Using a Hand Fed Wet Grate FD 42 Boiler

If you are in need of a more conventional heating solution that requires no power look no further. Unlike an automated stoker boiler these units do not require power to generate heat. They can be set up wiith pumps like a typical boiler or a gravity fed sytem insuring heat during power failures. Models include many New Yorker coal boilers, EFM WCB-24 and others. Some of these units can also burn wood.
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Stove/Furnace Make: Attack FD42 Boiler

Post Sun. Oct. 26, 2008 7:39 pm

Hey folks. My name is Billy. I'm in New York in the Hudson Valley. I'm brand new to coal heat. I was sick to my stomach over the whole fuel oil thing. I bought a Czech made Attack FD 42 boiler. It is a hand fed,wet grate, with a draft regulator chain to the air damper. It has wet grates with no shakers. What I mean by wet grates is they are cast into the sections filled with the boiler water. I beleive it to be a copy of an old Buderus boiler design. Anyway, I'm having trouble keeping the fire going. It came with a poker tool. I'm told that I have to poke and "slice" to clear the ash. There must be a trick to this. Does anybody know anything about this type of thing. If you google attack fd42 boiler you can see one of these. It's a strange animal but was in my price range. I joined this forum today after reading it for a day or two and am really learning a lot. You folks are Definitely a unique breed. I sure could use some advice from you guys. :?

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Stove/Furnace Make: 1980 vintage Tarm
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Post Mon. Oct. 27, 2008 1:17 am

Sorta like a cast-iron version of my Tarm FT22 / 202. Looking over the manual I can say the Czech translate to English better than the Chinese.

Anyhoo, assuming you're burning anthracite (not bit. coal) make sure the secondary air inlet is closed. Also make sure you have enough draft. The poker / raking sounds more like something for Bit. coal. since it swells and sticks together unlike Anthracite. I've never burned Bit, just parroting what I've read here.

One difference with a hand fed boiler vs a stove is that once the water temp is up and the thermostatic damper control is satisfied (draft door closed) there is no air fed to the fire - until you have a call for heat AND the boiler cools down. In the moderate temps we've been having on thermostat alone it won't fire enough to keep it alive. The old timer I bought my boiler from said only to use it when it gets cold and stays cold; not on the edges of the heating season.

I've been working on a balance between the high-limit aquastat and the thermo damper so that the HL aquastat will circulate just enough to open the draft door slightly and get some air to the fire. HL at 165 with a 10 degree differential, thermostatic damper set to "150" seems to do it. The tridicator dips to just below 150 which causes the damper door to open slightly for recovery. The number on the thermostatic control is close but not exact due to the adjustability of the chain to the damper flap.

Stoker boilers/stoves have a timer that fires the boiler for a short interval every hour to keep the fire alive. Us hand-fed boiler guys don't have such luxury. :D I've been thinking of a solenoid hooked to the draft door to open it for a period every hour just like the stoker guys.

I'm using mainly pea coal not nut in this weather, it burns slower.
3 years w/ wood stove -> 1 year w/ coal stove -> coal boiler installed 10/3/08.... it's evolution baby!

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Post Mon. Oct. 27, 2008 6:34 am

Thanks for the help. I understand your ideas completely. I am learning this whole coal thing. I was an oil burner tech for about ten years, and know a lot about boilers and furnaces. This coal thing is very different. Now with oil prices sky high, I just want to stay away from it. Thanks again..Billy

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Post Mon. Oct. 27, 2008 9:20 am

Reminds me of the hand-fed boilers of old, with the chain to the air inlet.
Heating a circa 1832 farmhouse with a Harman Magnafire Mark I & a 1959 EFM 350 (heating DHW).
100% Oil Free!
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Post Mon. Oct. 27, 2008 8:05 pm

If you read this forum enough, you'll find that coal fires like to be deep. My guess is that you are building the fire like a wood stove. Once you get a fire established, keep loading the fire box until you are at least 8 " deep. If your new to coal, it always seems like you have way too much fire when you load deep, but that is how coal likes to burn. The draft regulator will keep it under control. You will also read that having a bucket of sand on hand can't hurt. If something does go wrong and you need to kill the fire, sand will knock out a coal fire in no time.
Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

Coal -- It's not a hobby, It's an addiction.

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Post Tue. Oct. 28, 2008 5:19 pm

Thanks for all the help. I'm ready to give it another go. Now it just needs to get cold. There's been a couple frosts here already, but the mercury hits just about 60 every afternoon. Don't want to wish my days away, but I think I'm in a lot better shape after talking to you guys. Be well and I'll be back.....Billy 8-)

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Post Sat. Nov. 01, 2008 8:32 am

Good Nov 1st to all. Just a follow up and a big Thank-You to everybody for the help. I took all of everybody's advice and some experimenting on my own and now have a coal fire that heats my house. I described in my first post that this new boiler is a bit of a weirdo. Czech made, Wet grate, no shakers, mechanical thermostat draft regulator. Well any way it's working and burns like a locomotive. It needed about an 8" deep bed of coal. No Raking the fire.It has a poking tool which I use once a day. I put it through the lower "smiley face" door and ride the top of the grates just under the coal bed. I do this in about four places. It loosens and drops the ash. That's about it. I've been adding about two small shovels of coal every evening. I prop the ash door prior to doing that so the fire is good and hot. Once the new coal is dancing with blue flames I let the door down and the thing takes care of the rest. I learned a lot on this site and want to say Thanks Again to everybody. Be Well....Billy

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Hand Fed Coal Boiler: DS Machine and homebuilt
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Stove/Furnace Model: D.S. Machine boiler
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Post Sun. Nov. 09, 2008 8:07 pm

Hi bkeller, first, there is a shaker grate kit for the FD-42, it'll run you about $275 for the kit.
Second, when "slicing" you push your slicing knife along the top of the "wet-base" at the bottom of the coalbed. The bumping and vibration of the knife hitting the cast iron should disturb the coal bed enough that the ash falls through to the ashpan.
You are correct in your assumption that the FD-42 is a Buderus design and should get you 68-70% efficiency when draft, weather conditions and other variables are right.
The FD-42 is a well built unit and will give a lifetime of service. I don't personally own one, but have seen one in operation.
Good luck, and have fun.."operating".

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Post Mon. Nov. 24, 2008 8:30 am

It's good and cold in New York right now and I'm burning the snot out of the new boiler. I discovered a few new tricks. To light it from scratch is easy now. I start with bare grates. I put a pile of chestnut in the rear and another in the front. The middle stays empty. I build a nice wood fire in the middle and leave the draft door wide open. I turns to nothing but good hot embers in about an hour. Then I use my hooked poker rod to pull and push the coal from the piles into the wood embers. That's it. I leave the draft wide open till the coal is lit and then just leave it alone. When adjusting or changing anything it takes about an hour to see the change. It is not imediate. So I do things in little increments at 1 hour intervals until I get what I want. The mechanical draft regulator works well and I'm able to maintain a steady 175/180 degrees. I set the high limit aquastat at 190 to let it cool down if need be. This is Definitely an inexpensive but really good boiler. It has no shaker and poking is a little tricky. Less is better when poking. I hit it in about four spots just riding the top of the grates. It likes nut better than stove coal. I own a pile of stove so I'm mixing it in just to get rid of it. I have to break the bigger stove coals for use. I put in a 2 gallon pail of coal every 12 hours. I may break down and buy the shaker kit. That's about it. Thanks for all the help and I hope I contributed some too. :)

steve in mass
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Stove/Furnace Make: attack fd-42

Post Wed. Dec. 03, 2008 1:56 am

bkeller; I also have an attack fd-42 coal boiler with coal grates. I cannot get the thing to transition overnight. Perhaps my fires are not deep enough. And maybe I'm not shaking it or poking it underneath right. In the last couple days (Dec 1st and 2nd) when the weather has been warm, I can't even get the fire going well enough to last even a few hours. I have been using a Saey coal stove for 15 years and still have it in operation so I am very familiar with coal as a fuel. I wonder if I could actually talk to you over the phone to get some first hand knowledge through a question and answer session. You seem like a guy willing to help and appreciative of help given to you. And I am not having much luck with the guy who sold me this stove OR the only other guy I know who is operating it, besides you. At some point I can give you my phone number and perhaps we can talk? I hope so. Thanks. Steve in Mass.

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Post Wed. Dec. 03, 2008 1:39 pm

Hello Steve in Mass..welcome to the forum.

Coal burning issues like you describe usually are caused by low chimney draft.. there is not enough 'vacuum' in the chimney to pull enough air through the fire.. If you had a low or no burn issue after a day or two of burning, I'd say it's an ash build up blocking the airflow..
But your description sounds like a low draft situation all the time.

Could you describe your chimney,, Masonry or SS ? Inside the house [warm] or on the outside [cold] ? What is the diameter or size [cross section] of the chimney... 6", 8" or 8"x8" or 8"x12" ? What is the total height from where your flue pipe enters the chimney up to the top?? Are there structures [roof lines, dormers etc] or tall trees or other buildings blocking air flow over and past the chimney?

Do you have any kind of draft damper in the chimney flue pipe?? either manual damper or an automatic Barometric damper ?? Do you have a draft guage installed to measure the draft in your chimney??

Once we know that you have plenty of draft, or if not, figure out how to improve your draft, [raise chimney height, add a draft inducer] then we can help you establish a burning technique that works for you with your boiler.

Greg L
Burning Pea/Buckwheat through an antique stoker [semi retired SSboiler],
Running an Axeman-Anderson 260M boiler burning Pea, About 150-250#per day
Farming, Fixing, Fabricating and Flying: 'spare time' what's that?

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Stove/Furnace Make: Attack (Sime Solida)
Stove/Furnace Model: FD 42
Location: Northern New Hampshire

Post Sun. Jan. 11, 2009 4:23 pm

I too have an Attack FD-42 coal boiler. While, in all honesty, my dream boiler was an AHS-130, the budget mandated that the FD42, at half the price, will have to do. It is plumbed in-series with my Burnham C-4 oil boiler; the plumbers were finally able to finish it up on 12/31/08, and I spent New Years Day firing it up for the first time. Started with a nice hardwood fire that took off like a rocket, (excellent chimney draft) and let it burn down and slowly added coal(Nut) until right up to the bottom of loading door opening. The boiler burned very well for several days on a 12-hour load and riddle schedule, and made the house quite toasty in near ZERO weather. However, I was having difficulty finding clear instruction on the "slicing"/"knifing"/ "riddling" procedures, as there are only very generic and vague references to ridding in the Attack manual. This boiler is identical or nearly so to the Sime Solida, Buderus G131 and G112, as well as several other central/eastern european models, so I was able to glean pieces of info from other manuals, and string most of it together. I have come to the conclusion that this type of boiler is so ubiquitous in eastern europe, that providing "riddling" instructions in the manual is probably akin to stating that one must "close the door when leaving the house"; but I didn't grow up in eastern Europe... Anyway, after 4 days, I nearly lost my fire, but was able to revive it, several days later I did in fact lose it for real. So yesterday I tore it down and started over. In the mean time, I have clarified the riddling procedures a bit, thanks to Craig, the webmaster at NEPA), who used operate and sell these as "Sime" units from Italy. The lessons I've learned so far, are that the boiler seems to like slow and gentle loading, over about 70% of the coal bed at any given time. I upped my low-limit on the inter-boiler circulator aquastat to 150 F, and the FD-42's draught regulator to a little under 70 C (165F). Also, once it is going, it seems to just LOVE a little bit (1/4"-3/8" opening) of over-fire (secondary) draft, with the smoke damper set at about 50% open, and the the coal bed about 2" below the bottom of loading door; and once it's going, don't FUSS with it!!! I am hoping to keep riddling manually, but if I keep losing the fire every 4-5 days, I think I will opt for a set of shaker grates. I took this on as a challenge to learn a new skill, and I am committed to learn it, if at all possible. But I do need to heat this house.... Here, in Northern New England, no one has fired coal boilers in a very long time, so there are really no "old-timers" to access as a resource. Firewood has always been plentiful and relatively inexpensive if you have the connections and are willing to do the work, and is just part of the local culture. You NEPA folks will probably find this strange, but Coal, unfortunately just is not on anyone's "RADAR" screen up here. Though that is changing slowly. A few of us brave souls did the math, and were venturesome enough to give it an honest shot, and I like it, but it is an artform for sure. If all else, fails, I'll buy shakers.
It takes a Viking to raze a village! - Hagar the Horrible

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Stove/Furnace Make: Attack
Stove/Furnace Model: FD42

Post Sun. Mar. 01, 2009 7:45 pm

We have recently purchased the FD 42 because we liked the idea of the wet grates, but were skeptical of the lack of shaker grates. To make a long story short, it has been a struggle to get the thing to burn consistently or sometimes at all. We are not home to keep it tended regularly and have not been very successful with it. My normal temperature with it seems to hover at 40C, that seems to be my limit and it is not enough to heat the house! We have tried adding 3 ft to the flue, changing the size of the flue pipe, poking and prodding in every conceivable way, but nothing seems to help. I think the only remaining option is to get the shaker grates. Does anyone have any other ideas or have you had better luck burning it with the shaker grates? Our previous boiler was relatively easy to burn, this one is very different. Any suggestions with this boiler would be most gratefully appreciated.

steve in mass
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Stove/Furnace Make: attack fd-42

Post Sun. Feb. 01, 2015 12:19 am

I first posted in 2008. I have had my Attack FD 42 in service since then, with the coal grates. Each year I have learned new techniques for tending the fire. My routine is this. On or around November 1st of each year here in central Mass, I begin the heating season i.e. when day time temps do not get into the 50's. I use match light charcoal to start the only fire I will need. I line the top of the grates one layer deep with the charcoal. I use a lighter tool that is made for windy conditions and light it back to front. After a few minutes when the coals are red, I add a layer of nut coal, maybe an inch or two thick. When that is glowing and with little blue flames I add another thicker layer and so forth until the coal bed is up to the limit at the bottom of the access door. At this point the coals are red at the top with the blue flames. I will then close down the boiler with the damper almost vertical to the draft flow and the air intake on the bottom at 1/16 inch open. Thermostat is set to 80 degrees Centigrade. The boiler runs closer to 70 though. After burning like that for 12 hours I will come downstairs and open the damper all the way. Then I open the air intake door just a crack. THEN I unhook the chain that connects from the draft regulator to the moveable trap in the air intake door BEFORE I open the air intake door wide open. I feel this relieves the pressure on the set screw that holds the arm in place n the regulator. At this point I remove the ashpan which is filled with dead cooled ash and empty it outside in metal trashcans lined with 1.5 mil blue HUSKY recycle bags. They are the only ones strong enough to hold 3.5 days worth of heavy ashes, which I haul out to the front yard every week for the trash guy to take away. Two bags full actually. Now because my grate shaker handle broke off several years ago, shaking down the ashes by that method is no longer available to me. After replacing the empty ash pan, I use the straight slicer/poker tool to knife thru the bottom of the fire at different points about 12 times. Then I take the hooked tool, which I call my 7 iron, and delve it into the fire til I hit the grates at the bottom and rake it from front to back left, middle and right of the firebox. Now the fire killing dead ashes have been cleared out of the firebox. I then open the smiley door and some dead and some live ashes and coal fall into a large metal dustpan that I have placed right under and in front of the opening. I further take this ash/coal combination outside and empty it over a metal screen that has 1/4' holes in it. I scrape the coals over an UNlined trash can to retrieve some of the half burnt or unburnt coals. I then put them back into the metal dustpan and load them back on to the top of the fire. Now I take the straight poker/slicer and knife the bottom of the fire once more before shoveling 4 shovelfuls of nut coal onto the fire. In 15 minutes I put 4-5 more shovelfuls on and wait 5-10 minutes after that for the fire to be hot again before close all the doors and the flue damper again as before. I should also mention that in my enclosed boiler room, I have a negative air machine which I run when the ash is disturbed enough to get airborne. This keeps the fly ash from travelling to the rest of the cellar or into my lungs. I have a forced hot water system installed when the oil burner was installed. I use the same pumps and delivery system when I use the coal boiler. The coal boiler heats 2500 sq feet upstairs and 1200 sq feet downstairs. It also heats the hot water, which I set at 140 degrees so that when taking a shower, cold water is needed to mix with the very hot water to make the capacity greater. We hardly ever use any oil, only occasionally on the coldest of mornings when the fire is at a low ebb and family members complain. The part of the house nearest the boiler is kept at 70 degrees F. The other half of the house is at 62-68 degrees depending on the outside temp. I stop burning right around the middle of April. I burn a little more than 6 tons of nut coal which costs about $1900. If I burn oil, the house will be at 65 degrees and I'll burn 1600 gallons per year. That's what I learned in the past 7 years.

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