I picked up a nice Godin Round, larger size, this summer. I've been waiting until it was cold enough to fire it up, and this week has been fine coal fire weather. I have been burning leftover wood up til now, and really, this stove really is a great little wood burner. But on to coal. I had a Harmon Mark II insert in my old house and loved it, and loved the coal heat and convenience. Looking forward to more of the same now. The heat output from this stove is incredible, it will easily heat my 980 Sq. Ft. home, one story, ranch style.
But, the issue of bridging....I took some advice from a couple different folks on this thread and have found that at first, I was not loading my stove deep enough, if would burn great for twelve hours, but when I shook and loaded it, there simply was no fuel left hot enough for the stove to get rolling again, just inexperienced and needed to figure the stove out. Now I load it as suggested in this thread, to about 3/4 to the flue, giving enough space for a secondary burn also. So when I am ready to shake now, I open the door, let the fire heat up some, and shovel on a layer of fresh coal. I let that get going. When I start this process, there is now a nice bright red core of coals I can rely on to get the new coal going well. I add that first layer as insurance, to be sure I will have some going if I find what remains is insufficient. Then I take my tool that I fashioned from 1/2 inch copper. Just a 15 inch length with a 90 elbow and another 2 inch piece. I flattened that with a hammer so I have an L shpaed flat tool to prod with. I slide it in along the grates to reach the back/rear of the stove and just drag out the spent coal and ash. Most of the light ash falls into the pan, and the course stuff falls into a steel can I have ready to accept it. Not much mess. I keep raking it out until I am just at the crust between the air pocket I created and the hot coals above and then I stop. I work from the bottom up.
Then, I close the door, load the stove to 3/4 level and let it get to working temperature, soon, I hear the bridge fall and I shake it. At that point, I have a nice red glow and hot coals at the grate. Then I refill and get the door closed, vent adjusted and damper set for the day, or night. I do this twice a day, and I think it is going to get a little more refined as I learn more and as it gets colder. (I live in Cortland, NY, and it gets pretty chilly here sometimes.)
I want to thank everyone that has posted here, the advice is great and the humor is appreciated. Thanks for letting me join all you coal burners on the forum too.