I've continued to use my "rberg poker" (made from the old paint roller handle) to loosen the ash buildup at rear of my DS 1500's firebox. Seemed to be helping--I'm getting more ashes in that area of the pan.
I've also been shaking the grates according to the manual and what posters on here have said: shake until hot embers are dropping in the ashpan and there's a healthy glow visible over the ashes. But I was getting more than embers--I was getting sizable hot coals falling into the ashpan here and there.
Finally dawned on me last night that I've been moving the shaker handle a bit too far to the front and back when shaking--opening up too much space between the grates and allowing larger hot coals to drop. Today I tried using a much shorter arc on the shaker handle, and a-ha...the desired effect: small hot embers instead of the larger coals, dropping here and there over most of the firebox, and the glow of the fire visible over most of the ashes. I'd estimate I"m moving the grate handle only about 1" to 1.5" total, where before I was moving it back and forth in a 3-4" range.
For the ash buildup in the back, I tried the opposite trick before I shook the ashes. Right before shaking, when there's a good layer of ash between the grates and the fire, I moved the shaker handle slowly about 4"-5" toward the back, just once, then back to center. Then I moved the handle slowly about 4" toward the front, again just once, and back to center. This slow pivoting of the grates up into the ash layer appeared to break it up somewhat. After this, I did the rapid, short-throw shake to drop the ashes.
After shaking and letting the fire heat up a few minutes with ash door open, there was good amount of hot coals and blues at the back of the firebox--maybe the best yet.
Last edited by MarkV
on Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:50 am, edited 1 time in total.