This is a tricky one because different people have different approaches to printing, how they begin with a negative etc. I can only tell you how I do it, which is a fairly "traditional" approach.

I do everything from the first test print to the final print under the enlarger with the negative in the carrier and everything adjusted to the final print size. No step wedges, projection scales, enlarging meters etc.

The first print is always a test print made the old fashioned way, giving increasing amounts of equal exposure time (others prefer to work in stops) to the paper using a piece of cardboard, so I end up with a test print with bands of exposure from obviously too light to obviously too dark (perhaps not clearly explained - but basically the way it is described in most beginning method books). I may try a few different test prints before even making the first work print. I prefer to start with low contrast test prints and work prints (say a #0 or #1 filter), and move up in contrast from there as required. It is all done by eye.

Personally I always start with a filter in, as described above. Even if you're not sure if you will use filters or not, I'd still suggest using one (a #2 or #2.5 should give you roughly the same contrast as white light) so that you don't have to change your base exposure should you decide to use a filter.

Michael