Bruce- it's a good kit you have. I think the trouble in this case is with the operater.
I don't know how many books I've read, but the first 3 were AA's. All these different methods make perfect sense to me. I just can't figure out why I'm not coming up with results that I feel I can rely on. I am quite exacting in my process to the point that I find inherent flaws at each step that I'm not happy with.
First of all, I've tried setting up a target outside under an overcast sky, indoors using window light, outside under direct light, etc etc. I am *always* finding that when I spot meter over the target, I am getting a range of readings, that can be off by 1/2 and EV unit. The sun might be behind clouds, but it still has a direction! I guess the solution to this is to go outside, around the side of my house where the "sun" is hidden by the house. I can't seem to figure out why the heck my negs have uneven tone over them- this must be why.
Second of all, I have alot of trouble judging a "hint" of tone or density, or the difference from full black to off-black. I guess that's where the texture part of your scheme fits in. It sounds like it might work for me.
I just recently bought a Zonemaster enlarging meter, which has a densitometer function on it. I don't imagine that it's as accurate as an actual densitometer though, so I don't know if I'd want to use it for film testing (maybe as a back-up).
I had another thread that went for quite a long time in January regarding film rating, which turned into a ZS vs BTZS debate. I've read BTZS, and I like the premise, but it's way too much testing for me (hence I'd send film off), but my problem with it is that it doesn't take personal equipment into account (shutter function being the big one). I like how it quantifies a different EI for different lighting conditions and gives you a specific development time. The ZS does something similar, but requires some degree of estimation. I just could not wrap my head around Thorton's "box speed for overcast, 2/3 box speed for bright overcast, and 1/2 boxspeed for bright sun, then develop normal, N-25% and N-33% accordingly" the idea make sense, but it's wayyyyyyyy too subjective! Maybe I'll end up falling back to it anyway- who knows. I am desperately trying to figure out what my film/developer system should be so I can just worry about making the picture. I feel my learning curve has really stalled, because I recognize that my negatives are vastly inferior to what I want them to be.
I went out and made some photos yesterday (mixed sun and clouds) and since it's raining, I will once again try some still-life flower stuff (bellows extension, reciprocity, and all!) today. I've made double exposures as a back-up. Wish me luck!