Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: BM-80 On: Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:54 am

Well, actually, frustration is too strong of a word. I actually am enjoying this learning curve (as long as I'm still making progress.....which today I am not!)

Generally speaking, I'm having good and bad results with my Hitzer insert. What I DONT like about this learning curve is that often, I need to start completely over after my fire "sours".... Right now, I've got a real lame half...uh...baked fire in the insert and a lot of unburned coal on the grate and not enough hot burning coal to recover from this mess. Now, because I'll be leaving for work in a little while, and because the only solution that I see is to remove everything and start fresh, I'm just going to walk away from this mess and try again tonight after work. By the way, this stove set-up has PLENTY of draft so that's not an issue.

Also, I noticed one or two other "newbies" with 983 inserts. You guys are invited to participate in these threads vigorously. And if any body PM's me with a phone number, I'll call them and share my expeiences. (I've got free long distance). Furthermore, if any of the "old pros" (especially with a Hitzer 983 insert) wants to join in I'm sure myself and other "newbies" would appreciate it.

I'm basically going to shate my experiences (ESPECIALLY my mistakes) so maybe us newbies can learn together. I will put "BM" in the title to make these "newbie" posts easy to spot. As is requested by the forum protocol, I'll try to keep the posts in the right category and start a new post when the subject changes.

I've been burning about a week now, and have already had an INCREDIBLE fire going, complete with dancing blue ladies and a picture-perfect bed of coals.

Of course, it happened by accident (L O L)


TODAYS MISTAKE: (yes, there will be a lot of these...) As I start from an empty stove, I should first get a good wood fire going. Last night I started this by using a little kindling and then some too-large pies of cut and split oak. (Please note: my goal is to not have to go thru this "starting procedure" often. My goal is to maintain one fire all season. But to do this, I need to produce a healthy fire in the first place.) I did not have a uniform wood-coal bed that completely covered the grate. Because of this, I had "good" spots and "bad" spots. I tried to rake and re-distribute the good-burning stuff all around but I did not have luck. I believe OTHER people have done it successfully....but I failed.

NEXT TIME: After this half-burning fiasco dies out, I will completely clean out the stove. I will not throw out the half-burned coal, but I will save it to add to a fire that is burning properly (after I am a little more successful). The MAIN difference this time is that I will use PLENTY of small pieces of hardwood and get a really good fire (wood fire) that completely covers ALL of the grate. This is easy to do...the wood is easy to light and easy to re-distribute without it going out. Next time I want a nice 2" or 3" minimum thickness of robustly burning hardwood. My main mistake last time was LACK OF PATIENCE with this.

Then while I still have flames going on I will SLOWLY add coal in a UNIFORM manner in EVERY PART of the bed. I will be more patient this time... Then I will add a little more EVERYWHERE until I have a good foundation. Once that happens (again, my mistake seems to be impatience with this building stage...... which leads to dead spots..... which is then why I fail)

I know that if I can get a good start (which happened once a produced a GREAT fire) I'll have better luck. Then next time I have a good start, I'll use a DEEP bed of coal. That is the other mistake I made..,..that is why my "great fire" went out. To be continued.....
Bob M
BM-80
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: LsFarm On: Fri Oct 24, 2008 11:43 am

You say you know you have a good draft,, how good is it?? Do you have a draft gauge on the flue?? The draft needed to get a wood fire burning is not enough to keep a coal fire burning.
Where did you get your coal? What mine or breaker did it come from?

Items needed for a good coal fire:

Heat, a fire source to start the coal burning
A deep bed of coal to burn
Draft, it has to be strong enough to pull air through the thick bed of coal

And last: GOOD coal.. there is coal that will not burn down to a powder!! Some coal burns to a hard crusty ash, that clogs the grates..
I'm inclined to think you may have a problem with your coal.

Greg L.
LsFarm
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: BM-80 On: Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:44 pm

Quick update:

Well, it's an hour and a half later.... I couldn't wait!!

I completely emptied the stove. Next I cut up an oak pallet into little chunks and got the whole thing burning very well. I let this burn for about 15 minutes and slowly added coal in a UNIFORM pattern over ALL the grates. The oak chunks were still producing flames and I added the coal in a way to allow the completely flame-engulfed chunks to keep burning. I had the aash door open but not for long I was afraid of over-firing. Believe me, this thing was really cooking! After 10 more minutes, I added one thin (about one and a half inch) layer of coal and completely covered every inch over the grate surface. I gave it plenty of air (opening ash door for small intervals of time) and got this whole layer completely glowing and red. Finally, i added a full load of coal all the way up to the top of the firebricks. Now I will turn the air supply down to about 1/3 just before I go to work.....stayed tuned!!

Greg L: You may be right about the coal quality...I don't know the brand ....it's "generic" (LOL). Anyway, there IS a place that sells Blaschak(spelling) but I haven't addressed this quality issue yet. You may be right. I will let everybody know tonight. I put the dog in the basement in case it gets too hot in the house.

Note to self: Do NOT pet white colored dog while wearing gloves used to handle coal!!!
BM-80
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

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Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: BM-80 On: Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:58 pm

One more update: (laughing again)

I just looked at stove ... if I turn up air intake supply I've got blue ladies all over the place!!! turned air back down and am leaving for work now. White dog (now with dark spots) is in cellar. Got to go...

PS to Greg: I forgot to answer your draft question.... And believe me Greg, I appreciate the input!! I have no scientific basis for my claim that I have good draft. I wish I did have a draft measuring device, but I may eventually borrow one. My claim (good draft) is purely subjective. But until I actually measure it (something I want to do) I can tell you that I can HEAR the air rushing into the air intake. It sounds very strong....almost like the wind howling, and I can hear it accros the room. Also, remember, I did have one AWESOME fire going already a couple of days ago.

Thanks again for all the help
BM-80
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: Devil505 On: Fri Oct 24, 2008 1:20 pm

We all make plenty of mistakes at first, but you'll get the hang of it. I'm attaching 2 links to threads you may find helpful:

Starting a coal fire: How to Light a Hand Fired Coal Stove

Shaking Down: Shaking Down/Reloading A Mature Fire

What may not be clear in the first thread is that once I start spreading coal on the fire, I leave the ash door open & control the fire by spreading coal & partially closing the ash door, when needed. I never full close the ash door until I'm totally done.
You should never leave your stove (when lighting it) as it can easily overfire. Worst comes to worst, you can always just shut the ash door & starve your fire of air it it start to overfire.
You'll be able to cleanout & restart your stove in under an hour when you get the hang of it! ;)


Hang in there!
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: BM-80 On: Sat Oct 25, 2008 12:49 am

Well, it's time for my "update" report and the news is good!!

But first, a bit more background. I throttled back the air intake to approx one eight (1/8) of "full throttle"... I believe it's just above idle. I wasn't sure how it would work, or even whether it would work. Also, I cracked open a couple of windows because I was worried about it being too warm in the house when I got back. Finally, I was worried about the draft because it was almost 60 degrees outside today. I started the fire at noon and left for work at 1PM.

I work as a truck driver, and as luck would have it I happened to go by my house at 7:30 PM tonight. I just couldn't WAIT to check on the fire. As I walked in the house it felt very warm....the coal pile was still dark on top (not glowing red) but there was a line of small blue flame along the right side wall of firebrick and also along the back wall. In the front left corner the coal was starting to glow red. The fire looked GREAT. Also, I looked in the air intake hole to view the ash pan area. I did not want to open the ash pan door and ruin my "experiment". I could see an orange glow thru the opening and it made me think that it was not clogged with ash. I never TOUCHED the stove..... just looked at it, then left with a smile.

I went back to work and returned home around midnight. This thing is burning like a champ! Now, its got 5 to 7 inch blue flames dancing all over the place!! Its been burning 12 and a half hours and I still haven't touched it!! I did, however, open the ash door this time just to take a peak inside. theres a little bit of ash there now...must have fallen by itself because I still haven't shaken it yet. Also, now the whole bed of coals is glowing red (it was black at 7:30), and finally, the coal pile looks like it shrank...the pile is lower and smaller than before. Its more compacted, even though I haven't shaken yet. I'm not sure if I want to touch it or not. I need opinions, please...

Should I shake now? (but not add more coal yet)

Or, should I shake now and top of with coal now?

Or, should I leave it alone completely?


This is what I learned today: First, I believe that I was correct to make sure I had a really good wood ember fire going first. And I really think that its important to have the grates COMPLETELY covered front to back and side to side with glowing embers WITHOUT ANY BARE SPOTS ON THE GRATES. I think I had some bare spots last time, and since coal fires always ignite straight UP the coal without ember fire beneath them become dead spots.

Secondly, I remember reading in this forum to have a DEEP BED (somebody even wrote "I can not emphisize this enough.." I believe they are right about that.

Well, thats it for now. Stayed tuned.... Bob M
BM-80
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: acesover On: Sat Oct 25, 2008 5:42 am

Hi Newbie
I have a insert also, on warm days it"s hard to keep a fire going(above 55*) on mine its the draft and I need to give it more air.
Ray
acesover
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Baker
Stove/Furnace Model: insert, modified

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: LsFarm On: Sat Oct 25, 2008 6:35 am

A coal fire will burn sideways, or from the top down, but there has to be air for the coal to burn.. limited air to parts of the fire because of ash clogging the grate will produce cold spots in the fire.. carefully opening up the grates from below with a poker will quickly provide air, and soon afterwards you will have a full fire..

Many stoves are prone to cold spots caused by the way the grates shake.. The Harman Mark series and the SF series tend to get cold spots in front because the grate doesn't shake down the ash at the very front of the firebox.

Greg L
LsFarm
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: Devil505 On: Sat Oct 25, 2008 6:53 am

BM-80 wrote:Well, it's time for my "update" report and the news is good!!


Sounds great Bob!!

A couple of recommendations:

1. Get a stove thermometer so that you can have info & watch trends

2. I would plan on shaking your stove every 12 hours. (More if you run it real hot in the dead of winter.

BM-80 wrote:Also, I looked in the air intake hole to view the ash pan area. I did not want to open the ash pan door and ruin my "experiment". I could see an orange glow thru the opening and it made me think that it was not clogged with ash. I never TOUCHED the stove..... just looked at it, then left with a smile.


A coal fire doesn't react as quickly to changes as a wood fire. You can open the ash door for a few minutes without really effecting the fire. Your coal fire is not as fragile as you think! ;)

Only run your stove as hot as you need to, to keep your house warm. Why waste coal?
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: BM-80 On: Sat Oct 25, 2008 9:33 am

Its 9:15 in the morning and the news is still good...

A couple of minutes after last nights post, I thought about what I just wrote, specifically the part about maintaining a deep bed. So, I went over to the stove and shook it just a little. I used short choppy strokes on each grate (thetre are 3 grates and each one is operated separately from the others...). I probably shook each one for about 5 seconds each - almost immediately I started getting red embers. Then I took a look at the fire....not much had changed except the fire was a little more compact. I then re-filled the coal pile to the top of the fire brick. I did not leave a "hole" (a place on the top of the coal pile where the red glowing coals are still visible). I was thinking of making a "hole" but within 2 or 3 minutes I could see little dancing ladies on top of the black coal pile. I opened another window (its getting a little warm in Connecticut) and went to bed.

I woke up a little while ago and checked on the stove first thing. House is VERY warm this morning....opened 2 more windows (LOL) As far as the fire goes, it still burning like a champ. The complete pile is glowing red, with just a little bit of gray color on the top of the pile. It looks like the fire is finally producing some ash. And of course, I've got the blue ladies dancing all over the place.

The fire looks (I'm guessing here) like it does not NEED to be touched.....but that I could shake and get some ash out IF I WANT. That's just how it looks....I could be wrong.

I have 3 different options I'm thinking of here. First, I could shake and re-fuel stove. Or I could just shake down the fire without re-fueling. Or I could just let it burn.

I really want to keep going with this "experiment"... I feel the next plateau I need to conquer is KEEPING the fire going. I kind of feel, at this point, that I learned how to MAKE a good fire... now I want to be able to know that I can also successfully MAINTAIN a good fire. Of course, its getting hot as hell in the house!!

So how am I doing? Also, is it bad to have too much blue flame? Most of the time the blue flame is really tall and everywhere.... even though the "throttle" is way down.

Stay tuned..... Bob

PS: I'm also planning on making a "poker" to reach in under the grate system and unclog things whenever needed. Greg had suggested making one out of 3/16" inch rod with a little "L" shape on the end. That's what I'm going to do. I'll probably make it out of 3/16" threaded rod - that way I can add a wooden handle at the end (probably a one and a half inch diameter wooden dowel about 6" long with a 3/16" hole thru the center). By using threaded rod I can run a jam nut up against each end of the handle to hold it tight.
Previously, I had a Vermont Castings Vigilant for a very short time (had a lot of difficulties with it). The Vigilant comes from the factory with an accessory tool known as a "slicer". The slicer looks very much like a machete with no sharp edge on it. At the end of the slicer there is and upward facing "hook" which is just part of the slicer/machete "blade" the sticks up at the front tip of the slicer. This slicer is then inserted in the stove thru the ash pan door and the slicer is run thru the spaces in the grates. It helped a little, but I wasn't impressed with the Vigilant ability to burn coal, and I have also heard that from others. I bought the stove used, and I think (now) the previous owners sold it to me because they didn't have any luck with it. I ended up burning wood with it. It made a great wood stove...
BM-80
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: BM-80 On: Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:23 pm

Well, its into the evening hours now and the fire is still going strong. I ended up shaking it (just a little) after I posted this morning. I got some ash to come down and the fire/coal pile "sunk" down a little. Fire still very strong, even though the temperature was over 60 degrees most of the day. Still got little blue flames going on (smaller now), and the "throttle setting" is just above idle.
Man, is it hot in this house! I decided that I don't want to re-fuel and I am just waiting to see how long this fire lasts. I will still need to practice MAINTAINING a fire and keeping it going. I have read in some posts that it (maintaining a healthy fire) becomes a little more difficult after the fire has been going a couple of days...
Well, I'm gonna let this fire die a natural death. I'd kill it (because its TOO hot in here) but I am trying to learn things here. At least I'll know how long a fire can possible last....I haven't added coal in almost 20 hours and its nowhere near finished. I am pleasantly surprised to be having some success after my initial frustration. I owe a lot of this success to the people on this forum. THANKS!!
Well, 32 hours and 60 degree temps outside and its still doing fine. I just shook it down one more time (only midly, did not over-shake) and I won't touch it again all night. I'll bet it lasts until at least tomorrow morning...

Stayed tuned BM
BM-80
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: char197398 On: Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:37 pm

Thanks for the info.
I just had my 983 insert installed last week and plan to fire it up this weekend.
I'm a long time wood stove user and am anxious to learn the ins and outs of how to burn coal.

CJ
char197398
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: BM-80 On: Tue Nov 18, 2008 8:29 am

Keep us posted, Char... The biggest mistake I made was not having a deep bed. I think all the other mistakes I made were not "fatal" but not having a deep bed was the death of my fire. Also, there is another thread called "Hitzer 503 Installation Photos" which is very helpful. Except for the hopper, the 503 is very similar to the 983". Keep in touch and let us know...
BM-80
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: char197398 On: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:02 pm

Bob,
Hope your stove experiences continue to be positive.
I did great for about 10 days then tonight I had some trouble. (If you like, here is the thread with the details:
about8130.html

Anyway, so far the stove has kept the place at about 70 and the family has never been happier.

CJ
char197398
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

Re: Newbie 983 Frustration by BM

PostBy: char197398 On: Sat Nov 29, 2008 12:59 pm

I certainly see what you mean by " a deep bed" I only struggled with this a small amount thanks to your shared learning experiences :)
char197398
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 983 insert

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