Crow Horse wrote:The steel plate should be no problem to install. The only issue i see would be loading it.
As FrancoB says, you can load through the top. You might want to bolt a more robust handle to the hatch – that one looks flimsy and hard to hold. The hatch is probably gasketed to make a tight seal. The steel plate across part of the door should make the stove work a lot better. Four inches depth at the front like you have now is not really deep enough for a good coal bed, and it’s no fun having coal roll out the front door either. Is there tall firebrick on the sides of the stove, like we can see on the back? If not you might consider installing some. Your new steel plate is sort of expendable, because you can always make another one if it eventually burns out. But the steel sides of the original stove may need protection.
Crow Horse wrote:Anyone have pics of a similar hopper setup? I can't visualize what it would look like and how it would function.
You have probably seen dog or cat water dishes where you mount a large soda bottle upside down, and when your pet slurps up the water in the dish, new water feeds down from the bottle. A coal hopper is something like that. It would be a steel box with no top and no bottom, that hangs down below the hatch. You fill it with coal, and as coal burns and the level in the firebox drops, fresh coal falls down from the hopper. The primary design consideration is, the bottom edge of the hopper should be at the same level as the desired top of the coal bed. (Actually a little above the top of the coal bed, so enough coal can feed past the hopper edge to maintain proper coal bed depth.) Since you do metal fabrication, you could make a hopper as well as the front plate. But I suggest just starting with the front plate, get the stove working well that way, and then you may or may not need the hopper. Without the plate across the front door, a hopper is almost a necessity given the shallow front of your stove. With the plate, a hopper is more of a convenience than a necessity.