Now that it's colder, I too am tending and reloading twice per day (7 & 7). I'm using about 20# per load, and that fills the firebox almost to the top of the firebrick. My stove, like others, likes to be FULL. But key, I believe, is keeping the airflow going all the way through the coal bed. Our grates don't shake that well, so more important in my opinion, is what you do with a slicer, or in my case, a poker. I use a 1/4" rod and poke through the grates from in front and above, and lever up through the pile, loosening ash, aerating the pile, and helping the ash fall through to the pan. I'm also careful to check the ash pan for level ashes, and nothing higher than the sides of the pan. This helps the airflow, and also keeps the grates from overheating and warping,
When I reload, I open the primary air inlet (thermostat lever) and leave the damper in direct mode until I get blue flames. I then close the damper (indirect mode), leaving the primary air inlet wide open. My stove is a little different; I don't have an ash pan door to leave open. My ash pan is behind the front doors, so I can't boost the air with the ash pan door the way you can.
Now, with damper closed (indirect mode), and good air flow, when the blue flames return I slowly and incrementally reduce the primary air (thermostat lever) until it's back to its typical position. If I run the stove at 400*, I can easily get 18 hrs, but I don't because it recovers better when tended at 12 hrs. If I run it at 300*, I can get 30 hrs, but I tend after 24 hrs, and I like that once a day pattern (40s outside daytime temp for this pattern). I attached a photo of the poker rod (hard to see on the rug, but it's there), which I think is the second most important accessory next to this forum! Incidentally, most of what I've learned I learned right here, so I hope that this is helpful to you too.
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