I chose engineering as one of my professions for Knifey partly because gnomes get a racial boost to the skill but mostly because it was a tradeskill that I hadn't full explored before. Leatherworking may have been a better choice for being a rogue but I was tempted by all the neat gadgetry that engineers seem to have at their disposal. Last night I was able to get to the old skill-cap of 300! I still consider this to be a significant milestone as it allows me to train for all the new materials and recipes found in the Outlands, and I am only a couple of levels away from going there.
My earlier concerns about the difficulty of reaching skill-caps after expansions are released seem to be misplaced. Getting to a skill of 300 used to be difficult, and I was concerned about the difficulty 'bump' in getting to 300 after which levelling up in the new, expanded zones would be like coasting downhill, creating an awkward and artificial boundary to cross in order to progress in professions. The amount of materials needed to get to the old, pre-Burning Crusade cap must have been reduced, as well as the availability of materials increased. Thorium still isn't as plentiful as mithril, but there certainly are more rich thorium veins scattered around than I remember from earlier times. Getting my engineering skill to 300 wasn't much of a chore either.
With some solo time on my hands I decided I'd see what I could do with my engineering skill, having left it at a skill level of 267 for a couple of weeks or more. I picked up a bunch of dense stone, 55 thorium ore, and some runecloth from the bank and went to the Great Forge in Ironforge. Making dense blasting powder saw me reach 270 easily enough, and I picked up training to make some new goggles. Ignoring the goggles I smelted all my thorium and started making thorium widgets. I had no idea what I would do with these widgets, but I felt it was making me more proficient. After making 15 widgets, taking my skill up to 385, I picked up training that allowed me to make thorium shells.
I used up the rest of my thorium making 1,000 shells in batches of 200 each, pushing my skill in engineering up to 290. I was pleased about my work so far, as it was quite easy to achieve and didn't require any further gathering of ore or expensive purchases from the auction house. But with the engineering trainer not offering any further schematics I felt my professional work was finished until I headed out to get some more thorium ore. I went back to the bank to deposit my remaining dense stone and runecloth, as well as the widgets I had created, when I was reminded that I had bought four schematics on my worldly travels that I hadn't learnt previously from lacking the understanding, but now I had the expertise to do so.
I plucked the schematics out of the bank and clipped them in to my engineering binder, checking what materials each needed. The new schematic for fused wiring had some remarkably simple material needs but still required skill to make, so I started with them. I needed some delicate copper wire and bought a few winds from the auction house, but there was precious little available. Luckily, this wasn't a problem, and I bought some copper bars, posted them to my jewelcrafting warrior Sapphire, who then made some wire out of the copper and posted them back. The essence of fire needed for the fused wiring was surprisingly cheap, and I had made 6 fused wiring components soon enough, getting my skill up to 295.
Sensing the finishing line, or at least the end of the stage, I flipped through my new schematics to see if there was anything I could quickly make to push me up to the old skill cap. The plans for the powerful seaforium charge looked good, and the materials were not expensive to gather, particularly as I had the thorium widgets fresh in the bank. After a cheap trip to the auction house to get some rugged leather, a visit to the Bronze Kettle for some spring water, and converting more dense stone to blasting powder, I made 5 charges. And with that I got my engineering skill to 300. It was a good night's work and nowhere near as oppressive as I imagined it would be, although perhaps helped in part by the racial profession boost.
But I was still a little disappointed. First, there were no useful schematics available on the auction house for me, even with my newly-gained skill of 300. Second, engineering still wasn't producing any items of much worth for me. The explosives never really seem worth using as a rogue, as I put out more damage than they do. The target dummies seem unnecessary when I can sap, sprint, or vanish to get out of trouble. All the goggles look cool but they are designed for cloth wearing spell casters, and gaining extra spell damage isn't that useful for a rogue. The seaforium charges may be able to open locked chests and doors, but I can pick those locks somewhat quieter anyway. Making my own ammunition is okay, but I don't think I've used 200 shells in total on my way up to the dizzying heights of level 56.
The trinket gadgets are interesting, but of limited use. I used the discombobulator a few times in Scarlet Monastery, or somewhere anyway, rescuing our healer from being a frog. The world enlarger is fun but useless. The jumper cables are about the most useful item to own, particularly with being able to vanish as a rogue and thus staying alive in a position to use the cables on fallen resurrecters. But on the whole engineering has been a way to convert profitable ore in to junk. A bit like real engineering, I suppose. I'll persevere with the profession though, as I remember seeing some high-level fellow wearing some leather goggles, so there is hope for making something else useful at some point.
One side benefit from hitting 300 in engineering is that I can send the rest of the ore that I mine over to Sapphire for her jewelcrafting endeavours, as she doesn't mine herself. Instead she makes jewellery from which she can then extract the essence and enchant her equipment with that essence. The combination of jewelcrafter and enchanter is working quite well so far, and should serve a warrior well for maintaining powerful buffs inexpensively, but it relies on a steady input of metal ore or bars from Knifey.