The reason I project the step wedge is because that's what I'll do when I'm actually printing. This way flare and anything to do with with the lens is taken into account. I'm not honestly sure how much of a difference it makes - but that's my story and I'm sticking to it...
I've done it both ways Bob, and there is a difference between projecting the step wedge and contact printing the thing. The differences are not that great, at least with the enlarging lenses I'm using, to justify burning that much paper to test for paper grades, filtration, and relative paper speed, or anything else. I use either the Stouffer T3110 (contact only), or the TP120-21 (projection or contact) and have no trouble accounting for the slight discrepancy. Speed points are usually within 1/3 stop. Contrast determinations are within 1/2 grade or less. By using contact prints of the step wedges, I can make 10 exposures with the T3110 or 8 with the TP120-21 from a singe 8x10 sheet of paper. Paper costs too much for me to be wasting it by making gorgeous enlargements of step wedges.
..... Paper costs too much for me to be wasting it by making gorgeous enlargements of step wedges.
I hear you. I must admit I haven't done a step wedge yet that I want to mat and frame
I'm sure I read about the "real world" stuff somewhere and it made some sort of intuitive sense - so that's what I did. I've always printed by diffusion too so I wonder if it would make more of a difference with a condenser head.
When I experiment with print developers or toners, I like to have both a step tablet image and a print from a standard, familiar negative. Since I am not going to publish, neatness doesn't count. I just tear a sheet of paper in half and make my prints. I mark the backs with a litho crayon before I expose them so I can tell one from another. I don't usually keep them for long, but filing a 5X8 sheet would be pretty simple. Why try to complicate things by trying to look like a fancy publication?