More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Devil505 On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 4:45 pm

After running my TLC pretty hard for about a week, I noticed today that even with the ash door slider almost 3/4 open, my stove was not putting out the usual amount of heat. I just shook down & found out why......I had more ash in the firebox than coal!! :lol: (bridging was making the coal bed APPEAR full)
I just did the most aggressive shake down I've ever done (after getting the fire livened up as much as I could) & dug down with my poker, almost to the shaker grates all around. (twisting the poker while poking down to break up clumps) There was very little hot coal burning, compared to ash! I filled both side of the stove full (used 2 full hods of coal!) & left the center section untouched & still weakly burning. (leave the best part of the fire untouched & still burning well.This time, it was the center of the fire that was good, so I left that alone) After about 10 minutes, both sides are now burning well so I'm going to dump in about 3/4 hod into the center. I've kept the ash door fully open during this whole procedure! (*which took about 20 minutes & THREE hods of coal!)

After reading a number of threads lately, complaining of poor heat production from their stoves, I suggest this may be a problem for many, & one which can be solved without needing to shut down & clean out your stoves. If your mature fire is not putting out the heat it once did, make sure you actually are burning COAL & not trying to burn ASH! :lol:

Again, the key here is getting a lively fire going BEFORE you do any shaking or poking, & leave the liveliest part of your fire alone, at first!
Last edited by Devil505 on Sat Jan 03, 2009 6:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: CapeCoaler On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:57 pm

Same here, except it was a non-grindable clinker from the last few cold nights when I had the MarkII at 475* for two straight days that caused me to do the same thing.
I just let the ash get deep and the stove cool to 175* so I can work the bottom with the 'tools'!
I pull the ash pan so I can get a good line of sight on the grate bottoms, push the shaker arm to full back and 'rake' the openings, repeat with arm in full forward position, count the clinkers then give a healthy floss and shake.
Top off with some lump charcoal, open the ash pan door and top off with some new coal.
CapeCoaler
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: want AA130
Hand Fed Coal Stove: DS Machine BS#4, Harman MKII, Hitzer 503,...
Coal Size/Type: Pea/Nut/Stove

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: SuperBeetle On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:26 pm

Yep, it is always good to have a lively fire before doing anything else. Loading up with ash (bridging) does happen. You just have to have some experience and then you will know the signs of this before you lose your fire.
SuperBeetle
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Mark II
Coal Size/Type: Pea, Nut, & Stove Anthracite

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Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Paperboy On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:23 pm

I've experienced the same situation a few times. When I first installed my stove in early November, it would burn great for a few days, then heat output would drop off and I almost lost the fire one morning.
I learned from that experience to do more poking through the bed of coal ,(as Devil has suggested in other posts, ) as well as shaking more aggressively. I usually continue shaking after I see some red embers fall. Then I poke down through the top loader door, then shake a few more times. This is usually sufficient, but some times I have to repeat this procedure a second time. I always have the ash door open and fire livened up before I start.
Last Sunday, 12/28, when it was 55 degrees, I let my fire go out and cleaned out the stove for the first time since early November.
One thing I really noticed after it was burning again, was that when all the coal in the stove was fresh, and hadn't established the ash /red burning embers/ black unburned layers yet, it really put out more heat. Normally, I can put my hand on the bottom plate and ash door of my stove. But with a fresh fire and full bed of new coal, the bottom was quite hot to touch.
Yes, you want some ash to insulate your grates from excess heat, but at some point, it's too much.

Sometimes, you have to poke and prod the fire a bit! :poke:
Paperboy
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Alaska; Atlanta
Stove/Furnace Model: Kodiak; Homesteader

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Razzler On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 9:05 pm

Devil505 wrote:I had more ash in the firebox than coal!! (bridging was making the coal bed APPEAR full)
I just did the most aggressive shake down I've ever done


Devil i found that when i would stop shaking the grates after the first red coal i would get the ash build up like that. Now when i shake down i don't worry about a few hot coals that drop i keep going until i get a nice glow under the grates. I haven't had that happen again.
Razzler
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman SF 250

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: grizzly2 On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 9:22 pm

A timely post Devil. This morning when I got up it was only 66* in the livingroom. The fire looked OK, but the stove temp. was down to about 175. I shook the grate longer than I ever had to before and nearly filled the ash pan which is good for 2or3 shakedowns usually. Enough coal fed down from the hopper to make the entire top of the firebed black coal with just a little red glowing down in deep. The fire was about 3 hours fully recovering. I did not leave the ashpan door open though. It must have been bridging, because I thought I had shaken it down good before bed. :)
grizzly2
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 30 - 95
Coal Size/Type: pea and nut/ anthracite
Other Heating: Jotul #3 wood stove in garage. Oil backup in house. Electric backup in house.

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Cap On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 9:28 pm

Your hottest fire is your first one. After the first one, you can never utilize 100% of your firebox. Aggressive shakedowns will certainly help. Shutting down and starting fresh is worth the trouble from time to time or just before a cold front moves in with frigid temps.

The darn trouble with the Harmans, you can drop some red burning coal on the right side of the grates while ash continues to drop from the left side. I guess this is just the *nature of the beast*.

GO EAGLES!
Cap
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Harman SF 250, domestic hot water loop, heat accumulator

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Devil505 On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 10:17 pm

Cap wrote:The darn trouble with the Harmans, you can drop some red burning coal on the right side of the grates while ash continues to drop from the left side. I guess this is just the *nature of the beast*.


That's true of all hand fired stoves, not just Harmans. It's very rare that any coal bed will burn evenly, side to side & back to front. Fires invariably will burn unevenly & you will have good & bad areas. Some filled with ash, while others areas have more fresh (unburnt) coal. Trick is to get rid of the ash & keep the good stuff! ;)
Everyone has their own technique, but, being lazy , I never shut down my stove on purpose! :lol:
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Joe in NH On: Sat Jan 03, 2009 10:30 pm

I remember reading Devil’s “Don’t Be Afraid of Your Fire” thread with a great deal of interest and believe that learning to remove ashes from the firebox is probably the most important skill for the novice coal burner. I started burning anthracite coal over twenty years ago with a Godin mid-sized stove in the kitchen and a Saey Bremen I in the living room. The Godin had the larger, oval firebox but used the shaker grate from their smaller, round model. A definite design flaw that I believe was subsequently eliminated in this stove. Anyway, this design caused a column of ash buildup on each side of the grate that continually worked to smother the fire. In that I could see what was happening, I learned to force the ashes down the sides of the firebox and into the ash pan. What I did not realize, because I was not able to see it as clearly, was that I was having a similar problem with the Saey. The Godin was designed with a tall, narrow, oval firebox while the Saey had the typical rectangular hopper fed fire basket. I would start a new fire in the Saey and it would burn great for a day or two. Slowly the active fire would begin the shrink in from the sides and eventually there was not enough heat available to sustain a coal fire. The shaker mechanism had the typical horizontal movement of a European coal stove and regardless of how long or how aggressively you shook the grate, there would still be too great a quantity of ashes in the fire basket. Taking my lesson from the Godin, I had a friend make a metal tool that was about two feet long with a short ninety-degree bend at the end and I used it to aggressively poke (actually it was more like rake) the ashes down from the top (yes, from the top) as well as up from under the fire. I was not done shaking and poking/raking until I could see a bright orange glow in the ash pan. There were a few times in the beginning when I was a bit too aggressive with a dying fire and lost it, but you learn through experience exactly how far you can go. Besides, that fire would have probably gone out anyway. I am now a member of the one match club. I have also come to believe that a good quality coal stove should not suffer damage to the grates from having hot coals on them. My definition of hot coals does not include the white-hot result of the forgotten open clean out door or general over firing. As Devil said, “don’t be afraid of your fire” and clean those ashes out of the firebox.
Joe in NH
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: Trident SF 260 Boiler

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Devil505 On: Sun Jan 04, 2009 8:34 am

This topic is a good place to bring up the controversial subject of poking a fire from the top. I know some people argue against doing it at all, but I can't imagine keeping a fire going for long periods of time without doing some, sometimes very aggressive, poking to break into air pockets & clean out dead ash.
I think the argument against poking is that a good aggressive shake down is sufficient to clean out ash without the need to poke. I have always found that mature fires (say a week or more old) rarely burn evenly though & that shaking alone will waste allot of good coal (from the area that's not choked with ash) b4 you start to get passed the dead ash on the bad side.
If, however, you poke into the bad area (after livening up the fire in the good section) you'll invariably get it to settle into some air pockets & you can then shake effectively without wasting much good coal from the good areas.
As I've always said though, there are many effective ways to run your stove. This is just MY way........ Try a few & see what works best for you.
Last edited by Devil505 on Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Devil505 On: Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:20 am

Epilogue: :D

I just did another pretty aggressive shake down & the stove took quite a bit more coal! Sometimes, when running the stove hot on cold days, you may have to repeat the "heavy duty" shake down & refill to be sure & get most of the ash out. (You'll never get it all out, but you don't want to anyway. (Some ash protects the gates like insulation)
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Paperboy On: Sun Jan 04, 2009 11:13 am

I'm in agreement with you, Devil. One thing to consider, is that you and I both have stoves with a loader door on top, so vertical poking is easy. Perhaps with a stove that only loads through the front door, it would be more difficult to poke vertically, and some inevitable horizontal motion would be required. That might tend to stir the coal bed in an undesirable way. So perhaps the people who advise against poking don't have the same perspective as we do. All I know is, it works for me and my particular stove.
When I was shopping and researching for a hand fed stove, the Harman TLC was actually my first choice. But, we all know how hard it was to get a Harman last summer. So I settled on the Alaska Kodiak, which has many similar features, and was available for delivery before winter set in. So far, I've learned a lot from this forum, and by gaining experience with my stove.
Paperboy
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Alaska; Atlanta
Stove/Furnace Model: Kodiak; Homesteader

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Devil505 On: Sun Jan 04, 2009 11:37 am

Paperboy wrote:I'm in agreement with you, Devil. One thing to consider, is that you and I both have stoves with a loader door on top, so vertical poking is easy. Perhaps with a stove that only loads through the front door, it would be more difficult to poke vertically, and some inevitable horizontal motion would be required


I actually do all my poking through the front door Paperboy. I find it easier & more precise than standing up & trying to use a long poker. I have a nice, short coal stove tool set with 16" tools which are perfect for getting into tight spaces.

Edit:
Question for anyone:
The tool (maybe a rake?) in the 8:00O'clock position (with arrow) in the tool set pictured is one I never use. What am I missing in terms of its use??
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Last edited by Devil505 on Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: Paperboy On: Sun Jan 04, 2009 11:51 am

I guess I ASSumed too much! :doh: That looks like a handy tool set. I can't do much from the front door, because the hopper hangs down inside the Kodiak. So I just open the top and poke down through the hopper. Alaska provided a 30" long poker rod with a slight angle bend on one end and a hook/handle on the other. Works for me.
In any case, as long as the fire is lively enough, I agree that some vertical poking can be a good thing :)
Paperboy
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Alaska; Atlanta
Stove/Furnace Model: Kodiak; Homesteader

Re: More of a Mid-Winter Cleanout Than A Shake Down

PostBy: SMITTY On: Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:01 pm

My routine is: Shake until the pan is bright, or there is glowing embers falling into pan. Then I poke from the top, on the side with the least light in the pan. Then shake again. After poking, the coal bed usually drops at least 3" or so.

I found if I poke first, then shake, I lose quite a bit of coal in smaller pieces that can't be shoveled out of the ash pan.
SMITTY
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Patriot Coal - custom built by Jim Dorsey
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Mark III (not currently in use)
Coal Size/Type: Rice / Blaschak anthracite
Other Heating: Oil fired Burnham boiler

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