Hi Dan, do you want to 'loan' me your coal sifters??
I have to sift out the fines from my bituminous too. They stick together and make a sheet of gooey-soft coal.
I burn a mix of anthracite and bituminous coal. The anthracite is much easier to work with, cleaner, less ash. Powdery ash instead of crusty, and no soot or smell.
BUT anthracite comes from the east end of Pennslyvania. And costs more than Bituminous.
If you are willing to work with the bituminous, it makes a very good heat source, just isn't as easy as anthracite.
Let us know how the chimney works with the screen removed.
Do you get your coal sticking together and 'bridging' over the fire?? Do you get stuck together ash know as Clinkers??
Take care, we are virtually neighbors, I'm about 1.5 hours north of Toledo.