Yup i usually do a middle trench too when i have a big load of coals. But i don't keep an ash bed in the stove. I clean it out every few days when the ash pan is full. Think i'll try the ash bed as you guys seem to like. ThanksI have tried raking a trench in the ash and coals right down the middle all the way to the back. but it doesn’t line up with the air holes to well. I generally leave a lot of ash In the box too. Keeps the heat better.