Guide to ‘Skyrim’ Crafting: Smithing, Enchanting and Alchemy

Sabbatquesting 291x300 Guide to Skyrim Crafting: Smithing, Enchanting and Alchemy

I, Sabbat, have taken a break from shanking people and stealing their things long enough to offer some friendly words of wisdom.

Continuing along our line of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim guides, I present to you our third entry, which will lead you through the basics and tips of smithing, enchanting and alchemy. I’ve received numerous questions through various outlets, and this guide attempts to answer most of them. If you’re looking for our updated Beginner’s Guide, it can be found here. If you’re looking for our Guide to Property, Marriage and Money, it can be found here. If you’re looking for our Top 5 Daedric Artifacts, find that here.

It’s all ball bearings these days.

Of the three disciplines, I rate this the highest and most important skill to have. It’s easy to learn, straight-forward to master and will help you not only make wares to sell to merchants, but it also allows you to experience the joy of seeing the word legendary on your armor. To get started, gather pelts off as many four-legged beasts as possible. Use a tanners rack found near most smiths to create leather and leather strips. These can be used to quickly start improving your armor. Even if you are not going to equip a piece of armor (fur armor, anyone?), it behooves you to improve it before selling it to a merchant. It may cost a little initially, material wise, but not only will you skill up faster, eventually you’ll make more money by selling back improved armor.

The smith in Riverwood is your best initial person to talk to as he will give you supplies and ask you to create certain items. Be sure to snag a pick axe and mine as you go along. You should expect to buy ingots, but as mentioned, if you’re exploring and questing, and selling enough, these will be but small investments. (For a quick video showing how to make ingots, click here)

As you skill up, the initial skill point in Steel Smithing allows you to improve steel items, and gives you access to all steel plans. I would personally suggest grabbing Dwarven armor as your next skill point, regardless of whether you plan to wear heavy or light armor, only because questing will provide you with plenty of Dwarven (Dwemer) materials to fashion into ingots. This makes Dwarven smithing a quick, easy way to skill up. If you plan to wear heavy armor, continue along that branch, or if you want to wear light armor, start applying skill points on the other side of the tree.

ingot 570x281 Guide to Skyrim Crafting: Smithing, Enchanting and Alchemy

Use a smelter to turn ore into ingots.

Smithing is not only a good source of income. By harvesting materials and crafting your own armor, you can ensure yourself access to the best types of armor (full glass? Don’t mind if I do!), and more importantly, you can improve them. What does improving armor and weapons do for you? A base Elven Dagger does 17 points of damage. An Elven dagger that has been lovingly upgraded to Legendary does 38 points of damage. Likewise, Glass boots provide 36 points of armor, whereas Glass boots upgraded to Legendary provide 72 points of armor.

I cannot stress this importance of smithing enough. Can you make it through the game without it? Yes, of course. But it provides a huge leg up both combat- and profit-wise. Also, as additional incentive, you’ll eventually be able to use those heavy-ass dragon bones and scales you’ve been lugging around. Just sayin’…

What’s better than a Legendary weapon? A legendary weapon that also drains life.

One of my biggest gripes with previous Elder Scrolls games was the way in which enchanting allowed you to bend the rules of the game over your knee and shatter them like you’re Sub-Zero. This system has been, as mentioned, vastly improved. It is, admittedly, a little harder to get started in enchanting, but it’s no less rewarding than smithing, and certainly worth the trouble.

Step one: break stuff. Did you find a sword that does +5 fire damage? Good for you! If this sword is not an upgrade for you, or if you’re willing to miss out on a sword that sets people on fire, take it to the nearest enchanting table and disenchant it. This will not only teach you the fire damage enchant on the weapon, it will also progress your enchanting skill. It’s important to know that you’re not learning the power of the enchant, but just the enchant itself (I’ll explain later). Keep in mind that this will destroy the item, but you’ll have gained the valuable knowledge and experience towards skill ups.

To enchant an item, while at the table, select the item you want to enchant. For example, we’ll use a glass dagger. You may have learned 20-or-so enchants, but only specific enchants may be applied to specific items. Sadly, you won’t be able to put spell fortifications (Destruction, Conjuration, etc.) on a weapon. Select the enchantment you want, in this example we’ll use Stamina damage. This is an enchantment that hits on charge — that is to say, every time you use it, you expend a charge. Once you have selected your enchantment, you’ll have a slider which allow you to choose the amount of damage you cause versus the number of charges (see video below).

0 Guide to Skyrim Crafting: Smithing, Enchanting and Alchemy

Next, select your soul gem. The lesser the grade the lower the power of your enchantment, or the fewer charges you have available. With our Stamina Damage enchant, if we use a Grand Soul Gem we’ll have up to 64 charges, whereas a Common Soul Gem will provide up to 21 charges. If we had selected a Fire Damage enchant, we’d have the option of 4%-13% damage.

Once you have selected all three variables, you may choose to name the item by clicking Y (Joe’s Weapon of Snazz), but the weapon will not be created until you press X to craft it. Voila!

Armor and trinkets will require a bit of exploration and experimentation. Each specific piece of armor has a selection of enchantments available. That is to say that you cannot have Fortify Stamina Regen on your chest, hands, boots and helm. It’s a nice sense of balance built into the system.

Wind, fire, all that kind of thing.

Alchemy remains the third wheel on the crafting tour. The majority of questions I have received confirm that most people share my opinion of it and that is: it’s about as enjoyable as watching paint dry. It’s slow to level, and mostly requires a lot of trial and error on your part. By the time your Alchemy skill is 34, you should be able to make decent healing potions, and I highly recommend using your enchanting skill to build some trinkets that increase your Alchemy. I have discovered nearly every potion in the game through experimentation or general searching, and it’s still a grind. Sadly, that is all the words of wisdom I have for you now. Keep at it and remember patience is the name of the game. Some of the various lists about the web that show all of the effects of the plants might help your skill progress faster, but I’m not entirely sure of that, either.

If you’re of the same mind as I, and don’t like looking to guides for ingredients, here is one tip I have: if you do not yet know the first effect for a specific ingredient, eating it will tell you. Example: if you eat Skeever Tail, you’ll learn Damage Stamina Regen is its first effect. Seems like a risky way to learn but if it worked for Wesley, it’ll work for you.

Did I miss something? Have further questions? Please feel free to either post a comment here, follow me on Twitter (@jenbosier) or look me up on Xbox Live (Kilo963). When it comes to The Elder Scrolls, I’ll talk shop from here to Oblivion.

About Jen Bosier

Jen lives with her husband, daughter and super-villain cats. If she's not reading comics or engrossed in a WH40k novel, she's probably telling you which horror games you should be playing. She's a recovering member of the PC Master Race, and a reluctant Xbox fangirl. You can also find her on the Furious Fourcast.


  1. I disagree with the alchemy statement actually.  I watch my roommate play skyrim… a lot… and he does alchemy all the time.  We don’t think it’s as bad as watching paint dry (though I get a bit jealous since we only have one big screen for skyrim =)  He now has over 300k just on that alone.  The reason being is because there are free ingredients everywhere just like the dwarven stuff.  And he says he’s a little thief so that works in his favor too hehe

    • Jen Bosier says:

      Ingredients are certainly cheap to come by, and by cheap I mean free. It’s also very profitable. My point was more that it takes a VERY long time to level. Which isn’t a HUGE deal, honestly, but I’ve heard some frustration over the speed at which you plow through the tree. :)

  2. I think you should tell people about the Black Star in the enchantment section. As soon as you get it, you want to enchant everything you have! And you really can start to use staffs without running out of soulgems eventually. It’s probably the most fun item in game!

  3. This article has a white rectangle over the whole thing so I can’t read it.

    • If you’re using iPhone or iPad to view our site, make sure you’re using the mobile version. There’s a bug with our theme that has a block covering the text if you’re using iOS. We’re looking into fixing it, but for the time being, the mobile version works. Sorry!

  4. TheManAndres says:

    one thing works is to buy iron ingots or ore and make daggers they give you the same amount of exp as if you’d make an dwarven armor or anything really and then enchant them with absorb health which gives the most value and then sell them got me to lvl 100 in no time and made me rich;D. but i havent lvled alchemy by any so il try your method

  5. Just to tell a piece of information. Smithing is probably the most easiest skill to train. I got to 100 in about 1 hour.You will probably need about 10kk to buy all the supplies needed depending on what your making.I made iron daggers then enchanted them and sold them for a good profit.To choose smithing is probably the best way to go.

  6. There is also a bug in Skyrim where there is a chest under a rock in dawnstar by the Iron-Breaker mine it has a lot of enchanted weaponry and gold.To regenerate the money go to the entrance and wait for a caravan.There will be a leapord lady you save the game while looking at her.After the game is saved you hit her with any weapon but DO NOT KILL her then load the saved game once this is done ask her to trade look at one item of hers then go back to the location everything will be there again.Location is right by the entrance to the Iron-Breaker mine there are 2 trees and three rocks by them.Look around the rock closest to the cliff.It is hidden but should say search chest.Then all your dreams of money has become true.

  7. Another way is to use Iron ore to level up smithing using the Transumte spell. I found this in a mine dungeon early on and transmutted all my iron ore to gold ores and converted to ignots and the smithed them into jewelry (with gems). I then sold the jewelry and bought any iron ores I could find to repeat the process. Turning rocks into gold makes MONEY!

    • I have a question. If you enchant armor, will the enchantment wear out like it does on weapons?

      • SauronBlue says:

        It only runs out on weapons, and you can see about how charged it is by the grey bar that appears over the stamina bar. hit R2 on ps3 while selecting weapon in inventory menu to choose a soul gem to recharge the weapon with. you can still learn the enchantment or recharge the weapon even after completely burning thru all charges until the effect wears off

  8. I thought Alchemy was a major drag too, until I figured out the secret to it. I initially thought that discovering new effects from mixing potions is what gained you the most xp, because I could see the bar jumping more for that than for creating an average health potion.
    Then I learned a little secret – it’s not what effects you discover or use, it’s how expensive the potion is. The more your potion costs, the higher the xp gained from making it. Here’s a super good explanation –

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