... especially when you're headed off to bed and have an important early meeting the next day.
This was completely my fault. Somehow, after cleaning out the stove at the end of last season, I missed a couple handfuls of coal in the hopper. Didn't think anything of it until a couple of nights ago when the stoker started making some really bad crunching noises (imagine eating Grape Nuts ... or rocks, same thing.) I poked and prodded and then finally took all the coal out of the hopper. I found what you see in picture one.
Stuffed a makeshift sheet of steel into the hopper, got enough coal into it to make it through the night, and finally headed off to bed at 2 am. Dragged through the early meeting and the rest of the day. Pulled the hopper off that evening. In picture two, the band of coal closest to the top should be there; that's where it feeds. The pile below it is what fell through the hole and onto/into the pusher assembly and motor. Cleaned it out, and fashioned a better sheet of steel. Pop-riveted it to the hopper. It seems to work very well, and should last through the winter. Will replace or fix better in summer.
Picture three is one of my twin daughters putting a band-aid on my finger. She learned a little bit about cutting steel, pop-riveting, proper stove maintenance, and maybe a couple of words she shouldn't use
I took a better picture but decided to not post it as it looked like I was giving her the finger.
Moral of the story: Clean out your stoves properly at the end of each season. That hopper was made in 1987. Until now, it was pretty much pristine. Not sure if I can even get one from Harman, if a Magnum hopper would fit, or if this will turn out to be a really
expensive mistake either way.