Hi Chap. I'm new here but have been burning (successfully) for about five years. I would recommend pea coal to start with. The smaller nugget seems like it's a little easier to start a fire with. I started with chestnut and I could never keep the tempurature DOWN to a comfortable temperature. If you have a larger area to heat, this may be better for you but I can keep 1200sf at 70* all winter with pea coal in a Harman Mk I. The chestnut coal would need to run at 90*-100*(room temp!) or it wouldn't have enough heat to keep itself going.
Can't help you on banking, I typically don't do it. Just an easy shake, and add more on top. Empty the ashes once a day, load it up, and enjoy!
My biggest hurdle was the layout of my house. Not really ideal for a stove. My house is single level on a concrete slab. I installed 6" flexible duct in the attic with an inline fan to move the air down to the other end of the house. As long as the bedroom doors are open, I get good circulation and at most a 10* temp difference from where the stove is to every other room, maybe less.