How to start a coal fire in a pot-belly stove

Written by clyde cohen
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How to start a coal fire in a pot-belly stove
Pot-belly stoves provide an effective, reliable source of heat. (Old Stove and Antique Chair image by bawinner from

Pot-belly stoves provide a simple and effective heating option for people without access to large-scale heating systems. Starting a coal fire in a pot-belly stove requires only a few items and can provide hours of heat for living and cooking. The damper, or air vent, serves as the main method of temperature control on a pot-belly stove and is also instrumental in starting a fire.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Newspaper
  • Kindling
  • Wood
  • Matches

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  1. 1

    Start a small fire inside the stove, using newspaper and kindling. Make sure that the damper is fully open, as this will provide maximum airflow.

  2. 2

    Add small pieces of wood to the starter fire. Do not let the fire grow too large; its flames should remain well below the halfway point of the stove's top.

  3. 3

    Add coal to your starter fire gradually once glowing embers form. Add only the amount of coal that can ignite without suffocating the starter fire. Continue adding coal until you have established between 1 and 2 inches of a burning base.

  4. 4

    Fill the stove to the maximum level and close the door. The damper now can be closed as needed to regulate the temperature and burning speed of the coal.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure that the pot-belly stove is clean and free of ashy debris before you start the fire. An excess of ashes can decrease airflow and prevent the fire from getting enough oxygen.
  • Open a burning pot-belly stove slowly. This will let oxygen in gradually. If oxygen rushes in, explosions of unburned gases can occur.
  • Exercise common sense concerning fire safety when using a pot-belly stove. Be especially careful if children or animals are nearby; the stove itself will get extremely hot.

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