I know some big changes to forging are in the works, but I had an idea that's worth vetting.
Problem 1: The way forging currently works is hated by pretty much everyone. It's very expensive, due to commodity requirements, and requires a massive amount of time to produce a single, if any, items worth keeping.
Problem 2: While current Augment (enchanting) can help a lot with stats - for best results, you want to start with high-end weapons. Obviously, nobody wants to risk blowing up a weapon they spent 200 credits in commodities producing. Thus while augment is actually, currently, a fantastic way to improve weapons, it is never used. It can either be used a few times on an extremely expensive weapon to slightly increase stats, at risk of destruction, or it can be used on a massive quantity of "decent" weapons to maybe produce one weapon worth using. Either way costs a fortune and includes a very high probability that you will be left with absolutely nothing.
Dramatically reduce the "random-ness" of weapons. Instead, make the initial stats of a weapon relatively consistent. From there, allow the use of steel (and/or other) commodities to modify the weapons. A cap on this would be logical, perhaps 5-10 improvements. Also, require significantly more commodities to forge the original item. 10 steel, for example, for a rapier, and a total of 10-20 more for "improvement" forging. Thus, novices could easily still find rapiers for 1,000 or so gold (the not-so-good original rapiers that haven't been improved), but top-end people can still make great stuff. A further idea could be to allow an additional 2-3 improvements to a weapon, but these additional improvements would seal the item to its owner, like fullplate. This would only be doable by weapons you have forged yourself (so you can't just buy an elite rapier then imrprove it further). This last bit would also incentize people to learn Forging instead of just relying on everyone else to forge god-rapiers etc.
[This is effectively completely separate from the first idea, but would require a downgrade of average forging stats to be balanced.]
Create a magi enchanting item - an "orb" or gem of some kind - that essentially "absorbs" experience from the person wearing it. This would actually lower the experience rate that the wearer would receive. At any point, the gem can be permanently embedded into a weapon, for a randomized stat increase, across the board. While the stats would be randomly distributed and have random values, the main factor in quantity would simply be determined by the amount of experience the orb has attained. The amount of time to effectively "max out" a gem (the results should be logarithmic) should be around 250-500 hours of bashing (depending on level of NPCs of course). Since results are logarithmic, a gem with only 50 hours worth of charging may result in half the stat gain as a gem with 500. The key is that to achieve "amazing" results, logarithmically more time (and work) is required. The best part of this idea is that instead of "work" meaning requiring players to stare at their screen while mudlet autoforges, it means actually going out and actively playing the game. Note that PVP experience gain would also charge gems (could even be at an increased rate).
By combining both of these ideas, or some variance of them, the massive randomness (and time) required to forge good weapons can be essentially eliminated, while still requiring around the same cost to produce. However, to create "elite" weapons, highly-charged "gems" would be necessary to break into "artefact-like" or higher stats (240 speed, etc). Even with the craziest of "gems", the stat gain would still be relatively modest, perhaps a total of 20 additional (randomly assigned) stats. Thus, the time aspect of forging elite weapons can now be effectively outsourced to anyone who can bash, however still remains wholly unnecessary to acquire weapons with "usable" or even "pretty damn nice" stats. Instead of seeing knights auto-forging for weeks on end, we'd simply have people bashing more to create super-weapons, or paying dramatic prices to others to do it for them. An artefact could even be made to boost "gem charging speed" or alternatively let a playe wear more than one gem at a time while hunting. (If this idea reminds you of minecraft, it isn't entirely off-base)