I too use left over wood pieces from odd jobs, I will usually cut up a bucket or two with the chop saw and make "chunks" as opposed to "lengths" (the reason for chunks is to enable the wood fire to make a nice even bed across the entire bottom surface of the grate without leaving any areas uncovered), I leave my bottom door open and only have to let it blaze like blow torch for about 5 minutes before I load it half way with coal (I leave the bottom door open for about another minute or two, then close it up and watch the magic)... after 15-30 minutes I will fully load my stove and leave a small opening to one side/corner where I can still see red glow (after closing her up and setting air controls and damper I can sit back for hours and watch the magic of coal gas igniting above the dark coal bed, most will only see the beautiful blues when they open their top door but I can watch the elegant dances through the glass of dancing flame across the underside of the top plate and volcanic eruptions of flame coming up through the exposed hole I left to one side... its like my very own light show
).... needless to say I don't touch anything for 12 hours at that point... I wake up in morning and open bottom door for a few minutes then close it up... then shake it down good... then open top door and load it up full again... then sit back for 12 more hours and watch the light show!
Below is this morning upon waking up and opening bottom door for 2 minutes (but before the shake down)
If I can ever figure out how to get video from my phone to computer I will let you guys watch the light show with me sometime
Coal is extremely easy to run and light with a few dry sticks/chunks... stokers were always far more delicate for me and the learning curve much more difficult (and the use of charcoal or an accelerant/mouse may be called for)... with a good manual feed I just never saw the need for this.