Re: What do you use? - coals
I prefer in this order:[list][*]Japanese Silver Tabs (Sultan or Golden)[*]Smiley's Coco coals[*]Golden Quicklights[/list]
I'll use 3 Kings if I run out because they are the most readily availble coals in town.
Smiley's Cocoshell coals are compressed ground coconut (I believe) and seem to be pressed into a shape, then broken. I consider them Bulk Lump style.
When I get Golden's I try for the 40mm, as they last the longest and are easier to break in half or quarters.
For 3 Kings, they only sell the 33mm size in town.
I typically light all my coals on my Gas Stove. I have to with the Smiley coals. I also own a decitated 3-flame torch lighter (cheap $5 lighter) that I use with high end butane fuel (Coilbri brand).
One trick I'll use if I use a lighter to start my Japanese coals is to light a small cheap jared candle (Dollar store) - you can hold the coal over the flame (with tongs) with little chance of burning yourself. I've also made a brace from foil to hold the. coal over the flame to light.
Just a side note: I own a brass bucket that I bought from the salvation army ($2) that i use to transport the coals. It's soild, 1 piece deep bucket - it's great for knocking ashes (instead of against the tray on the hookah) and with a piece of cork underneath it - fireproof.
For Japanese coals, I tend to start with 2, then light 2 more after the first set dies. Total is normally 4 for a 1.5-2 hour session.
Quicklights I start with 1, broken in half or quarters. I'll add more (either in haves or quarter pieces) till the bowl is smoked. Total is 2-2.5 pieces per bowl (anywhere from 55min to 2+ hours).
Smiley coals, depends on pieces. X-large, 1 chunk. Large - 2, Medium - 3. They take the longest to light, so I often only use them once a session. If they burn out (45-75min) before the bowl is done, I'll light some Silver Tabs to replace.