is attached to the remains and stays with them until the ashes leave our crem.

MothertotheLordsofmisrule Thu 31-May-18 13:17:47

When you first held a persons ashes what did you think/feel?

I was quite amazed by the weight of ashes I’ve held.
Sort of morbid realisation (and fascination) that these ashes were once a person.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:18:42

@StormcloakNord I have no idea but maybe contact your local authority mortuary and they could point you in the right direction.

Tentomidnight Thu 31-May-18 13:19:20

Are the bodies cremated after each funeral, or all at a certain time of day?
Does black smoke come out of the chimney?
What is left behind and how is it disposed of? (metal plates/pins from operations? Pacemakers? Piercings?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:19:42

@MothertotheLordsofmisrule I refer to ashes as their name but I don't have any emotion as I didn't know the person.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Thu 31-May-18 13:20:21

Is metalwork offered to the family, or do you just retain it?

Marmaladdin Thu 31-May-18 13:20:23

Thanks Kermit good to know!

CherryBlossom23 Thu 31-May-18 13:21:02

Do you ever get sad being surrounded by death all the time or does it make you want to live life more while you can?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:23:00

@Tentomidnight we cremate the same day of the service but not directly after. Black smoke does occasionally come out of the chimney if there is something that shouldn't be in there but is quickly dealt with.

Pins/plates/nails are removed before ashes are cremulated (bones broken down into ashes) then sent for recycling although you can request that the metal from cremation is returned to you.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:24:27

@CherryBlossom23 I get sad at babies/small children/people my own age but keep it to myself.

It makes me embrace life and live it to the full. I find I don't sweat the small stuff as there is someone worse off than me.

Member Thu 31-May-18 13:25:51

When the coffin goes through the curtains, does it go straight into the furnace or does it have to be lifted to the furnace i.e is the furnace directly behind where the mourners last see the coffin?

Is the furnace constantly on during the day or can it just be fired up for a single cremation?

How many coffins can fit in at a time?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:26:02

Nothing is left in the cremator, it is all removed during the rake out process.

TSSDNCOP Thu 31-May-18 13:26:56

Thank you OP. So is the oven swept/cleaned completely after each use? After the cremation are the remains literally dust or are there bones?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:29:16

@Member the coffin is removed from the catafalque and is sometimes put straight into cremator if ready. Most of the time a coffin is put on racking ready to be charged. Only one coffin is placed in the cremator at any time.

We adhere to very strict rules on policy and procedure for the cremation process.

I have heard in the past that people could see flames as the curtains close. I can assure you that if you ever see this then something has gone very wrong and the Crematorium is on fire!

Thisnamechanger Thu 31-May-18 13:30:09

Watching with interest! Thanks for sharing OP.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:30:25

@TSSDNCOP yes, the cremator (I will never refer to it as an oven) is swept down and all is left is calcified bones which are very brittle.

Pebbles789 Thu 31-May-18 13:32:38

What happens to the coffin? Is the person taken out of it before cremation or does the coffin go into the furnace too?

PerkingFaintly Thu 31-May-18 13:32:41

Recently saw this article about metalwork after cremation.

After cremation: Recycling surgical implants
Photography student Harry Lloyd-Evans photographs surgical implants that are recovered and recycled after cremation.

Member Thu 31-May-18 13:32:53

Thanks, what’s a catafalque?

elQuintoConyo Thu 31-May-18 13:33:29

Just placemarking, terribly bad form, sorry. But this thread is fascinating.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:35:16

@Pebbles789 the coffin burns away to nothing and we are absolutely not allowed to open coffins once they have been committed (pass through the curtain) they can be opened in chapel for an open casket funeral for example but certainly not willy nilly.

Coffins are not reused, neither are handles/nameplates/pins/nails

rainbowstardrops Thu 31-May-18 13:35:24

Absolutely fascinating. I've always wondered how it all works

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:35:58

A catafalque is the platform in which the coffin sits in chapel.

HirplesWithHaggis Thu 31-May-18 13:36:07

I have read recently about paupers funerals, with a cremation but no service (so no family or friends can attend.) I gather the ashes aren't given to family or friends either, so what happens to them?

Pebbles789 Thu 31-May-18 13:37:24

Ah sorry I've just seen your answer about the coffin. Cross posts!

How long does it take to cremate someone?
I agree with a pp, fascinating thread!

CherryBlossom23 Thu 31-May-18 13:37:29

If anyone is interested, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is a really interesting memoir/novel about a women's experience of working in a US crematorium and her thoughts on death culture.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:38:44

@HirplesWithHaggis we have direct cremations and the ashes are returned to families however I know with local authority contract funerals the ashes are scattered in the grounds of the Crematorium as the majority either don't have any family or the local authority has paid for funeral. It can be different with different areas though.

Anasnake Thu 31-May-18 13:40:31

How did you get into this line of work ?

LifeBeginsAtGin Thu 31-May-18 13:40:43

What happens to rings that can't be taken off (due to weight gain etc) - I see some people whose skin seems to grow over the jewellery it's been on so long?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:40:45

An average cremation takes between 70-90 minutes depending on how you died/weight/age/sex. Some take longer some take shorter. I've done a 60 minute one and a 3 hour one. You really can't judge it until they're in.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:41:37

After I left the Army I was at a cross roads. I applied with the local council and got the job.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Thu 31-May-18 13:42:19

Would you cremate more than one person at a time at the request of family? Eg family members who had died together in an accident?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:43:03

@LifeBeginsAtGin rings/Gold/silver melts and solidifies as little balls which go into the recycling with the rest of the metal unless you have asked for metal to be returned to you.

BubbleBlowingBaby Thu 31-May-18 13:44:10

Goodness.....this would be my dream job! There's something so selfless about helping people at the very end of life.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:45:02

@ItsAllGoingToBeFine do you mean in the same cremator? If so, no we are only allowed to cremate 1 coffin in the cremator at one time. Sites that have more than one cremator they try to charge both coffins into separate cremators at the same time so they cremate together but not in the same cremator IYSWIM

LifeBeginsAtGin Thu 31-May-18 13:45:56

Thanks Kermit - so say your my MIL who wears a £5k diamond ring would it just melt (do diamonds melt)

SmittenApril Thu 31-May-18 13:46:15

I hope it's not to personal a question...

Will you choose cremation or burial for yourself/family?

FriendlyOcelot Thu 31-May-18 13:47:10

Fascinating thread Kermit.

You mention that some take longer than others. How do you know when the cremation is over? Do you have to keep checking?

KurriKurri Thu 31-May-18 13:48:18

I'm not sure if this question comes into the remit of your job, and it's probably a daft one - but I'll ask anyway grin

When people's ashes are interred in the crematorium grounds and the family have a rememberance plaque put up, can family members then visit as you can a graveyard and lay flowers etc? Can you visit the grounds of a crematorium at any time ?

(I would like to do this where my father and brother's ashes are interred, I've never visited the place because never felt the need but now I;d like too, juts not sur of the etiquette)

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:49:29

@LifeBeginsAtGin the gold would melt certainly but I'm sure about a diamond. I've never had to look for one or deal with one but if I ever do I'll get back to you.

yellowmellw Thu 31-May-18 13:50:29

What does it smell like

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:50:53

@SmittenApril I choose cremation any day. Don't want to be worm food!

yellowmellw Thu 31-May-18 13:51:32

People who have lost pregnancy's early on in my hospital send all the baby's to cremation at some point obviously they all go together as they are so small.

Do you deal with this also and if so are they all in a coffin or are they put in some container of some sort

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:52:01

@FriendlyOcelot the rules are - the cremation is finished when the last flicker of orange flame has been extinguished. We have a spy hole to check how the cremation is doing.

BarbaraOcumbungles Thu 31-May-18 13:52:14

I used to live opposite Chelmsford Crem and my car and window cils were always covered in a light covering of ash. Is that normal?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:53:03

@KurriKurri contact the Crematorium and they will tell you as every site is different.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:53:47

@yellowmellw no smell as it's all contained within the cremator which is slightly pressurised.

speakout Thu 31-May-18 13:54:03

Do the brasses get sold back to the funeral home?

yellowmellw Thu 31-May-18 13:54:44

Do you have to wear breathing apparatus or anything when cleaning it out and do you get covered in ash

FriendlyOcelot Thu 31-May-18 13:55:18

Thanks Kermit. What a job!

shinycat Thu 31-May-18 13:55:39

Thanks you OP!

Can't think of anything atm, but will post if I do!

shinycat Thu 31-May-18 13:56:00

THANK you, not thanks you. DOH!

FriendlyOcelot Thu 31-May-18 13:56:04

Has there ever been an accident or a malfunction of the cremator which has meant the process has been bodged?

missnevermind Thu 31-May-18 13:56:11

When my mothers ashes were returned to us we were also given a signed certificate / card with 2 identical numbered stones in a presentation case, one of which was scorched and had burn marks.
That was in europe not in this country. Do you do something similar?

KingLooieCatz Thu 31-May-18 13:57:10

Just coming on to say my uncle was cremated a few weeks ago and the crematorium staff were brilliant. My cousin asked people to e-mail her their favourite memories of her dad. Apparently she just forwarded the lot to the crem and the lady that took the service spoke as if she'd known my uncle all his life. Uncle was a terminal alcoholic in the end but they managed to give him such a great send off.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:58:16

@yellowmellw we do NVF (non viable fetuses) separately

yellowmellw Thu 31-May-18 13:59:23

@ILoveKermit what do you mean separately? I just had a miscarriage and so I want to know what will happen with the remains at cremation please

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 13:59:34

@speakout all handles/nameplates/adornments are plastic and melt. They are not allowed in the cremator

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:00:11

@speakout sorry that should have said brass handles are not allowed in the cremator

brizzledrizzle Thu 31-May-18 14:00:46

so when you receive the ashes of your relative you are actually getting a mix of coffin ashes and their ashes?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:00:54

@BarbaraOcumbungles depends on what filtration system they had.

HirplesWithHaggis Thu 31-May-18 14:01:03

Thank you for your response, and for this thread. Fascinating indeed.

speakout Thu 31-May-18 14:01:31

So are the handles that are brass given back to the funeral home for re-sale?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:01:47

@yellowmellw we have to wear heat proof clothing and I wear a breathing mask when dealing with ashes.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:04:02

@FriendlyOcelot I've heard a pacemaker go off and it was a very large explosion but fortunately didn't damage the cremator. A power cut will switch the cremator off but the cremation will still happen but very slowly. We are NOT allowed to open the cremator door under any circumstance even if the Crematorium is burning to the ground.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:04:55

@missnevermind I know in Germany they use ceramic discs but as far as I know we don't use these in uk.

PurpleStarInCashmereSky Thu 31-May-18 14:06:23

What factors make a body take longer to cremate?

Catcrazy008 Thu 31-May-18 14:06:41

Do you believe in an after life of any sorts?
Have you ever had an eerie or creepy incident?

FriendlyOcelot Thu 31-May-18 14:07:32

Thank you Kermit

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:08:13

@yellowmellw different places do different things. We don't do contact NVF funerals but the place I used to be at did and they cremated altogether then scattered ashes in the baby garden.

At my place we cremate each one separately then ashes are either returned to family or scattered in accordance with families wishes. Please contact your hospital/funeral director that dealt with your baby and they will be able to tell you and I'm sorry for your loss.

yellowmellw Thu 31-May-18 14:08:42

Thank you

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:09:21

@brizzledrizzle it's a very small portion of coffin as 99% of coffin burns away completely

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:10:43

@PurpleStarInCashmereSky cancer tumors make a cremation last longer. Sometimes the very elderly/frail take a little while longer. You really can never tell

BuggerOffAndGoodDayToYou Thu 31-May-18 14:11:21

What an interesting thread. Thank you OP.

PenCobSwan Thu 31-May-18 14:11:28

How do you make the fire in the cremator ? You said you use electricity, how does the body catch on fire ?

If it takes, say, around an hour on average for a standard sized adult to be cremated and there are 6 cremations per day, do you stay until late in the day to get all the bodies cremated ?

Does it take long for the ashes to cool ?

How long does it take for the cremator to cool down enough to get the next deceased in ? How do you get them in, like a baker uses a 'paddle' style utensil to put the bread in an old 'brick oven' ? (Sorry for being facetious but the question is real)

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:11:46

@Catcrazy008 I believe that some people never make it to the other side and hang around if I'm ever on my own when cremation I say hello to everyone

shinycat Thu 31-May-18 14:12:27


If a family are cremating a loved one, would it perhaps make more sense to advise them to not have a coffin with brass handles/ nameplates/ adornments etc (made of are plastic,) if they are not allowed in the cremator?

Maybe it would be a good idea to suggest to people that they have a wooden coffin/or a cardboard one like this.

shinycat Thu 31-May-18 14:13:21

Hope you don't mind me asking that? ^ smile

Crumbelina Thu 31-May-18 14:13:39

This thread is going a bit better compared to when an estate agent posted and offered to answer questions. grin

PenCobSwan Thu 31-May-18 14:15:04

I guess there's some coffins lined up behind the scenes at the crem waiting for their turn in the cremator because the funeral is long finished and the mourners gone ? You can't go home until they are all done. Would that be correct ?

You must be reliant on the embalmer's art as there's no mortuary at the crem i.e. no way to keep the bodies in the coffins cool whilst they await their turn.

MNOverinvestor Thu 31-May-18 14:15:22

placemarking (and in admiration...)

Proseccoagain Thu 31-May-18 14:15:51

I was really surprised how heavy DH's ashes were. But then I thought, he was a big lad, over 6 ft and well built. They are in my wardrobe at the moment.

Weaverspin Thu 31-May-18 14:16:41

@shineycat - if a coffin is for cremation, it will not have real brass handles, but plastic 'brass effect' handles. That's one of the things a funeral director will check on during the planning stages.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:16:51

@PenCobSwan we have a burner and air jets. The cremator has to be a minimum of 850 degrees c before we can charge it so 9 times out of 10 the coffins sets on fire as soon as you open the door. We control the burning process with introducing air and the actual process uses the wood of coffin and the persons fats/flesh.

Yes, stay until the last cremation has finished and it takes around 60 minutes for the ashes to cool before we can deal with them.

Cremator doesn't cool between cremations and it takes around 5-10 minutes for us to get the cremator ready for the next coffin.

We use a trolley that is the exact height and manually push the coffin in but you can get auto chargers that do all that for you.

ParisUSM Thu 31-May-18 14:18:13

Really interesting thread and answered a couple of things I've wondered about in the past, thanks. I was surprised by the weight of ashes, I expected them to be much lighter

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:18:37

@shinycat plastic handles are allowed in cremator it's the brass ones that are not. I personally don't like the cardboard coffins as they too flimsy for my liking and also create a lot of ash.

SexyManatee Thu 31-May-18 14:20:25

Great thread OP, thank you for your insight. It is really interesting and helpful on a personal level.

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:20:25

@PenCobSwan yes there is normally a queue but everyone is dealt with with respect and reverence when in our care. I always say Cheerio and wish them well when charging a cremator.

ReluctantlyRedundant101 Thu 31-May-18 14:20:27

Great thread OP I think you're putting a lot of people's minds at rest
Also flowers for the job you do respectfully sending people on their way

MarSeeAh Thu 31-May-18 14:22:38

Interesting thread, thanks for this, OP.

I''m a church minister, and have heard (and answered) some of these questions before. It has been my experience that people who work in crematoria, and funeral directors, are all very dedicated, committed and professional people who really care about what they do, and the families and friends who are grieving.

It may seem strange, but I find crematoria very peaceful, calm places - especially "behind the scenes" as it were.

shinycat Thu 31-May-18 14:23:00

Do cardboard coffins create more ash tan wooden ones then?

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:23:10

All crem tech do the job because they love it. It's a hard job mentally and we all take care of each other. I've had a good sob to my colleague before as I charged a 4 year olds coffin but would never ever let my emotion invade a families grief.

NoSquirrels Thu 31-May-18 14:23:32

Gosh, what a fascinating thread. Thanks, Kermit.

lastnightidreamtofpotatoes Thu 31-May-18 14:23:41

Fascinating thread, thanks OP. <Morbid alert> In cartoons you can see the skeleton itself bright red, is it like that in real life? When you look in the viewing window thing is it ever a scary sight (in terms of what the body looks like, not the flames)

kermitrulesok Thu 31-May-18 14:24:41

@shinycat they seem to...I also don't particularly like wicker coffins as they can just seem too flimsy but are perfectly legal and up to the job.

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