so i did a clip test. dektol was pretty dark, like HC-110 syrup in color (not consistency) before mixing. however the square of RC paper i tried went dark quickly, like within 20 seconds or so. after roughly two minutes, it was as dark (wet) to my eyes as a properly developed and fixed burning card i have, which is made from two sheets of RC back to back.

so it appears to be working. but dark Dektol is probably a sign i shouldn't do anything critical with it.