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Large Batch Shelling Tour
Ever wonder how pecans are processed? Here's the scoop on how we and several other pecan shelling plants get the shell off of the meats.

First, the in-shell pecans are brought into our shop in either burlap sacks or super sacks. These shown in the picture are super sacks. The smaller burlap sacks can weigh from 50 to 150 pounds while these super sacks usually carry from 1000 to 1500 pounds of pecans. We prefer the super sacks when we have a choice because we can move those with our forklift and not our backs! Here they're compared to a regular five-gallon bucket to show their size. They have a draw string on the bottom for a VERY quick release!

This is the way the old cracking line looked. The reason why I say "old" is because after the first season we traded it in for something much faster and better. All eleven of these Meyer crackers are driven by a single shaft and are all fed from a big shaker tray. They crack the pecans one at a time and drop them into the feeder trough which takes the pecans to an elevator that raises them up to dump into the sheller. The sheller is a giant slotted spinning cylinder that breaks the shells away from the pecan halves until they can fit through the slots. The meats and shell are then put on the sizer.

Here is our new cracker, the full sized Quantz Rotary Pecan Cracker. This machine is very new to us and is fairly new in relation to most pecan equipment. While the Meyer Crackers have been around for 40 to 50 years, this was developed just about 20 years ago. While not as imposing as the eleven cracker line, this one machine cracks about 1000 nuts per minute while the old crackers combined to only about 700. Instead of using steel smacking to break the shells, this machine uses a blast of air in a cylinder. If you ask us if we like it, I'll bet any one of us will tell you "yes!"

Now we're on the other side of the "L-shaped" machine looking down the sizing table. You can tell that it is on because the pecans going down it are all blurry. After the newly shelled pecans fall out of the sheller's cylinder, they are dropped onto the far end of this table. This fifteen-foot table has a giant motor hooked to a giant offset flywheel that shakes the pecans over the holes until they fall in to their category. It works really well for giving us separation of the pecan halves and the pieces, and the table's massive legs also give a nice back massage when leaned against.

Now here is my pride and joy, the aspirator pipe system. After the pecans fall into their designated holes, they are shook out into what is known as an aspirator head. These pipes have a low pressure inside of them because the big blue blower in the back of the picture is blowing a huge amount of air out of the building. This low pressure causes lighter particles (the shell and dust) to be pulled away and collected while the heavier particles (the pecan meats) fall out of the bottom of the aspirator and into a big 55 gallon bucket to be moved on to the next process. The shell is collected and sent outside. Why, you ask, am I so proud? I installed 'em!

Since the shell's journey is fairly exciting once it gets pulled off of the pecan meats, let's follow it outside the back door. (Actually, it goes through a hole in the wall, but we'll use the door.) After a couple of augers carry the shells out to the bottom of this gigantically tall elevator, they are lifted up and dropped into the top of the big grain bin. Lots of this is still under construction because there is still another bin outside of the picture that needs to be stood up on this side of the elevator. The shells are then loaded onto the back of a pickup or bagged up and sold to gardeners wanting healthy azaleas or roses. While we're outside, let me give you a bit of scale on this picture. The building is 16 feet tall, so the elevator is about 21 feet to the top. This was a pretty big deal to set all of this stuff up, but it's better than letting good shell get wet and crusty in the rain!

Okay, back to the pecan meats. Remember them? I hope I didn't leave you back there at the shell. These meats are the real reason why our business is here. This machine is a Sortex Part Sorter, and it cuts a lot of the labor time off of cleaning the last of the pecan shell and bad meats from the good pecans. We once again use a elevator (they sure are handy, aren't they?) To lift the processed meats into the bin above the Sortex, and it feeds out two steady streams of them down channels and out in front of a set of electric eyes. Each piece of pecan meat or shell is "read" from three dimensions and, based on its color, is either accepted and falls into the front barrel or is rejected and lands in the back barrel. How does the machine do the actual sorting? If a piece of shell or a bad spot on a pecan meat is "seen," the computer sends an impulse for a blast of air to knock the piece out of the normal path and into the bad bucket. This is another of our machines that can make anyone stare for several minutes.

Lastly, we have the final sort, of course done by our most fail safe device, the human eye. This is inside the cleaning room, which is indeed a very clean room. Pecans are moved by the quality control workers and accepted meats are left on the table to fall into the waiting box while bad meats and shells are picked up and thrown into a trash receptacle. Boxes are sealed and sent out to all sorts of places in Oklahoma and beyond for our large batch custom shelling customers and for our retail store. It gives us great pride to process our own pecans and place our personal seal of approval on every product. Thanks for touring!