This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
For a steady hot fire, rake out the ashes with a poker from beneath the grate; or, if the grate is a revolving one, give it one turn. Fill the fire-box three-fourths full of coal. Open the draft slide and pipe dampers. See that oven and check dampers are closed. When the coal in the lower part of the fire-box is glowing red, the top layer still black, and the flames yellow, close the dampers. When the top layer begins to glow, add more coal, so that there will always be black coals on top.
To check the fire slightly, open the slide in the check damper. To check it decidedly, open the check damper itself. All other dampers must be closed.
Fill the fire-box with coal; close oven and pipe dampers and draft slide and open the check damper.
Close the oven damper.
Why is it, with active oxygen always in the air, ready to devour, that chairs, tables, houses, do not take fire and burn? Simply because a substance must be heated to a certain degree before it will begin to unite with oxygen. Except for this, everything combustible would have burned up long ago. The temperature to which a substance must be raised before it will burn is its kindling-point. This point differs for different substances. See how we take advantage of this fact in starting a fire. We first light a match, the phosphorus 1 on which kindles from the friction of striking, and sets on fire the sulphur mixed with it, which has a somewhat higher kindling-point than phosphorus. The phosphorus in turn ignites the wood of the match, the kindling-point of which is higher still. Coal will not take fire from a match, because its kindling-point is so high that the match burns out before the coal becomes hot enough to burn; but paper may be lighted from a match, wood from burning paper, and coal from burning wood.