Hello! Thank you for answering. I don't quite know how to use your forum so forgive me in advance for this cumbersome response. let me answer some of your questions...
I have a very small soapstone (antique) stove. Brand name is HANDOL (if I am reading it right). The firebox is so small (6 inches x 6 inches x about 12 inches tall) [/quote]
I don't know if it is, sounds like it because of the dimensions but be aware if it's not designed for burning anthracite doing so can possible destroy the grates or other internal parts.
Now this is an interesting problem. How can I find out if it is designed for burning coal??? Like I said, the stove is old but VERY sturdy and about 2 inches thick soapstone. The small grates are heavy cast (I think) iron. I could send you photos???
HOWEVER, no matter how hot I get the base fire (using wood) I can't get the coal to ignite.
How much wood are you using to light it and How much coal are you putting on the wood after you light the wood fire? You should have a decent red hot wood fire going before adding the coal with a good 4 inch layer of wood coals.
ANSWER: Usually I have let the wood fire get good and hot. Lots of flames and (I think) a significant layer of wood coals. HOWEVER, I would then add a few coals so as to NOT extinguish the wood fire. Then more wood, then, after a bit, a few more bits of coal.
Add about 4-5 inches of coal and let it burn,
COMMENT: Problem is... it never burns!
make sure you have the bottom draft fully open and the top draft closed (if there is one). You should hear the caol begin to crackle almost immediately.
ANSWER: I do let the bottom draft open, top closed (get a great draw! Lots of heat!) however I NEVER HAVE heard the coal "crackle". I wish I did!
Once the coal really starts to burn you'll see Blue
wisps of flame begin to penetrate through the layer. Once you see that blue it's lit. This can take a while, 20 to 30 minutes....even longer be patient.
ANSWER: I've never seen blue wisps of flame, unfortunately. And I've kept at the fire (adding wood, then adding a bit of coal, adding wood, etc) for over an hour.
Once it gets to this point fill the fire box let it burn for a little more and turn the damper down otherwise the coal will continue to accelerate the burning to the point where you could cause damage to the unit. I've had people that have melted internal parts.
ANSWER: whoa! The little stove has many spots to open/close air vents, so this will be do-able. (If I were ever to get the coal going!)
I am using pieces about golfball size or smaller (the bag has a mixture of sizes).
That's would be the correct size approx. There's only two basic sizes for hand fired stove, Chestnut and Pea. Both work well, the pea is little more controllable because it is smaller and has less air going through it, the chestnut provides a hotter fire but a faster burning fire.
After hours of very hot firing - when I empty the firebox I see all the coal I attempted to ignite is still intact w/ almost no burning.
Is it actually burning when you do this?
ANSWER: No - there might be some ash on it but I think that's from the wood. Otherwise, all the lumps are pretty much as I put them in - and this would be after hours in the stove! I have tried re-using them, but still it doesn't seem like they ever "catch."
If so then I don't see what the problem is. Burning coal is not like burning wood, it will last a very long time. If you have a 12 inch deep box you could burn that for about 12 hours +, even more if you turn it way down. Don't mess with it either, just let it burn. Most people usually shake the grates and add coal twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night.
ANSWER: Like I said, I have never laid a whole layer of coal on top of the wood because the coal has had (in the past) a tendency to put out my wood fire!!!
Am I lighting the coal incorrectly?
Again be patient, sounds like your getting it going but don't understand how it works.
ANSWER: Oh yes - that would be correct!!
Is there some other kind of coal that would be less difficult to light (and burn) than what I am using?
Yes but generally some of the best coal can be hard to light, the best analogy I can give is the difference between an oak fire and a pine fire. If you've done any camping you'll know what I mean. Dry pine will burn almost immediately, if it's reall dry you can alomost light it with a match but it burns quickly, oak on the other hand takes a while to get going but will burn for hours and provide a very intense heat once it is burning. The same is true for good anthracite, it may take a while to get it up and running but once it stand back.
ANSWER: Yes, that makes sense, about the oak and pine. (Maybe I have the "mesquite" of coal???
This does bring up another possibility that the product you have is sub standard. If you continue to experience difficulties try a different brand.[/quote]
ANSWER: The coal I am using is: "Blaschak Anthracite, low sulpher heating" Do you know this brand? It was actually really hard too find any coal out here (I'm in Western Massachusetts. I called around to about ten places, getting referrals from one to the other before I found someone who sells it.)
Again, many thanks for any info you can provide. My main goal now should be to find out if this is in fact a coal stove! I wouldn't want to burn down my house! (ps: the little stove is just a fun thing to heat my screened porch. it isn't actually in the house, but it does vent through my indoor fireplace chimney. I had a fireplace guy put a 2nd hole from the back side of the chimney when I built on the porch - if that makes sense. The draw is really excellent so this isn't a problem.)
Many thanks again!