I've been firing an 88 picked up in Rockland about a year ago on Craig's List cheap. In addition to the good wisdom and assistance Doug Crane has provided, I can offer a few observations as well.
If you haven't seen it, try and get a copy of the “Coal Burner's Almanac” Crane published, and that came with each stove. I got mine with the stove. The serial number written on back matches the stove, and the warranty card was sent in. Doug, any paperwork on past owners? provenance is fun.
This is my experience since October last year in a 16' x 20' free-standing, moderately tight, well insulated workshop with what was an open, 9/12 pitch uninsulated loft. In the past 2 weeks I insulated the loft with R10 HDF in the rafter bays because of the insane ice dams and icicles the massive heat loss was generating earlier this winter. I gained about 15° in ambient temp in the shop; a substantive change. On those first few really cold days last month, the stove, cooking flat out, full pot, I was keeping the space at ~65° when tendered, and 55° in the morning (still with a heathy, glowing, banked bed) before the morning tending.
Granted it's been in the 30s and 40s and 50s (??) the past couple weeks, but the shop now sits at 75° with a 500° box, and even with the stove sitting at about 360° today, a 71° work space. The press is happy, and the ink is happy. That makes me happy.
But I digress. The stove is in a small room compared to what it's rated for which is 4-6 rooms if I recall. Net: your heating results will vary, but stove tending methodology might be pretty much the same.
I'm sure you've learned a lot in the past couple weeks. Here's what I've discovered, and learned, in the past few months, though this is subject to change now that the loft is tight;
1. because of the pot size, you're going to be cooking perhaps 30lbs of coal a day, and shoveling out a bit of ash you're needing to get rid of, maybe 50lbs a week? Lose the ash pan and get a good solid iron shovel if you haven't already got one, and a small 5 gallon steel garbage can with lid. Carefully lay your ash in the can brought close and tilted at 45°. Like tilting a beer glass pouring a draught, it keeps the head down.
Shaking down once a day, you'll fill that bucket in three to four days. Keep near, and wear a particulate mask when doing this. You've probably noticed, fly ash is micro fine, and prone to float everywhere. Follow up your ash dumps with a pass with a vac. There's no avoiding the dust unless maybe you have a proper ash vac that can safely eat hot ash (does that even exist? dunno.) Transfer the cold steel pail of ash when full to a full size garbage can, preferably out of the house. I line mine with contractor bag and set that out with the garbage. Under 50lbs of fireplace ash is fully legit according with the city.
2. You probably won't shake down more than once a day. The pot on the 88 is a big one and will burn for 12 hours or longer without fussing. I go out to the shop every morning first thing (with caffeine in hand). There's always a nice orange glowing bed. The bank will have dropped about 2" over the course of the night, and when I shake it down, the bed will drop another 8 - 10" until there's 6" of burning hot coal from having the ash door open and getting air back flowing.
You've probably figured out when you shake, using the tool DC
supplied, put the pin in the dump grate handle from the bottom, and shake vigorously from side to side, swiveling the grate, then pause, and shuffle the dump in and out. Do it until you see the glow of coals, but before they begin dropping through the grate.
I've never seen the bed just drop in the center, unless you've just been shuffling the dump in and out? If you're swiveling back and forth, maybe you have a lot of fused wall hangers? As DC
mentioned, (with a cold stove of course) carefully knock any fused materials from the pot walls. Seems like they're probably clinkers; must be molten blobs of iron that weld to the pot wall and which will rip a chunk of pot cement out if gone at too aggressively.
3. Once you've shaken the stove down, and it's cooking good, leave the ash door open and toss a few shovel-fulls to the BACK of the pot. Make a sloping bank, but leave the front of the pot with open orange coals, and flames flickering.
Those open flames will keep you from having a “puff-back”. That's where the bed, with flames smothered by fresh coal, starts liberating volatiles (methane? hydrogen?) from the fresh coal. This builds up an atmosphere of volatile gases above the bed in the combustion chamber, and when the first flame does lick up, the gases ignite.
The net will be fly ash blown out any available pipe crack, or a flue pipe blown off, and cinders blown out your stove damper. I had it happen while kneeling next to the stove. Momentarily alarming to say the least.
Let the bed get cooking good with the firebox door tight and the ash door open for a few minutes after banking in fresh coal. When you close it, set your damper to 2 turns open as that new coal gets fired up. In a half hour, with the bed going well, open the firebox door again and pull the now cooking bank forward. Add a couple more shovelfuls to make a bank at the back again, and start to get your bed depth built back up. Then damp it back. In a few hours, you might tend it. Pull the orange bank forward, and toss another scoop to the back. Repeat as necessary.
4. On coldest days (and no manometer to back me up) I set the MPD about 45°. I just don't feel comfortable closing it without any clear reading on draft. warmer days MPD is wide open to keep stack flow.
I set the stove damper overnight to 3/4 -1 turn open to idle it over night. when I'm working, it's about 1 1/2 turns open with MPD 45° closed.
There ya go. A few notes from the field on the elusive Crane 88.
Like most who run hand fed, I love the stove, the warmth it provides, and the ritual of keeping the coal burning.