BESSEMER, Ala. (WBRC) - Luke Evans always knew he wanted to be in manufacturing. He grew up working in Bessemer at a company founded by his father. Although the nature of the work they do has changed, the products they help make at Special Shapes Refractory are probably as close as your kitchen.
“When this business started, we produced products for steel, iron, and foundry and through a turn of events we needed to find another avenue or another segment of the refractory industry to supply goods. That just happened to be in the glass industry,” explains Luke.
They don’t make the bottles themselves as Special Shapes Refractory. They do make the linings for the containers in which the bottles are formed.
Luke explains Special Shapes Refractory in Bessemer’s part in the process, “The backward side of the glass plant, it’s melted in a furnace at about 2900 to 2950-degrees. The refractory is the lining that those parts are melted on to usually go to another processing system. This is where the process starts of bringing in inventories of aggregates and minerals, ground out of the earth.”
What you and I would call rocks are the beginnings of the refractory process.
“We add it back in different formulations as rocks to withstand whatever temperatures or whatever the needs of our customers are. Out largest end customer is Anheuser-Busch. Wine bottles, champagne bottles from the West Coast so Gallo is a customer of ours. Any jar that you would come across in the grocery store. Those are made here in America in furnaces that we supply the linings for and it’s really interesting.”
“We make all different shapes and all different sizes as part of the process to make the mold that we can pour the refractory material in. Each bottle is made in its own mold and so the bottle has an individualized code.”
Luke says the bottles which begin here are easy to identify, “I check bottles all the time and just make sure. It’s still interesting; continuous process with heat and you can go to the store and buy the product.”
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