Quick update ...
Coaledsweat stated it well. What I've done the past years is just bank a fire diagonally up toward one side of my firebox. Trouble with this method is that when I shake, the lean side ends up with exposed grate area. This doesn't happen if I can leave an ash bed across the grates but once it gets near 70, the night fire doesn't thickly cover the full grate area and the lean-side grates open during the morning shakedown. The draft seeks the path of least resistance passing thru this area and starving the coal bed of oxygen on the opposite side - just where it's needed
I hate losing a fire bed, only happened once since I started in November last year (trapped at work
) - not a big deal, just a matter of principle. Got close the other day when the lean-side grates got exposed and I couldn't get the recharged bed going good. So out to the stash heap I went and scrounged up some old broken fire brick, pieced together enough to cover about a quarter of the grates and bingo - the recharge took off as planned. So far, this is all I've done to reduce the bed by 25% and it's worked well. House stays ~ 68 at night - even last night when it hit 29.
I use to just let the oil furnace work for the beginning & end of the heating season, but not with $3.54 per gallon for #2, not if there's another simple option. I need to get some more firebrick this week before daytime temps start hanging near 70. I had the stove hovering around 240F last week with the skin temp of the stovepipe 6' above the stove reading 140F. No CO readings from the meter