A laser level is a good tool to have when the excavator operator gets near to grade. Check the grade often so the operator doesn’t dig to deep. If he digs to deep you will have to put material back in and compact it so you have a solid base. There is nothing any more solid than original ground! The operator can use the bottom of his bucket to smooth the area where the form will sit. Keep in mind that the area inside of the form does not have to be dug down to the same level. The basement floor is poured on top of the footing course, therefore the ground should be exactly the same height.
It is best to be on grade but if you are not, it is better to be a little deeper than too high. The ready mix concrete will make up the difference and give you a better base. When you order your ready mix concrete make sure you order a little extra to make up for the low spots in the footing course. You definitely do not want to run out of ready mix on this project. If you want to, you can lay a couple of runs of rebar in the form for extra strength; it is a matter of choice.
When you have the earth down to grade you can begin the form. I would use nice straight 2X6 for the form and I will tell you why! You could use a 1X6 board but you would need more stakes to hold the footing in place and keep the board straight. It is really not important to have a perfect footing course because it will be covered up. But if you are the fussy type I would use a 2X6, you can build the form anywhere and set it in the hole after. The only thing that really matters is that it is square and perfectly level. The top needs to be smooth so that the basement wall forms sit level with no obstructions.
Cut some 1X3 about 21 inches or 530 mm long, these pieces will be used for cross braces for the top of the footing course. Stand the 2X6 on their edge and nail a cross brace to one 2X6. Measure a width of 18 inches or 460 mm between the 2X6 and nail the other end of the cross brace to the second 2X6. I would use a cross brace about every 4 to 6 feet or 1200 to 1800 mm. Set your forms in place exactly where they will sit permanently; check the form for square ness. Cut yourself some 2X4 stakes and sharpen one end. Drive the stakes along the outside and inside of the form being careful not to move the form. Drive a stake about every 6 feet and always on a joint. Pack fill on both sides of the footing form, the fill will hold the form in place and will keep the ready mix concrete from coming out under the form.
When you are ready to level your form you will need your laser level again. Set the laser measuring stick on top of the form and raise the form to the desired height. If this height is a good height for all the way around the footing then nail the 2X6 to the stake. Do the rest of the stakes exactly the same way and the same height. Double check your work and if everything is good you are ready to pour the ready mix.
The ready mix will be fairly thick so that it sets up quickly. This pour will not take long at all; three people will work just fine. You will need one person to swing the chute and another to rough grade the ready mix with his shovel. The third person will come along with a trowel and smooth the top of the footing course. Make sure you crowd the ready mix under the cross braces and smooth a long the edge of every brace. Clean all unwanted ready mix away from the forms before it hardens. The next day you can strip the footing course of its forms and clean the 2X6 up so they can be used for something else.
Some people put a keyway on top of the footing course before it hardens, this is really not necessary. Keep your stakes and 2X6 because you will need them when you pour the basement wall. That is it for the footing course. I should add that it is a good idea to check around for the best price on ready mix. Who ever you buy from will supply you ready mix for your footing course, your basement wall and your basement floor. Besides your new home you may also build a car garage and that will be more concrete. Let the ready mix people know how much you will be buying because they should give you a discount for quantity.