Les - Welcome aboard! There are literally ahundreds of ways to get where you want. I was looking for a similar approachand did a short review of a few programs. Have you checked:
yet. There might be some help there. SOme of those programs have demo/timelimt freebe downloads - you can run many on you pc without having the machine n th lop. Good opportunity to check out the software while finishing up the hardware.
BTW - some pics as you go along would be cool!