Ok, so now I know more than I ever wanted to know about cremation. I probably could have asked Steve, cuz when we went on a field trip to the crematory, he asked all these kinds of questions. It was still too new a job and too much reality for me to listen to the answers.
Here's what happens, it's not gross, I don't think, so no worries. The body goes into the retort (oven) on a plywood/ pressboard tray. The gas comes on, the flame is lit and the temperature reaches (at some point) around 1800 degrees F. It takes a few hours, depending on size and fat content. I do remember the crematory guy saying he can estimate a person's fat content on site, it did make me feel a little chunky. Once the process is finished and you open the door, there lies the skeletal bones, similar to how it is when a fire in your fireplace goes out and the shape of the log is still there. Like that burned out log, if you touch it with the fireplace poker, it kind of collapses, well the bones do the same. So first the bones are swept into a tray, then a magnetic wand is run over the tray to remove screws, hips, teeth, etc, then the bones are placed into a big pulverizer and processed. So, technically there's no "ash", just pulverized cremated bones.
Our manager tells me that maybe if I'm lucky I can get promoted to retort operator once our retorts are installed. I laughed, politely refused (HA!) and hung up the phone.
Now I really do have to make those dang folders.