Before attempting to use a range (or stove) one should know something about its construction, and the appliances that are afforded for its regulation. An ordinary cooking range is supplied with dampers, drafts and checks to regulate the direction and intensity of the heat.
When the range is clean and cold examine it carefully. A lever will be found (often directly above the oven door) which when pulled out or pushed in (or turned to right or left) will allow the heat and the smoke to go directly into the chimney flue, or through the range and around the oven indirectly into the flue. Well down below the fire-box is the draft (a door), which when open allows the outside (cold) air to rush in and force the fire to burn more rapidly. Above the fire-box, near the top of the stove, are the checks (a door with slides) that allow the outside (cold) air to come in above the burning fuel, and depress its combustion.
It is readily seen when the smoke damper and the draft are open, with the checks closed, that the greatest intensity of heat and the most rapid combustion are obtained. In this way the top part of the stove directly over the fire-box may be heated quickly and intensely. When an emergency arises this is the quickest way to boil the water in the kettle or to cook immediately on the top of the stove. However, the tax on fuel is excessive and wasteful when the damper and drafts both are open. When damper and drafts are closed and the check open, the fire burns most slowly and the heat radiated is least intense.
When ready to lay the fuel and build the fire in a cold stove, be sure that the fire-box and ash-pits are clean and free from ashes and clinkers. Then open the damper and the drafts and close the checks. The fuel should always be put in from the top after removing the lids over the fire-box. Place the paper, slightly crumpled (never a number of sheets flat together), on the grating in the bottom of the fire-box. Lay the kindling on the paper loosely with the sticks across one another so that air may circulate freely between them. Place stove wood on the kindling in the same manner. Light the paper from below after replacing the lids on the stove. When the fire is burning freely close damper and drafts.
When a quick wood fire is required for only a few moments' use, lay the fuel as usual, except to use about one-third the amount of paper and kindling and only two or three sticks of stove wood. Build the fire well back in the fire-box next to the oven, with the smoke damper and drafts wide open. The draft is much stronger in the back of the fire-box and the fire therefore burns more readily.
If hard coal (anthracite) is to be used, wait until the wood is burning well and then cover with a thin layer of coal. As soon as this is thoroughly ignited put in more coal and close the damper into the chimney flue. The fire-box should never be filled more than two-thirds full.
A soft-coal fire is laid in the same way, except that this fuel requires less kindling and ignites more readily than anthracite. The stove wood may be omitted if the kindling is of good size. In using bituminous (soft) coals the flues need cleaning oftener; but in any case these should be kept free from soot. Especially the flues around the oven should be cleaned once in ten days. If neglected the oven does not bake well, becomes too hot or will not heat at the bottom, and causes much annoyance.
Kerosene and other explosive oils should not be used to kindle the fire. When the stove wood or kindling is damp, patience and an extra supply of paper will be more effectual and less dangerous.