As far as starting up the coal fire, what I do is just get a good wood fire established (just burning well, way b4 it turns to embers) & then I carefully add a few shovels of coal across the whole fire , making sure flames are still coming up between the coal. (No need to wait for the wood fire to turn to embers...just make sure you don't smother the fire by adding to much coal at a time & make sure you don't overfire your stove by giving it to much air)I play with the ash door to make sure the fire keeps going well & wait a few minutes for each coal layer to ignite b4 I add more coal. When the entire fire is covered with coal (still making sure flames are coming up) I carefully add another layer of coal & watch the stove thermometer. Temp will drop a bit when you add a new layer but as soon as the temp starts to rise again, I add more coal. In very short order you will fill your stove with coal. Once filled & at a temp you want....you're done! (I have found that a new fire wants more air than one that has been burning a while so plan on leaving the air inlet open a little more than usual) You'll get the feel for it in no time.