Welcome to the forum. I too own this same stove, and if you want to see my trials and tribulations, check out my thread on "Diary of a Surdiac." I'm still in the learning process myself, and NEPA has been a "plethora" of information. As for the lever sticking out the drivers-side of your stove, as you mentioned, it just slides the left grate over to allow the coal pit to dump into the ash pan. There is no "shaking" of this stove. (Unless you wake up to a dead fire in the morning, then the shaking comes from "kicking" the stove
). You clean the grates by "riddling', which is a tool shaped like an oversized envelope opener. It's used by inserting through 3 ports above the ash pan, and scraping back and forth to force the ashes through the grates. Good luck with your stove.