Starting an anthracite coal fire takes time and patience. It is a learning process, as anthracite coal burns entirely different than wood or bituminous coal.
To begin, take around eight sheets of newspaper, crumble into balls and place on the top of the grates in your stove. Next, lay fine kindling on top of the paper. The kindling must be dry and no larger than ¾” in diameter. Layer the kindling in crisscross fashion to allow good air flow. Open the draft control fully, this can be found on the back of the free standing units and the ash door slide on the door. Now, close the loading door and allow the kindling to catch fire. After a few minutes, open the loading door an inch or two for a few seconds before opening completely. This method will allow smoke to clear away from the door opening before the loading door is completely opened.
Add smaller, compact pieces of hardwood when the kindling fire is burning hot. Keep the draft controls fully open to establish a hot fire quickly.
Wait until the hardwood has burned long enough to start breaking off into hot coals. Add more hardwood if needed. When there is a well-established wood fire going, with plenty of red hot wood coals, start adding anthracite, (pea or nut is preferred over stove size) small amounts at a time. Wait until the first layer of anthracite catches and is starting to glow orange, then add another layer. Adding too much anthracite too quickly at this stage might smother the fire and you will have to start over. Once these layers of anthracite are glowing orange, continue to add coal until the entire grate area is covered, several inches thick minimum. Once the anthracite coal fire is well established, the entire grate area must be kept covered, or the coal will not keep burning. Keep the draft controls open.
Another method for starting a coal fire is by using charcoal briquettes. First, start by making a substantial mound of briquettes in the center of the grates. Light the mound of briquettes. Allow the mound to burn until the charcoal has turned white. Once the charcoal fire has reached this stage it should be spread out over the entire grate area. Small amounts of anthracite coal can now be added in layers, over the entire grate area. Once a layer has started to burn and turn red, another layer can be added.
Continue adding small amounts of coal until there is a solid bed of burning coal. Allow sufficient time between each small loading (at least 5-10 minutes), so that each loading has time to ignite thoroughly before the next load is put in. When a substantial bed of burning coal has been established, fill the stove to approximately the top of the firebrick. In the gravity fed hopper units (like the Hitzer 503), fill the hopper at this time. A deep bed of coal will always burn more satisfactory than a shallow bed. Control the heat output of the stove by the amount of air (draft controls), not by the amount of fuel in the unit.
When the deep bed of coal is completely ignited, the draft control should be set to the desired heat output.
For more information see:
- Part 1: Starting an Anthracite Coal Fire
- Part 2: Loading the Stove & Increasing Heat
- Part 3: Shaking, Controlling Draft & Ash Management
- Part 4: Safety
- Part 5: Troubleshooting
This article adapted in part from an article entitled “Operation of Hand-Fired Anthracite Stoves” provided by Hitzer Inc. drawing from their decades of experience burning coal and building coal stoves.