My grate is sized to keep lit charcoal in. I've been starting with a lit bed of coal and laying splits on top. I really like the idea Bandit, of laying down two splits then lit coals. Your base would be perfect then moving forward once the splits turn to coals.
Meadowcreek SQ36 with 2nd grate, 1991 Weber Performer w/ SS table, UDS, gasser.-Glenn-