Quick Look: Smithing
Smithing allows you to craft and upgrade various types of arms and armor. Different perks allow you to work with different materials, split between two wings of Heavy Armor and Light Armor materials.
As one of the crafting skills, you know Smithing is going to be important, and on its own, it’s one of the better skills in the game. With the benefit of Enchanting and Alchemy, however, it allows you to make gear so powerful that you’ll become virtually unstoppable. It’s also much easier and faster to just craft the gear you want, rather than hoping vainly to find a full set. If those aren’t good enough reasons to want to invest in Smithing… well, then you just like making life arbitrarily more difficult for yourself. The only question is, which path will you go down, Heavy Armor, Light Armor, or both?
The Smithing tree is split among two branches at ultimately link up at the top, "Dragon Smithing". Your perk investment into this all-important skill is a no-brainer, but how much you invest is really dependant upon your tastes, which makes it somewhat difficult to suggest objective perk picks. Still, lets try to work this out as objectively as possible.
From a pure power-gamey standpoint, Light Armor is arguably superior based solely on perks like "Unhindered", "Wind Walker" and "Deft Movement". That being the case, you can safely ignore the Heavy Armor half of the tree entirely (aside from the obligatory "Steel Smithing", of course). In the vanilla version of the game Daedric weapons were the most powerful, providing strong incentive to go down the Heavy Armor side of the tree, but now the ultimate Smithing perk is "Dragon Armor", which will allow you to create Dragonbone weapons, which ever so slightly edge out Daedric gear for the top spot. Best of all, this perk consists of both Heavy Armor (Dragonplate) and Light Armor (Dragonscale) version of dragon armor, meaning aside from aesthetics there’s no reason to bother with both ends of the perk tree. As an added bonus, if you go down the Light Armor path it only takes five perks to reach "Dragon Armor" rather than the six on the Heavy Armor side.
That being settled, you need only make one more decision; do you want to bother upgrading and using Daedric artifacts and quest-related gear, or not? If so, invest a perk into "Arcane Blacksmithing" so you can improve those items to be somewhat usable… although frankly the stuff you craft will almost certainly be superior.
Leveling Smithing has changed a bit over the course of time. Smithing used to level up based on sheer quantity of goods crafted, and that made the inexpensive Iron Dagger the go-to item to craft. Cheap to make, they also left you with an abundance of weapons to enchant (and sell) as part of your Enchanting grind. In patched versions of the game however, quality (value) matters, so things are a little different.
In the former (unpatched) case stick to Iron Daggers. In patched versions your best bet is to find Dwarven Metal Ingots and use them to craft Dwarven Bows. This approach is appealing for two reasons; namely that Dwarven Bows (270 gold) have a much higher value than Iron Daggers (10 gold) and because Dwarven Metal Ingots can be found in relatively large numbers by plundering Dwemer Ruins around Skyrim and the Dwemer Museum in Markarth. It might involve danger, but getting your hands on over 200 Dwarven Metal Ingots in one dungeon makes it worthwhile. Just remember that what you pull out of the Dwemer ruins won’t be raw ingots, but rather various bits of Dwemer scrap, as follows:
|Large Decorative Dwemer Strut||2|
|Large Dwemer Strut||3|
|Bent Dwemer Scrap Metal||3|
|Large Dwemer Plate Metal||3|
|Small Dwemer Plate Metal||3|
|Solid Dwemer Metal||5|
Note: Unfortunately breaking down Dwemer scrap or turning ore into ingots doesn’t level up your Smithing skill.
Speaking of Dwemer ruins and things everybody should do to level Smithing more easily, make your way to the Riften docks to find an Argonian named From-Deepest-Fathoms, who will give you the Lexicon and ask you to return it to Avanchnzel. These ruins aren’t terribly lucrative in terms of the ingots you’ll pull out (expect around 100 Dwarven Metal Ingots), but the big draw of completing this quest is the "Ancient Knowledge" active effect, which will permanently give you a 15% bonus to the Smithing experience earned.
If you’re willing to do a bit more exploring to make Smithing easier to level up, consider visiting the Halted Stream Camp north and slightly west of Whiterun. The place is occupied by Bandits, but if you can rout them you’ll get access to many veins of Iron, and inside you’ll also find the spellbook that teaches you the "Trasmute" spell. This Adept-level Alteration spell turns Iron Ore (not ingots) into Silver Ore, and Silver Ore into Gold Ore. You can then turn these precious metals into the appropriate ingots and use them to craft jewelry, which is a fine way to level up Smithing. Just go around and mine or buy Iron Ore (blacksmiths around Skyrim will happily sell it for a few gold each), turn it into Silver Ore and Gold Ore with the Transmute spell, use a smelter to turn that Gold Ore into Silver Ingots, then use the gems you find or steal (preferably while leveling Pickpocket?) to craft whatever jewelry (silver or gold) you have gems for, or failing that, Gold Rings. This will also earn you cash while leveling up Alteration.
Furthermore, if you have the Dawnguard DLC installed (you bought it individually, you have the Legendary Edition or the Special Edition) you can craft arrows, which simply require an ingot and some Firewood, the ladder of which can be freely harvested, the former of which can of course be mined or purchased. Crafting arrows level you up fairly quickly for their price, and best of all, they get you arrows you can use to level up Archery.
So, let’s break it all down. Go to the Riften docks and start the quest "Unfathomable Depths" t o get the "Ancient Knowledge" active effect. Next visit the Halted Stream Camp and get the Transmute spell, as well as whatever Iron Ore you can find. Once done, travel around Skyrim and purchase Iron Ore and Iron Ingots from various blacksmiths. Use the former to transmute into Silver Ore and Gold Ore to make jewelry, while the latter can be used to craft Iron Arrows. Dwarven Metal Ingots gained from raiding Dwemer Ruins can be use to make Dwarven Bows or Dwarven Arrows, and gems gains from leveling Pickpocket can be throw in with jewelry to boost your Smithing levels further. Get the effects of the Warrior Stone or the Lover Stone before crafting and rest at a bed you own if possible to boost your experience gain as much as possible.
|Ghorza gra-Bagol||Adept (Lv. 15 - 50)||Markarth|
|Balimund||Expert (Lv. 51 - 75)||Riften (The Sorched Hammer, or at the outdoor forge)|
|Eorlund Gray-Mane||Master (Lv. 76 - 90)||Whiterun (House Gray-Mane, or working the Skyforge)|