I spoke with Larry about this ring. He said the old style grate sat above the bottom of the fire pot. Coal would fall between the grate and pot, possibly jamming it. The ring was supposed to prevent coal from falling into this crack. The grate on the new system sits just below the bottom of the pot creating about a 1/4" opening. So any coal that would potentially get caught between the grate and fire pot would just fall out completely. I've owned both style stoves. My first stove was a rear vent. It was in our house when we bought it. Wrong stove for our situation. So I traded it in for a top vent. Larry was amazed at how old my stove was, probably one of the originals! It still had wood handles. I see a little difference in drafting, better with the top vent. I did however extend my chimney so that could be part of the improved draft. The newer style pot is by far easier to use, and much cleaner. I could keep the air closed when shaking! On the older style stove I would have to open my ash door to attach the shaker arm to the fire pot and shake it down. It got pretty messy. When the ash fell into the pan it would billow out like a nuclear cloud, due to the ash door having to be open when shaking the stove down. I've tried the ring both in and out of my new stove. The only difference it makes is it helps keep the ash in the pan. The ash tends to spill over the ash pan sides without the ring. Just makes for more shoveling! The stove does seem to have a bit more ash buildup along the sides where the ring sits. Without the ring there is a gap which lets the ash fall out easier. I new nothing about coal until we bought our house and found the Chubby in it. I started burning wood it her then found this site. I decided to give coal a try and was hooked! This is the only stove I've ever owned, but I'm glad because I love it. It is a work of art.