Thanks for all the help. I have been scrolling thru the old posts (all 30 pages!!!...I'm half way done) looking for info. I realize how little I know at this point, but I'm encouraged by seeing that pretty much everybody started out the way I am. If everybody else had a learning curve, so will I. I now think that the "half-burned" stuff is do to my various errors in operating the stove. I've only burned about 60 or 70 lbs total..... not really enough experience.
So far, I realize that I need to fill the stove to make a "deeper" bed. I will start there.
Next, I will try a better shaking method, maybe rotating the shaker grates 30-40 degrees rotation instead of the 15-20 degrees I have been doing.
Thirdly, I will experiment with different brands of coal. Presently, I have 3/4 of a ton of unknown brand of coal (it MAY be good quality, who knows?). I purchased the coal in bulk/loose and had it loaded in the back of my pickup. I then transfered it to a bunch of 55 gallon drums that I scored for free. Price: 13 cents per pound
Fourth, I may call the Hitzer factory and talk to someone there, once I know a little more what I'm talking about. I had called the factory once, while trying to decide between a Hitzer and a Harmon insert. The guy from Hitzer was a very knowledgable and friendly worker from the factory floor. He was a great guy.
Finally, I will be seeking advice from any Hitzer 983 owners in this forum. I'm basically looking for basic operating instructions from someone who runs one of these stoves. Once I finish scrolling thru the threads, I'll put a post looking for 983 owners and 983 operating advice. If someone can help me in the meantime, please respond.
This is an AWESOME forum. Now that I'm playing with this stove a little, I can understand the enthusiasm for coal. It's quite addictive. Iknow when I say I'm "hooked" a lot of you understand (LOL) I'll be a coal burner yet!! Thanks everyone!