A hundred-years-ago many people used a coal stove for cooking. Here are directions in a 1920 home economics textbook for building a fire in the stove:
Fire Building in a Coal Range
It is necessary to have the fire box, ash pan, and other parts of the stove clean before building a fire. After cleaning, place a generous layer of loosely crumpled paper over the bottom of the fire box, then about four layers of kindling wood, placed so that there are air passages between the pieces, and on top of the wood put two shovelfuls of coal. Regulate the dampers for a direct draft, replace the stove lids, and brush the surface of the stove.
Before lighting the fuels, polish the range in the following manner:
To the nickel of the stove apply whiting and ammonia or any satisfactory metal cleaner.
To the iron of the stove apply oil. Light paraffin oil may be used for this purpose. Apply the oil with cotton waste, or a soft cloth. (Care should be taken not to apply an excess of oil.) Polish with soft cotton or woolen cloth. One should remember, however, that oils must be used with caution. It should never be applied to a stove containing burning fuels. If the stove cloth, saturated with oil, is not destroyed after using, it is well to keep it in a covered tin can or stone jar.
After polishing the stove, light the fuels. When the wood is reduced to glowing embers and the coal is burning, add more coal. If this burns well, change the dampers to make an indirect draft.
School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta C. Greer
The direct draft makes it easier to get the fire started, but once it is burning well, the damper is changed to allow the hot air to circulate throughout the oven and cook the food.
I’ve never used a coal stove so I have little knowledge of this topic – yet the order of steps didn’t seem right to me. I understand that the only time that the fire is typically allowed to go out is when the stove is cleaned – but why are the paper, kindling wood, and coal arranged in the stove prior to polishing the stove’s surface? I would think that all cleaning and polishing should be completed before putting the paper, wood, and coal into the stove – but I’m probably missing something. Does anyone know whether the steps in old book are the typical order for preparing a stove for lighting?