I just recently purchased a 36" custom offset reverse flow that is really designed to be a stick burner (1/4" steel).
In playing around with it a few times, the best method I have found (so far) is to start with a full charcoal chimney mix of Kingsford Blue briquettes and Royal Oak lump. I use a mix because I like the consistent burn from KFD, but don't like all the ash, so I also add in some Royal Oak. Lump burns hotter, so the mix seemed to work well. I dumped this chimney of burning coals into a fairly large charcoal basket (10" x 16" basket). Then from there I just add sticks on top of the bed of coals, and it seemed to keep the fire going. The sticks would slowly burn down to coals, and then I'd add another stick.
After dumping the coal from the chimney into the basket, I add 2 avg size sticks of firewood (oak is what i've used so far). Then immediately put the basket in the firebox and let the 2 sticks burn down while heating the smoker up. Once they've burned down the smoker is hot and ready, then I added another stick of flavoring wood (hickory, cherry, whatever) right before the meat goes in. And from there the process is just add a stick as needed, once the temp starts to decline like 10* from my target.
I would think as long as you don't use heavy smoke wood during an entire smoke, you should be fine burning only wood. Don't burn mesquitte and hickory during an entire cook (unless doing brisket I guess). I would mix oak or cherry with whatever else you are burning to help lighten the flavor if using strong woods.
I smoked 2 whole chickens a couple weeks ago using this method, and they definitely had a smoky flavor but it wasn't overpowering.