Dann757 wrote: I hope to be able to judge the best draft visually also, by looking at the way the blue ladies behave. I have been able to damp down the fire so I see the blue flames just wavering back and forth, or dancing more vigorously if there is more air flow. What would be the optimum flow? I don't want to prevent the best combustion by cutting the air too much, and don't want to have too much draft. Still very much learning!!!
I'm not sure you can properly set your draft using visual aids, maybe get into the ballpark but not to the point where you can walk away for 8 hrs. You really need to use a manometer and a barometric damper to set it up properly. Once you have performed this procedure, (or install a permanent manometer), you may open the damper wide for a short time (1hr or less)after reloading in order to get your fresh coal fired up. There is a ton written here which covers this topic.
The best tip I can give you until you set your draft up with a manometer would be to measure your stack temp. The stack temp should not be much over 200F-230Ffor a typical hand fired unit running on medium to medium high.