There are some metal bars welded - to make a grill. One door opens to the "fire box", the other below the grill to where the ash collects.
You've put gasket material on those I see, so you've got that taken care of. What do you have for tools to work the fire with?
If you can add controlled air feeds both on the bottom and top door, that would be a great help. Don't know what you have there to work with. If you can get a welder to work with you, you can take either threaded rod or bolts and then a nut with a big washer and use it like a spinner. Weld the threaded rod to the door, cut holes next to it that the washer will cover and then you can open and close them by spinning the nut and washer open or closed... If you are using a bolt, drill a hole through the door and mount the head of the nut on the inside of the door so the washer and nut can close tightly on the outside of the door. You want a big washer, might have to make it from sheet metal. I'm talking 2 or 3 inches in diameter...
TajikTom wrote:Otherwise, i feel like the grate is too big, as there's a lot of small (garden pea size) burning pieces of coal which fall seem to fall through and into the ash. Any thoughts on what size the grill should be? I've experimented putting some quite fine wire mesh over the grill, but this seems to clog up with ash, reducing air flow.
In your set-up, you don't have the ability to shake the grates, your fuel size is quite variable, so this one you'll really have to play with. Without the ability to put in some kind of shaker grate system, upgrading these would simply be optimizing the spacing for the fuel you have to allow ash to fall down and keep burning fuel above... Only you can figure that one out...
TajikTom wrote: There's a brown tar like thing which seems to be coming out of some gaps in the chimney. What could this be? is it a danger?
Can you take some good photos of your fuel? Talk to us about how it breaks up, can you break it easily with your hands? Need a hammer? That kind of thing. Also, break some and take a photo of the surface that you have broken open.
TajikTom wrote: The coal i can get is probably quite bad quality, with all sorts of sized pieces together, between dust (about 5-10% of each bag) to pieces which are too big to fit in the door of the stove.
Is there an easy way to break bigger pieces?
Sledge hammer should work fine...
TajikTom wrote: A co-worker told me you can some how mix finer coal dust with water, and make balls out of it - so that it burns better. Anyone have any experience with that?
When in Rome do as the Romans.... Let us know if it works...
TajikTom wrote: I've installed a CO monitor. Is there anything else i should be worrying about?
TajikTom wrote: Is there anything useful to do with the ash (actually i'm sure i can find an answer to this on the forum, so don't worry about this one)
We don't know what exactly your fuel is.. But, ash usually makes a good base for making paths or roadways. Anthracite ash is not good for the soil as wood ashes are. Again, don't actually know what you are burning...
TajikTom wrote: With the doors closed the fire will stay lit for 18 hours, which is helpful because it's a lot easier to just add some coal when i get back from work, rather than having to relight it every time.
And you're complaining????
That's darned good!
TajikTom wrote: I had hoped it would be a secondary cooking point (for those powercuts)- there's a hole in the top of the fire box, where you can see the saucepan in the picture. However - it seems that I was over optimistic, since the one time I tried it, the water in the saucepan was only warm, after several hours. I think it's too high from the coals to receive enough heat.
Well, the photo shows either a really large pot or a really small stove....
I've never had a lot of success cooking on stoves with this kind of geometry. They do work more like a crock pot, if that works for you.
If you look at cook stoves, you'll see that the main burners where you cook sit very close to the fire. Plus, they have removable plates so you can expose the cooking pot to the fire. You might do Ok if you have a stash of wood you can throw on top of your coal fire when you want to cook might work. I know, you are trying to not use it... But it may work a lot better for cooking than coal...
Good luck, and welcome to the forum..