Thank you for the tips, everyone!
As a newbie, I only have my two books on "burning coal" and both warn against too much "playing" with a fire. The books warned that too much or too little shaking and the fire goes out. They further warn against any poking of the fire...without going into any detail, ofcourse, leaving one to ponder....
I can't get to that thread, my browser tells me the page has expired. I tried from your live link and tried typing it in the browser and still can't get there. Is there another way?
No, I do not have a baro. I run my manual damper half closed when in "steady state" with surface temp at 450F while the thermostatic draft control regulates air flow up thru the bed.
I have a capped masonry chimney with wonderful draw. I live on a mountain and there is seldom a still day. The chimney draws well.
OK, Greg, I hear you about glow! I will go for more glow and did so this morning when I shook the new fire down. This is day 2 for this fire. I'll keep an eye on things each 12 hour increment and start looking from below as you suggest.
You echo others in saying don't be afraid to poke...so I'm going to be learning to poke...and sucessfully we hope!
You are on the other side of shaking...be careful of too aggressive and you bring up a very important safety tip...wear glasses! I totally agree, having worked in industry where safety glasses were a constant. I always wear safety glasses when I go to open the stove door!
As for shaking...on one of my "third days" I had a fire that would not respond so I knew I had not enough air coming up. The fire was barely 400F after the ash door was open for 30 min so I had little to lose, I figured, and shook. and shook...lots of ash came down, of course, and the fire settled in the middle a lot...still a very dull orange and grey all around the edges. the shaking did not save it, it went out.
Nope, no clinkers....my ash is all bits and pieces. I assume clinkers are "chunks" sort of welded together and I've nothing like that.
Again, thanks to all of you! I'm in day 2 so the fire is strong and healthy. This morning, I started my routine at 475F surface temperature. I open the ash door, leaving the thermostatically controlled air damper alone. In a mere ten minutes I was at 650F and shook down. Got plenty of orange glow and more than a few embers falling thru.
Then I stoked just the right side....the fire actually has a soft "roar" to it. The flames were dancing like crazy...it was a vibrant fire to say the least. Left the ash door open. Wait 10 min. Temp dropped from 650 to 600 and started back up. So I stoked the left side, now that the fire is going well in the new coal on the right side. I added about 3" to 4" of coal to get back to the top of my firebrick. The total bed depth is 8" to 10" I believe....the size of the firebrick lining.
Temp crept up to 700F so I closed the ash door, left my direct vent damper open (to avoid blow backs) and opened the manual damper to full open to dump some heat. Temp dropped below 700 and when it got to 625F I closed my direct vent damper which is an "efficiency" thing. It makes the flue gases from the burning bed go down and under a baffle in order to get out, supposedly burning off all available combustibles before going under the baffle and up the chimney.
With the thermostatic damper back in control the temp continued down to my run point which is 475f and I closed my manual damper back to 45 degrees. This is day 2