I will post on the strings for sure Dave, anxious to try them out.
Only advice I have from my own mistakes, is make sure the strings are being wound around the tuning heads the right way round and not backward (see pic) and I keep either my thumb or finger as close to the tuning head as possible trying to keep the string flat on the head stock when winding the string. A rule of thumb I saw on the internet is before winding, pull the string through straight through the tuning head and cut if off at the 2cnd tuning head above it, should leave you about 3 1/2" or so to make your windings and cut the rest off. So that is what I do.
Should also mention I rarely save strings, so once I have the slack off, I cut them with my pliers. I bought a really small set of wire cutters that lets me get a really tight cut to the tuning head so there isn't much string left sticking out when I am done. Those little buggers can cut! Ouch!
Its pretty simple, a winder is nice, but I don't always use it. I don't change strings that often.
Let us know what you decide on for strings.