Don't expect perfectly steady heat output from the fire. Wood fires burn best in cycles. A cycle is the time between the ignition of a load from charcoal and the consumption of the load back to a coal bed.
Each cycle should provide between four and eight hours of heating, depending on how much wood was used and how much heat is needed.
Plan the firing cycles around your household routine. If someone is home to tend the fire, use a short firing cycle. If you must be away from the house during the day, use the extended firing cycle.
(see 6-16-08 posting)