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As of Skyrim's 1.5 patch, you get differing values for smithing items in part due to their value. More expensive, more experience.

UPDATE 1.5 (all platforms unless noted)

NEW FEATURES

  • New cinematic kill cameras for projectile weapons and spells

  • New kill moves and animations for melee weapons

  • Shadows on grass available (PC)

  • Smithing skill increases now factor in the created item’s value

  • Improved visual transition when going underwater

  • Improved distance LOD

  • transition for snowy landscapes

Emphasis mine. So what's the skinny? Are Iron Daggers and Leather bracers still the best way to skill up, or will I actually be better served with my hundreds of Dwarven Ingots?

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According to the Smithing page on the wiki, the leather bracer/iron dagger leveling method no longer works as well –  Domocus Mar 21 '12 at 1:36
    
I guess skill gain is proportional to item cost, so the most cost-effective items to craft will probably yield the most experience as well. –  kotekzot Mar 21 '12 at 1:51
    
@kotekzot the release notes say the skill increases factor in the item's value, not cost. More cost-effective items may sell for more gold, but won't necessarily give more experience –  Alex Mar 21 '12 at 11:58
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@Alex more cost-effective items will produce more value for your resources, ergo more experience. –  kotekzot Mar 21 '12 at 12:15
    
It's possible to find the current skill xp by saving, adding xp til level up, reloading. I intend to measure xp gained by crafting: iron dagger, leather bracer, elven dagger, and elven bracer unless someone beats me to it. –  David B Mar 21 '12 at 13:47
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6 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

According to UESP, formulas for XP gain post 1.5 update are as follows:

25 + (3 * item value ^ 0.65) base XP for constructing an item. 25 + (8 * item value ^ 0.6) base XP for improving an item Source: http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Leveling

[old info] I did a little bit of experiment while leveling up smithing after 1.5 beta came out. Based on the data I have gathered, it appears that the experience gained is roughly proportional to the square root of the value of the item created. Furthermore, it also appears that experience gain by improving an item at a grindstone or workbench works in the same manner. The gain in experience is proportional to the square root of value added.

So it seems that improving expensive items to super legendary state will contribute a lot to leveling up smithing in later stages.

Data:

To get from smithing level 52 to 53, I needed to make:

  • 17 iron daggers (value = 10)
  • 13.5 leather bracers (value = 25)
  • 7 leather armors (value = 125)
  • 11 gold rings (value = 75),
  • 7 gold necklaces (value = 125)
  • 3.5 elven bows (value = 470).

To get from level 81 to 82, I made

  • 4.2 Glass Warhammers (value = 985)
  • 6.3 Glass Waraxes (value = 490)
  • 9.5 Elven Swords (value = 235)
  • 12 Steel Shields (value = 150)
  • 25 Leather Bracers (value = 25)
  • 32 Iron Daggers (value = 10)

To get from 81 to 82, I improved:

  • Glass warhammer (value before = 985, after = 2298, value added = 1313, number = 3)
  • Glass warhammer (value before = 985, after = 1805, value added = 820, number = 4.5)
  • Glass waraxe (value before = 490, after = 1143, value added = 653, number = 4.5)
  • Elven sword (value before = 235, after = 548, value added = 313, number = 6.5)
  • Elven sword (value before = 235, after = 430, value added = 195, number = 10.2)
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Interesting. That suggests that if value is generally in line with cost of materials, crafting cheap items is still the most efficient way to level up. –  bwarner Mar 21 '12 at 15:35
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@bwamer I think there's a little bit more to it than that. Iron Daggers grant a good bit less experience than before, which means more frequent runs to storage. You also have to consider time, where making one Gold Diamond Necklace grants 11x the experience of an Iron Dagger. Plus you may want to use all the supplies available from a merchant. Previously everything but leather and iron added no more XP; now everything does. It's starting to look like the best way is to use whatever raw materials you have to craft the highest-value items possible. –  brymck Mar 21 '12 at 16:25
    
How did you make half of a leather bracer and half of an elven bow? –  David B Mar 21 '12 at 17:28
    
@DavidB I believe this is where his science gets to be more 'ish' where 13 bracers wouldnt do it and 14 was too much so he put the mark at 13.5. But yeah I had to read what he did a few times to figure out that making all of those items got him from 52 to 53 individually, not combined :) –  James Mar 21 '12 at 19:25
    
@James You are exactly right. Sorry I didn't make it clear. I eyeballed it when the experience bar went noticeably beyond next level. I gathered more data now and the pattern seems to hold. –  Anderson Mar 21 '12 at 22:47
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starting point: 85 skill with 1735 skill xp needed to level.

Trials:

50 xp = leather bracer (1685 remaining)
99 xp = leather bracer x2 (1636 remaining)
247 xp = leather bracer x5 (1488 remaining)

95 xp = leather armor (1640 remaining)
283 xp = leather armor x3 (1452 remaining)

340 xp = leather helmet x5 (1395 remaining)

Analysis:

leather armor: 4 leather, 3 strips (4.75 leather)
125 value, 94.33 xp, 19.85 xp per leather

leather helmet: 2 leather 1 strip (2.25 leather)
60 value, 68 xp, 30.222 xp per leather

leather bracer: 1 leather, 2 strips (1.5 leather)
25 value, 49.4 xp, 32.933 xp per leather

Conclusion: If you are skilling up with leather only, you should continue making leather bracers. Leather Helmet and Leather Armor are not as efficient sources of xp per leather.

Trials:

384 xp = iron dagger x10 (1351 remaining)
555 xp = iron dagger x10 + upgrade x10 (1180 remaining)

340 xp = iron warhammer x5 (1395 remaining) (see leather helmet)

Conclusion: Iron dagger still beats iron warhammer. Don't upgrade.

178 xp = elven helmet x2 (1557 remaining)
337 xp = elven helmet x2 + upgrade x2 (1398 remaining)

Conclusion: Elven materials are too expensive to skill up on.

426 xp = silver sapphire necklace x2 (1309 remaining)

Conclusion: don't sell gems, craft up the ones you find.


Final analysis: You are less screwed than before if you make items other than iron daggers or leather bracers, but those are still the easiest and most effective smithing items to make for leveling. In specific detail, my leveling plan is:

1. Gather leather as I wander
2. Buy out the vendor's iron supply
3. Craft iron daggers til out of iron
4. Craft leather bracers with the remaining leather.

If you don't want to make leather bracers and iron daggers... consider making bows - they have fairly high value to material ratios.

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how do you measure xp? –  Anderson Apr 27 '12 at 17:02
2  
I use the xp adding command to add a specific amount of xp. Then I reload. If the xp leveled me, and xp - 1 didn't level me, then that's the amount of xp needed to level. Each measurement may involve loading the save 10-15 times. I measure xp needed to level before and after the crafting, take the difference and that's the xp gained by crafting. –  David B Apr 27 '12 at 19:23
    
The PC console has the command GetXPForNextLevel which would help. –  DGGenuine Aug 3 '12 at 19:23
    
@DGGenuine GetXPForNextLevel is leftover from Fallout 3, but doesn't return anything. –  David B Aug 3 '12 at 20:46
    
@DavidB ah ok thanks hadn't tested it yet. –  DGGenuine Aug 3 '12 at 21:42
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The best and most cost effective way to level experience in my opinion is crafting of gold rings. Although it does require the purchase or finding of the alteration spell "Transmute."

  1. But iron ore from merchants
  2. Transmute ore to gold ore
  3. Craft 2 gold rings per 2 gold ore
  4. Repeat

Very cost effective way to level smithing while leveling alteration. Although because merchants generally don't keep tons of iron ore I'd recommend stocking up whenever you see it.

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I have found the best way to upgrade smithing. Go to mzulft where the mission was for the college and the staff of Magnus. In there you can collect a lot of the dwemer artifacts and melt them down at a smelter and create a lot of dearven metal ingots and then as normal get lots of iron ingots and make dwarven bows, which cost 1 iron ingot and 2 dwarven ingots. (you can get around 2000 lbs. of dwarven artifacts in that place) note* not all of the artefacts can be melted down.

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Enchanting and Alchemy will go up a certain amount of skill based upon the value of the item crafted. Smithing did not follow this progression which is why everyone would level just by making iron daggers and leather bracers. This will change that. While you will still be able to do nothing but those items, their low value will make it much more of a challenge and give incentives for making other types of arms and armor in order to progress your skill.

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A very sensible thing to fix imo... –  Holger Mar 21 '12 at 9:46
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That doesn't really answer how value will affect experience gain. –  kotekzot Mar 21 '12 at 12:11
    
This doesn't answer the question, and would be better as a comment. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 21 '12 at 14:35
    
@RavenDreamer You want me to hack the game apart and see if the value to skill formula is different than the ones already used for Enchantment and Alchemy? –  James Mar 21 '12 at 16:08
    
@James No, I'd expect you to do some !!Science!! and try to establish how big a change this actually means for play. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 21 '12 at 19:22
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After much deliberation and testing, I think the fastest and most cost effective way to level smithing is by making glass/dwarven/elven arrows. 1 ingot 1 firewood decent experience gain.

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