Picture of How to light a coal fire
Easy? Not necessarily.
I've seen plenty of people fail to light coal efficiently and the same applies to other fires. Since I'd got the materials, I thought I'd share some fire-lighting experience.
Lighting fires is a much less common task for the average person these days, and if you stuff it up you don't impress. Light it first time and you demonstrate that you have mastered fire.

Step 1: Let's clean it up.

Picture of Let's clean it up.
Clean your fireplace.
Old ash and cinders will restrict air-flow, this makes for poor-burning. In addition, having ash up against the fire-bars can cause them to overheat due to lack of sufficient air-flow, they sag and "burn through".
Rake the remains of the last fire such that ash falls through the grate and pick-off the cinders for re-use. These are the lightweight dark lumps, not powdery un-burnable pieces of roasted shale. Clear the fire-bars of small cinders, clear all the ash.
You are off to a bad start if you don't do this
AdamO46 months ago

I have a multi-fuel stove and today I got 50KG of smokeless coal off a neighbor so I decided to use it. It's pretty good in comparison to wood as it's easier to maintain and cheap by the sounds of it.

Thanks for writing this guide. I dislike the fact I had to give instructables 7 page veiws to comment.

pikiichu2 years ago
This was very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to explain so fully. I have been very disappointed with my fires up till now (I moved into a 'fireplaced' cottage ten days ago) but now have a huge roaring coal fire.
KittyF3 years ago
not sure if it relates since this is different than an enclosed furnace, but after the little kindling I always put in three or four pieces around 3 or 4 inches in diameter, and followed THAT with the coal. that made a nice hot fire which starts the coal very easily.
lemonie (author)  KittyF3 years ago
Three or four pieces around 3 or 4 inches in diameter - of what? You write as if they're not coal.

KittyF lemonie3 years ago
sorry, I was speaking of larger chunks of wood, before I put on the coal. I admit though, that I was building it in a furnace, I wanted it hot fast to warm up the house, I wanted it to NOT go out when I put on the coal cause it's harder to build it up again after you have the coal on.

No one ever taught me though, I just learned it from watching others, so I had no finesse. LOL
twocvbloke3 years ago
I lit my first coal fire today (I prefer wood, but there was only coal, damp, smelly, dirty coal, to hand), it certainly throws out a lot of heat, but if you put too much on, it also throws out a lot of acrid, greeny-yellow smoke, and when you have a mother like mine who insists on just chucking a bucket of coal on the fire, then the whole local area knows you're burning (or at least, steaming) coal!! :S

One thing to remember is to not burn wood AND coal together (as in, chucking a shovelful of coal over a burning log, or vice versa), as it can end up creating sulphuric acid which can eat away at mortar and metal in your chimney, so only burn one or the other... :)
lemonie (author)  twocvbloke3 years ago
If you read it all again, you'll find that I avoid lots of smoke. The very last paragraph for example. Yes, if you put too much on it does go nasty, I know.

Yeah, I read through it and followed the steps to get it lit properly, and it was very successful with little issue, it was just the afterwards bit where the mother decided to smother the fire with too much coal claiming she's been burning the stuff all her life (bar the past 20-something years when she hasn't actually had a coal fire!!!), parents eh? :P
lemonie (author)  twocvbloke3 years ago
Oh yes, you can burn something all your life, but still burn it wrong all your life... There was a time when shovelling coal into fires (boiler-fires) was a full-time job for a lot of fellas. They learned of course.

frollard5 years ago
My extended family all worked in the mines/steel industry in the last century - I was of the impression that coal had gone out of use...

Crazy!  Neat to see its still used.
KittyF frollard3 years ago
Oh no, maybe people still burn coal in their central heaters. we had one in several of the houses we've rented over the years. fortunately they had a grate shaker so we could shake the grate well and then add more wood or coal as required. it's a skill, that I'll say. my favorite part was chopping kindling. love using an ax. makes you feel strong.
frollard KittyF3 years ago
true true; lots of coal in the developed world is the smokeless coal (or at least reduced emissions from pre-processing)
lemonie (author)  frollard5 years ago
Mostly out of use, but it's a nice feature in a pub. The old buildings in my area were pretty much exclusively originally-coal-fired.
E.g. 1916

nice feature in a pub are you a pub landlord?
lemonie (author)  sharlston5 years ago
No, but I was sat in front of a really super one about an hour ago.

We have a fire like this, Alhough we use wood from are garden instead of coal. It took me about a month of attemps to sucessfully light it although are fire is encloused.. Anyway Nice instructable! I do agree there not easy to light. Oscar
lemonie (author)  oscarthompson5 years ago

If you get it right they light easily, that was the idea. (and coal isn't so easy)

Joe Martin5 years ago
How did I not notice this! We have a open fireplace and use it almost daily.

Profile picture related ;)
implaxis5 years ago
A light spritz of vegetable oil on the paper helps with the ignition, especially if it is not the dryest.
a quick shot of that alcohol based hand sanitizer will also work wonders, helping lite the paper and the wood. (then clean your hands from the coaling with the stuff, wipe of with a paper towel and burn that!)
lemonie (author)  implaxis5 years ago
Thanks for the tip.

J@50n5 years ago
Make sure to be careful while burning coal, there are some health risks involved!  of course though your not burning very much.
lemonie (author)  J@50n5 years ago
I have a side-line in coal-tar, but that needs work. Yes I know health-risks, but your comment is welcome.

Very nice. 5 stars!
GianniMora5 years ago
 cool... im the first one to comment on this ible ,WHOO-HOO
keng GianniMora5 years ago
GianniMora keng5 years ago
NachoMahma5 years ago
.  Very good job. My only complaint is that the parts of the video that show how to stir the fire are too dark.
lemonie (author)  NachoMahma5 years ago
Yes, and it looks like the heads need cleaning. I only found that out on playback later, so I'm thinking about a re-shoot.

lukeyj155 years ago
and i'm second