Glad your here on the SMF. I use a side fire box and always start with charcoal, then I add wood, a split or two at a time. (Usaully split dry pieces of Oak or Maple, Cherry when I can find it) I just let the wood burn as it normally would, dont use too much at once. DONT concentrate on keeping 'fire' lit, but instead be concerned about the SMOKE. When you look at your exhaust pipe/chimney, you want to barely see the smoke ....... you want to see a nice Thin Blue Smoke coming a nice bed of coals.