Thanks Deb, it means alot coming from you.
I was going to do a little research and post back my findings, but even the best laid plans...
Well basically I was looking to get the right terminology, but I gave up and will try to proceed with what I think I know in my own words.
From the get go you will have to decide if it will be lump charcoal or briquetts or a mix. Either is fine in my opinon with lump being the purest choice and just slightly more difficult to work with. I think that briquetts of a high quality are more forgiving to work with and yeild more consistant even burn temps and times. (Let the wars begin, but I stated my mind).
Start the fire! OK, everyone knows that using petrochemicals is a thing of the past, they leave a bad taste, are potentionally dangerous and not cost effective. Nothing new here so lets move on. You can, I don't. There are also dedicated or not so dedicated devices that can be used to light your charcoal like the plug in electric starter or one of the propane leaf burner torches. I have neither, I suppose they work, but have never tried them. On a side note, a plumbers propane torch is great for lighting gas appliances that have a pilot light that requires that the "Knob" be held down untill the thermocouple heats up, the torch will do the heating in a hurry in those subzero situations (Providing you can get the torch lit) But for charcoal, I reccomend the charcoal chiminey type device.
There are a handful of manufactures I am sure, and I don't have a favorite that I can remember by name, but I will try to sell you on the concept. Basically a six to nine inch diameter cylinder of sheet metal about foot to 20 inches tall depending on the make. A ring of air holes around the bottom few inches just below a grate that is sometimes hinged for dumping. Some units have fancy handles and heat sheilds and some don't. If there was a feature that I would reccomend to look for it would be that the unit was tappered to allow stacking of the units. This is a rare feature that may not even be on the market today, but well worth the quest if you found them or made one this way.
The operation is simple and straight forward in concept. Fill the top portion of the starter with charcoal, put a couple of crumpled, balled up peices of newspaper in the bottom section, light the paper and wait until the charcoal is fully lit. Maybe ten minutes. The truth for me, has been that the news paper does not always stay lit and is not always enough to do the trick. Just for this reason I use a little 2 x 2 inch peice of wax soaked ceiling tile as my fire starter. Any simular store bought or homade starter will work and I think is more reliable than the newspaper, but the paper can still be made to work, it just may take a little tending to.
Further more, if you are doing a long cook and it will soon be time to add more charcoal to your smoker or dutch ovens or what have you, you can place a couple of pre-lit charcoals from your existing fire into the charcoal chiminey and top off the chiminey with un-lit charcoals. The shape of the chiminey will draw air into itself and quickly light the new charcoal. This kind of leads me into another aspect of things and back to the tappered units that will stack. Stacking an un-lit unit atop of a lit unit will start the top unit FAST! So fast that you will almost be wasting fuel. I have in the past done this leap frog method for starting large quanities of charcoal stacking three units together and pulling out the bottom unit and dumping it as soon as it was lit, refilling it with un-lit charcoal and putting it back on the stack. This works very well when you are cooking with many dutch ovens and are starting them up. By the time you can place the lit charcoal around the ovens and have the third chiminey full and back on the stack the bottom chiminey needs to be dumped.
The last tid-bit that I want to share about the charcoal chiminey is that it can boil water fast! When I was in Scouting we used alot of charcoal in part because it is proper not to pick up hummus and disrupt the natural order of the the forest regeneration, it was easier to haul charcoal than wood and it is easier to control temps with. But boiling water with charcoal takes the blast furnace effect of the chiminey. Our chimineys came with a metal bale that could be used like a grate/spacer atop the chiminey to allow setting a pot on top of the chiminey and this would boil water for clean up very fast. I no longer would reccomend balancing two and a half gallons of water atop a charcoal starter chiminey, but if the pot was hanging from a tripod it would be much safer.
To be continued.....