James Pickering Dovel (born December 26, 1868 in Pickerington, Ohio; died July 30, 1948) was an engineer and inventor who developed many improvements to blast furnace design while working as superintendent of construction for the Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Company.
Dovel grew up working his father's farm. His experience led him to construct a mechanical corn harvester when he was seventeen. He did not patent his design, which was adopted by several manufacturers. He married the former Ana Ice Ora Ricketts in 1891 and fathered six children with her. Later in the 1890s Dovel moved his family to Columbus and took a job at the Columbus Steam and Boiler Company, where he was quickly promoted to foreman. Later he worked as superintendent of the structural shop for the Hocking Valley Railroad Company and as an engineer for the Rarig Engineering Company, the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company, and the Portsmouth Foundry and Machine Company.
In 1904 Dovel moved to Birmingham to serve oversee Portsmouth's contract to design and construct a blast furnace for the Woodward Iron Company. By 1905 Dovel was working as a superintendent for the Birmingham Engineering Company. He joined Sloss in 1909 and worked tirelessly to improve efficiency and adapt the furnaces to better process local resources. His work included developments in gas cleaning technology, smoother furnace linings, automated feeding skips, and other modifications. The successful rebuilding of Sloss Furnace No. 2 in 1927 took advantage of many of his innovations.
Dovel was awarded seventeen patents. Though he was confined to bed by arthritis in 1933 he continued to work as a consulting engineer. During World War II he communicated with furnace operators all around the country to boost output and efficiency.
- Lewis, W. David (1994) Sloss Furnaces and the Rise of the Birmingham District: An Industrial Epic. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0817307087
- James Dovel at Findagrave.com