Poking

Poking

PostBy: Devil505 On: Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:38 am

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! :lol:


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!) :lol:
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!! :lol: (welcome any & all thoughts)
Last edited by Devil505 on Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:32 pm, edited 4 times in total.
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: Poking

PostBy: EasyRay On: Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:26 am

Due to the design of this stove, poking from the top end or front is fairly easy. I rev up the fire and shake, always starting out by shaking first two or three times all the way to the rear. Then very fast front to rear. I use a straight poker on both sides by using the bottom bar as leverage on the sides and just underneath the coals. You have to be careful not to upset the bar hangers because they can be a pain to put back. Then I just tap the top coals down in the empty space. For the front I just open the top and run the poker down the front all the way across until the hot coals drop down. I don't bother with the rear because I don't have a problem there. Then another very fast light shake to get down what I dislodged in the poking process to finish off. Then I add my fresh coal.
I due this every time I shake down even if I only shake down once a day in milder weather.
Without any mechanical problems, which has not happened yet. I start in the Fall and go to Spring without shutting down. This is my third season with this stove.

The design on my old stove was also a top loader and poking along the sides was just as easy.
EasyRay
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman TLC 2000
Coal Size/Type: Pea,Nut or Stove

Re: Poking

PostBy: Floydman89 On: Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:27 pm

I agree .. poking is needed. We have a Hitzer 30-95 gravity fed stove, running since Oct 08. In our learning, we found that the ash builds up on the sides and in the front .. I've read on here to leave it alone & clean it out next spring... maybe that would work out.. if we didn't need to run it as HOT as we need too .. .The stove is rated up to 1800 sq feet.. and we have a 1700 sq foot house... so we need to get everything out of it we can on really cold days/nights.. if we allow this to accumulate... eventually the burning coal area will get smaller & smaller ... the ash will buildup.. and when the new coal comes down the hopper .. it will push out on that ash.. So once a week .. or depending on how hot we have been burning the stove... before we shake.. I'll open the front glass door .. and poke down on those sides and the front .. just thru the ash .. .NOT thru the HOT coals .. never do we poke in the center of the stove ... only around the edges where that ash builds up ... the weight of the poker does the job .. just drops down . .and we'll wiggle it .. allowing the ash to drop ... once satisfied with the ash dropping down ... I'll close the front door .. and open the ash pan door ... and do the shaking... looking for a nice glow... Its nice to do this in the dark.. because I can see the ash pan lighting up... then I fill up the hopper ... Fresh new coal will now be on the sides and in the front .. and after about 30 mins it will glow . .start putting out the HEAT.. I've noticed also the glow of the coal on the same setting won't be as bright.. meaning its not burning as hot.. to keep the stove at the same temperture, because there is more coal burning. We have been using Pea .. and have now switched over to NUT ... I'm not sure yet .. its only been 3 days.. .but make the Nut coal will require LESS poking... I believe no poking would be needed if the Temps warmed up and we ran the stove on idle.. Not much experience yet on running it on low... Its been a COLD winter so far!
Floydman89
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 30-95

Visit Hitzer Stoves

Re: Poking

PostBy: NewtocoalinNY On: Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:44 pm

I wish my dealer advised me of this when he installed the stove, but, then again, I may never have found this forum and all the helpful advice! Poking has made a real difference for me. I believe I can go for 12 hours now between shakings, rather than 8,now that I've discovered the "power of the poke"!
NewtocoalinNY
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Saey
Stove/Furnace Model: Hanover I

Re: Poking

PostBy: Joe in NH On: Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:58 pm

Different stoves have different shaker mechanisms. Different shaker mechanisms will impact the amount of ash remaining in the fire box after shaking and the amount of ash remaining in the fire box will require different methods and frequency of ash removal. You have to experiment and find what works best for you. In my experience burning coal in numerous European stoves and a large American boiler, I have yet to find a shaker/grate combination that will consistently remove all the ashes necessary to maintain a long term coal fire. That is not to say such a thing does not exist, it is just that I have not found one. For me, nothing short of an aggressive digging into the corners and raking through the active fire to sift the ashes to the bottom of the fire box and ultimately through the grates would give me the results I needed to maintain an active coal fire. I used an L shaped metal tool like those mentioned frequently on this forum. If coal fire abuse were a crime, I would be spending much of my life behind bars. :) Joe
Joe in NH
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: Trident SF 260 Boiler

Re: Poking

PostBy: oliver power On: Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:36 am

Floydman89 wrote:I agree .. poking is needed. We have a Hitzer 30-95 gravity fed stove, running since Oct 08. In our learning, we found that the ash builds up on the sides and in the front .. I've read on here to leave it alone & clean it out next spring... maybe that would work out.. if we didn't need to run it as HOT as we need too .. .The stove is rated up to 1800 sq feet.. and we have a 1700 sq foot house... so we need to get everything out of it we can on really cold days/nights.. if we allow this to accumulate... eventually the burning coal area will get smaller & smaller ... the ash will buildup.. and when the new coal comes down the hopper .. it will push out on that ash.. So once a week .. or depending on how hot we have been burning the stove... before we shake.. I'll open the front glass door .. and poke down on those sides and the front .. just thru the ash .. .NOT thru the HOT coals .. never do we poke in the center of the stove ... only around the edges where that ash builds up ... the weight of the poker does the job .. just drops down . .and we'll wiggle it .. allowing the ash to drop ... once satisfied with the ash dropping down ... I'll close the front door .. and open the ash pan door ... and do the shaking... looking for a nice glow... Its nice to do this in the dark.. because I can see the ash pan lighting up... then I fill up the hopper ... Fresh new coal will now be on the sides and in the front .. and after about 30 mins it will glow . .start putting out the HEAT.. I've noticed also the glow of the coal on the same setting won't be as bright.. meaning its not burning as hot.. to keep the stove at the same temperture, because there is more coal burning. We have been using Pea .. and have now switched over to NUT ... I'm not sure yet .. its only been 3 days.. .but make the Nut coal will require LESS poking... I believe no poking would be needed if the Temps warmed up and we ran the stove on idle.. Not much experience yet on running it on low... Its been a COLD winter so far!
Hi Floydman89, Hey, it sounds like you have that poking thing down to a science. And yes, come warmer wheather, you would let the ash build up. Works great! Should you decide to go with the 50-93 next year, same poking procedures apply. As you already know, in order for the 30-95 to crank out the BTU's you need, you have to poke every day. The 50-93 will need poking every 3 - 7 days.
oliver power
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: KEYSTOKER Kaa-2
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93 & 30-95, Vigilant (pre-Vigilant-II)
Baseburners & Antiques: MANY (Mostly when burning wood)
Stove/Furnace Make: HITZER / KEYSTOKER
Stove/Furnace Model: 50-93 & 30-95 , Kaa-2

Re: Poking

PostBy: hyway61 On: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:09 am

Taking the rule about not disturbing a coal fire too literally caused some of my problems. While learning coal burning my stove would become ash bound and I would start to loose the fire...at that time I would poke as a last resort. That's bad ... never poke a dying coal fire. Due to my grate system and coal I must poke or I will become ash bound in a few days. I poke an active fire bed from the top and bottom...pause and maybe add some coal and let it catch..then shake until I see a pretty good glow coming into the ash pan which indicates air flow has been restored, reset air intake to the renewed air intake, and let her settle down. Seems to be the approach for me twice a day that alot of the pros here talk about. 2nd thing to consider is flue draft relative to draft when idling back on warm days, which is another way I have lost the fire thru lost of pull thru the stove.

hyway61
hyway61
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: C-55

Re: Poking

PostBy: Jeddbird On: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:42 am

I find poking is a must also, especially when running my stove hot.
Jeddbird
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Dutchwest
Stove/Furnace Model: Federal

Re: Poking

PostBy: Dann757 On: Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:22 pm

I poke up through the teardrop shaped grate holes every day, whenever the fire seems to be going down. I have an L shaped piece of 1/2" steel. My grate is 14" round, and due to all the guys that have Monticello Stoves with cracked grates, I don't use the handle tool to rotate the whole grate at all. Grates for this vintage 1980 stove are unavailable. I shake the dump grate by jiggling it back and forth and some ash comes out. I always get bridging and sometimes the 4" long L seems to be poking up into empty space. I don't hesitate to knock the bed down from above. So it's a matter of 60 seconds lying on my side and sending the tool up through the grate holes. The ash falls through like a waterfall, and I stop when reds are coming through. The reds light up the ash pan, and I know I've restored the air flow when I can see red light up inside the grate!
I just sent for a kitchen timer which I will diligently set for 3- 5 minutes every time I leave the ash door open. It has been easy to revive a fire by leaving the ash door open, that really gets the draft going. I see the danger in leaving the ash door open too long, don't want a runaway fire. My back-up natural gas heater hasn't kicked on in weeks!
Dann757
 

Re: Poking

PostBy: Gary L On: Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:34 pm

There is nothing like a good "Poke" to keep the fires burning! Sorry, couldn't resist :D

I have to poke from the top side after a full 8-10 hour burn cycle. There is always an empty pocket under the top crust so once I poke and drop it down it makes my shake down much more productive.

Poking a fire that is close to out will almost always cause it to go out completely.

Every stove has its own little idiosyncracies and learning the best way of burning yours is valuable knowledge.

Just don't let the wife or GF do the poking!

Gary
Gary L
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #1
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo

Re: Poking

PostBy: the snowman On: Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:19 pm

I have been burning my Jotul 507 since October and I have never poked it. This is probably due to the fire box design. My fire box is round and the grate is a round rotating grate that covers the entire bottom of the stove. I have no edges or corners for ash to build up on. I have been running the stove at a temp of 800 F 24/7 these past two weeks. I have had temps of -20 F the last two nights with a day time high of only 3 F. I am burning 50 pounds of coal per day. I never get unburnt pieces of coal or dark areas. Again, this is probably due to the design of the fire box. I have read that the round fire box design is the most efficient. I have read some posts about individuals designing their own coal burner. I might try to make one this summer. I believe I will use the round fire box design of the Jotul and basically enlarge the size of the stove and fire box and design it so it can be hooked up to my existing hot air system. I wonder why if the round fire box is the most efficient, why are all stoves fire boxes square in design. This is just my experience with my stove and setup and thoughts.

the snowman
the snowman
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Jotul 507
Coal Size/Type: Nut, Stove coal, Egg coal

Re: Poking

PostBy: grizzly2 On: Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:05 pm

When the weather turned colder I found the need to give the Hitzer a poke every few days also. I rake the corners and poke the sides. Seems to give me the best results. I burned the last half of last winter without ever poking because I thought I wasn't suposed to. The fire never went out, but does get to be just the middle burning. Glad I learned the value of a good poke :poke: before this weeks weather came. :verycool:
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: Poking

PostBy: BIG BEAM On: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:50 pm

My reloading routine is shake,poke and shake again every 12 hours or so.I've done this for 3 yrs. now and nothing else has worked as well.Even made my own poker.Nothing like a hot coal fire to make steel EZ to form and bend!
DON
BIG BEAM
 
Stove/Furnace Make: USS Hot blast
Stove/Furnace Model: 1557M

Re: Poking

PostBy: djackman On: Thu Jan 15, 2009 2:32 am

Mine's a little different because there's a cleanout grate behind the ash door that is level with the grates. The firebox is slightly longer than it is wide - after a few days the front or the back doesn't yield red coals when shaking down.

Every 3-4 days need to run a 3/16" rod thru the slots and rake along the grates to get the dead spots out. Next shake you can see the glow evenly across the entire firebox.
Attachments
cleanout_grate.jpg
(56.75 KiB) Viewed 32 times
View: New PagePopup • Select:BBCode
[nepathumb]10187[/nepathumb]
djackman
 
Stove/Furnace Make: 1980 vintage Tarm
Stove/Furnace Model: FT22 (aka 202) installed!

Re: Poking

PostBy: captcaper On: Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:56 am

I've never lost a lively fire due to "Poking".I agree Poking is the way to go.Especially during this below zero temps were having. Not only getting it from corners,etc. Poking will get rid of the Ash so more Coal can replace it. But must have a lively fire going. I did it with my Chubby that had a round pot as well. Especially since it had a lousy grate system. I made mine from a 3/8 round stock from HomeDepot..long so I won't burn my hands.
captcaper
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman Super Magnum
Stove/Furnace Model: Super Magnum Stoker

Visit Hitzer Stoves