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Most of the perks on the Smithing skill tree seem to unlock new material/construction types that can be crafted. The description is always along the lines of:

Can create <material> armor and weapons at forges, and improve them twice as much.

As far as I can tell I can still only perform a single upgrade of these items at the grindstone or smithing bench, and many items still only improve in damage or protection by 1.

So what does "improve them twice as much" mean in this context?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

The Smithing perks are a touch misleading.

First, consider this major point:

You don't need any smithing perks to improve any (non-magical) piece of armor. If you have the right material, you can improve it at the appropriate place. This will temper your weapons to (e.g.) (Fine) quality descriptor.

The smithing perks let you be more effective with your tempering at lower smithing skill, so instead of upgrading your gear to (Fine), you can upgrade it to (Superior).

The UESP has compiled this handy table to explain the effects of tempering. enter image description here

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I haven't seen other perks which can be achieved by other means and made totally obsolete, so my assumption is you'd need that perk to get it up to a higher level. –  The Communist Duck Nov 13 '11 at 18:36
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Fine -> Superior -> Exquisite -> Flawless -> Epic -> Legendary

This is the order of upgrading you can do with smithing. Each perk allows you to access the next tier upgrade much earlier than you normally would be able to. The Legendary/Epic tiers can ONLY be accessed if you have the perk corresponding to the weapon/armor you are trying to raise.

Also, I blew all my perks on the left side, thinking I could go all the way around to pick up daedric and dragon smithing and still be able to make myself light armors on the way...turns out, you can't work backwards from the top, meaning if I want daedric smithing, I'll need to use FOUR MORE perk points on smithing, rendering the entire left side useless (as dragon scale armor is better than glass and can be made regardless of which side of the tree you raise; similarly, daedric is better than glass).

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cool...only question i have is i went fine superior then exquisite. typo on your end maybe? –  TombstoneTwo Nov 13 '11 at 23:17
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