Leveling smithing to 100 seems like a difficult task. Is it more effective to craft cheap things such as iron daggers, or to craft expensive items such as Elven weapons?
Value Matters now. It used to take about 400 iron daggers to level up to 100. Now it takes about 2400 iron daggers.
From UESP: http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Leveling
- 25 + (3 * [item value]^0.65) base XP for constructing an item.
- 25 + (8 * [item value delta]^0.6) base XP for improving an item.
So, making more expensive things and adding more value is a good thing. But making something twice as expensive does not give you twice as much experience.
First, try to stack as many XP boosts as possible. Make sure you activate the Warrior's Stone for a 20% XP boost, and get a good night's sleep for a 5% - 15% XP boost. If you're further along in the game, completing a certain quest will add another 15% bonus to your Smithing XP gain.
Making iron daggers and leather bracers is still good way of leveling up in early stages. It's quite useful when your level is low.
Jewelry is another good way to level up in early stages. You can obtain large amounts of gold and silver ingots by buying or mining iron ores, which are cheap and plentiful, and turn them into silver and gold ores with the Transmute Mineral Ore spell. Don't sell the gemstones you get from mining and adventuring; use them to craft even more valuable jewelry.
Training is very inexpensive under Level 50, especially if you sell off all that jewelry you're crafting.
Dwarven Smithing (Level 30): Useful if you're going up the right side of the tree. Dwarven ingots are plentiful in this game. You can get scrap metals from Dwemer ruins and turn them into dwarven ingots. If you have Dwarven perk on the right side of the Smithing tree, you can take advantage of this. Once you reach Level 30 in Smithing, you can start making Dwarven Bows (2 dwarven ingots + 1 iron ingot) and upgrade (1 dwarven ingot).
Advanced Armors (Level 50): Useful if you are going up the left side of the tree. With this perk, you can start making Steel Plate Armor. It has the highest value added ratio, so very likely you will make profit even if you buy Steel and Corundum ingots, make Steel Plate Armor, upgrade it, and sell it back to the blacksmith. Speech skill and being able to get good deals is somewhat important for this strategy.
Upgrading an expensive armor adds a lot of value as your level gets high in smithing. You increase the value by 50% for upgrading to Exquisite (Level 40 with perk). You double the value if you upgrade the armor to legendary. This effect is amplified if you use Fortify Smithing enchanted gear and have Fortify Smithing potions.
One way you can take advantage of your high smithing level is to buy expensive armors and weapons at the blacksmith, upgrading them, and selling them back. If you have items that enhance prices (Volsung, Masque of Clavicus, Necklace of Haggling, Potion of Fortify Barter), you can make profit doing this.
To quickly level smithing, you should primarily focus on leather bracers and iron daggers, due to the fact these are two of the cheapest items to smith, and can be sold to cover any expenses.
The materials required, iron and leather, are fairly cheap and are easy to find. If you have a nice lump of cash, it is more effective to use this method and ignore making armor for your level. The reason for this is that you will be quickly leveling, allowing for constant improvement, as well as an increase in the effectiveness in upgrades (ranging from Fine to Legendary).
In the recent patches of Skyrim, it is more efficient to focus on more expensive equipment to level smithing. While it may not cheap, crafting higher level equipment is definitely more cost efficient. While I'm unsure of the exact values, try finding a balance between mining trips and buying ores in order to keep up with smithing production.
There is a Dwarven Storehouse in Eastern Skyrim. Go there, along with it's nearby major quest dungeon, and note that there is about 2000lbs of dwemer 'stuff' between them. A lot of it is behind Expert locked doors, but also a ton in side areas around boss fights. Pick up everything excepting the Bowls, which apparently Dwarves had a major thing for... Even if you just do the storehouse it's enough for you and follower full upgraded dwarven set.
-- sploit -- Your mule, er... follower... can hold an unlimited quantity of loot if you drop it on the ground when you become encumbered and use the manual commands to have him/her pick things up. Pick it up yourself, then find an empty big area with a clean floor to drop things in, as it's around a 10ft circle of loot in all directions. NOTE: most items don't stack: but ingots and some other items do. This means if you drop 20 ingots from your personal inventory on to the ground, then have your follower pick it up, they only get ONE. Drop each one using single quantity to workaround, or just keep ingots and drop all the other stuff.
Smelted, it totaled 360 ingots for me. Made Dwarven Bows (only need 1 iron ingot in addition), improved to Epic, and then enchanted with Common/Petty Paralysis. Get near 500 gold each with crap 30 speech skill, and have so many in house chest I could spend rest of game selling the vendors out of cash. If you aren't high enough from iron daggers to make the bows, just sell ingots to pay for iron/leather until you can.
Iron daggers and leather bracers are probably the best things to craft (I tried upgrading a lot of forsworn armor, but you don't seem to get as good of gains from upgrading as you do crafting new items), but a couple of other things will help you as well.
Use the warrior stone SW of Riverwood to get the extra 20% gains to combat skills (smithing counts as a combat skill) and try to smith while well rested for additional gains. You can't get the well rested bonus if you have lycanthropy, but the combat stone helps a ton.
Here is some scientifically gathered data about the cumulative number of craftings required to attain a given skill level. (p) indicates that a number was projected/calculated, and not actually measured.
Item level 30, 40, 50, 60, 70; 100 Iron Dagger 147, 303, 488, 725, 1024; (p) 2378 Iron Armor 65, 124, 199, 296, (p) 418; (p) 971 Gold Diamond Necklace 19, 36, 58, 86, 121; 281
It takes fewer craftings to reach the cap for value-able items. That was the goal of the change, so well done Bethesda. If you are limited by time at the forge, make the most expensive thing you can.
Here are the cumulative number of iron bars used. As you can see, Iron Armor leveling requires approximately twice the Iron Bars compared to Iron Dagger leveling
Item level 30, 40, 50, 60, 70; 100 Iron Dagger 147, 303, 488, 725, 1024; (p) 2378 Iron Armor 325, 620, 995, 1480, (p) 2090; (p) 4855
If you are limited by access to materials, stick to making cheap items.
I attempted to verify leveling via upgrades, but the UI is unfavorable toward performing hundreds of upgrades. However I don't think the UESP formula is correct - previous research (384 xp = iron dagger x10, 171 xp = upgrade x10 @ skill 84). The formula predicts that I should get more than 25 xp, but I got 17.1 xp.
Ebony dagger takes 1 bar for 290 value.
Ebony bow takes 3 bars for 1440 value.
Ebony armor takes 5 bars for 1500 value, inferior to Ebony Bow.
You can craft 6 daggers or 2 bows.
(290^0.65)*3 + 25 = 144. 144*6 = 864 <-- daggers win. (1440^0.65)*3 + 25 = 363. 363*2 = 726
I've heard that Iron Daggers are the best way to level smithing.
Go to Whiterun, buy your iron ingots and leather/leather strips, wait 24/48 hours (I think it's 24), then buy more and repeat if you have the cash and build up a stock to save you having to return to the shop as often. Then, sell all of your iron daggers and repeat.
I'm guessing you want the Dragon Armour. I'm after the same thing, so good luck. :)
Fast travel around to all of the blacksmiths and buy all of the iron ore, iron ingots and leather strips you can. Go back to Whiterun to make them and sell them. Why Whiterun, because Whiterun has everything you need, even a smelter and there are five people who will buy iron daggers with one open at night not counting your spouse if you have one. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
When I played Skyrim, the way I used was just buying a ton of leather and iron from the blacksmith place in Whiterun and make a lot of Iron Daggers, it worked pretty well until your level gets about 40ish. Then the leveling started to get pretty slow so it's better if you save up a lot of money beforehand for buying the supplies. It takes longer than you think... Plus the stocks of iron and leather go up again every 24 hours or so. You're probably leveling for the dragon or daedric armor, good luck with that, hope you succeed! :)
Iron armor and leather helmets are actually the most cost effective investments at low level. A ratio of around 2,5 gold/gold spent.
That means if you have enough fortify barter (blackguard hood+amulet of zenithar.) You will be able to endlessly craft without losing any gold. Traveling from one town to the next.
And if you are a vampire you can even wear Volsung with the blackguard hood.