What a great thread! Joe's designed and made some great tools for the process. Regarding development, I first learned with the tilted tray method, then in-hand development. I now mostly use a helper tray, especially with larger plates. Applying the developer properly is probably the trickiest part of the process and will take the most practice to get it 'right'. Although getting it 'wrong' often results in some wonderful swirly background effects. Unlike most, I don't re-use my developer. Even with filtering, I found that re-using it caused problems and my plates are plenty bright with fresh developer.
Don't fret the cost of the silver nitrate. It will last a long time (unless you forget to latch the lid of your silver bath and it falls over in your mobile darkroom when you leave your shooting site, which I managed to do a couple weeks ago. It made for a very expensive stain on the floor of my camper/darkroom.)
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