Well, fellas, after a few hours of nervous prep, checking, and re-checking, I lit my new DS1500WH at 4:05 pm today.
As of now, after nearly 2 hours, she's burning fine. Started with a layer of wadded up newspaper and a layer of Matchlight charcoal, and I've since carefully loaded five shovelfuls of Blaschak nut through the door, in thin layers, alternating back and front to make sure some blues are still there to light the gases. I'm leaving the ash door cracked just a bit as I load coal, and I was extra careful how I opened the front door.
Just now, I added about a half-bucket of coal through the hopper door. That mounded up in the center, as expected, with the blues dancing around the edges. I plan to wait about 30-45 minutes, then add the remaining half bucket. Then later tonight, I'll fill the hopper.
(BTW, I called DS Machine earlier this week and talked to them about the anti-explosion louvers. I decided to order a pair--better safe than sorry.
For those of you who warned me about the smoke and odor first time burning one of these stoves--thanks! I'll post pictures leter tonight or tomorrow, but you guys'll probably fall over laughing. I had the end of the basement where the stove sits looking like a hazmat scene, totally isolated by plasting sheeting from floor to ceiling from the rest of the basement. I have a tilt-in basement window at both ends of this area, so I put a small floor fan facing out the window nearest the stove to suck out the smoke.
But it worked--the stove area was really hazy for about 20 minutes, but then the fan cleared it out. After the first area, all haze and most of the odor was gone. Still getting a bit of "hot metal" odor, but the installer said that's to be expected for maybe 2-3 days.
The best thing is, Mrs. V. said there was hardly any smell upstairs, and no smoke. But she hollered down at intervals so see if I was still conscious.
I'll post again later with the pix and more details about how I started it up, and an update on how it's doing. But thanks to all for your advice and suggestions the past month or so!