I cannot believe the difference I am getting with the coal since I have been working the fire with the home-made tool that Greg L recommends! The ashes are SO much less and the coal burns down MUCH MUCH BETTER!
If you are not "Flossing" your grates (Well, you are cleaning between the teeth of your grate!), after you shake, you need to! I am using less coal and getting so much better burns now. It's like a TOTALLY different stove. Just amazing. THANK YOU for the great advice again!
This tool works fabulous and pretty simple from under the grates. And there's been no need to use any other tool as this lets you work the coal around. Open the door and let the coal fire up, shake and then work the dead areas with this Flossing Tool. It opens up the coal so it will burn. Load on a 2" layer and let that get going good - then top off and within 45 minutes to an hour the entire bed
will be burning. Try it, you'll find it is worth the little effort and time!