I'm sure there are other threads regarding this procedure but I can't find them, so I figured I'd just start a new thread.
Poking always seems to be controversial & I know some coal burning books warn that you should never poke a coal fire. I have burned coal for many years, in three different stoves & found that I NEED to poke the fire to puncture air pockets (that are wasting valuable coal bed real estate) & to get rid of ash. Some people poke UP from under the shaker grates with a tool, while others (due to stove design) find it easier & cleaner to poke DOWN from above. However you do it, I don't believe it is possible to efficiently operate a hand fired coal stove unless you poke!
(You can clean out ash by shaking alone I guess, but I think you'll end up wasting allot of perfectly good coal in doing so, & possibly limiting the life of you shaker grates by exposing them to too much heat)
These colder outdoor temps necessitate us running our stoves hotter, which really creates much more ash than normal, so it's even more important to get the ash out to make room for fresh coal!(There seem to be an overabundance of problem posts lately, regarding low heat output & most of these problems are because members are not getting enough ash out to make room for the coal. Your coal stove does a much better job of heating your house when you are burning COAL rather than trying to burn ASH!
Here are a few of my poking rules that I always go by:Main Rule...Never poke into a fire until it is livened up!
(open the ash door)
1. Never poke into a load of fresh coal. (leave it alone....It knows what to do!)
2. A new fire creates pretty fine (powdery) ash & doesn't need any poking for a few days. (this is obviously coal type/source dependent) I have no idea why the ash gets coarse (over time) but it does.
3. If poking from the top, twist the poker as you poke down
4. if poking from under the grates, don't be so forceful that you damage the shaker grate teeth
Just my 2 cents!!
(welcome any & all thoughts)