I think I'm getting out of sync with other photographers. After a break of a few years I've just returned to darkroom work and I am finding I get the best results from a test strip by making a series of exposures, using f stop steps, across the whole image on a sheet of 10 x 8. I repeat the process, narrowing the size of the steps down until they are 1 second apart. I've found that I'm producing prints that are better exposed and I am usually able to judge the degree of any dodging or burning form one of these strips, the right exposures usually in there somewhere and if its not immediately apparent I produce a second strip across the whole image at right angles to the first. This may use a lot of paper, anything up to five sheets to get the result I'm looking for but comparing prints produced a few years ago and those produced a few weeks ago I feel that the labour is worth it. Once i've determined the exposure I usually cut paper into strips to determine grade, sometimes exposing multiple strips for each grade to check for different parts of the image.

I can certainly see where an F stop timer would come in handy and I am considering one myself in the new year.