Surely players on high levels have made plenty of +bonus equipment without the use of "excellent" materials usually. The "excellent" materials only yield higher odds at crafting a larger bonus. The equipment you buy from the NPCs will never come with any bonuses and after level 35, they are not available for purchase from the NPCs (craft only). So, after level 35, it's an essential aspect of gameplay.
Also, there are certain weapons which can not be npc bought. Such as domo gold level 18, 23, 33 weapons. But fear not, there are ways to get citizen skill points without actually having to level the citizen class. Each of the certificate quest such as The Drill Sergeant and Trailblazer, will reward you with a potion for 5 citizen skill points upon completion (only as party leader or soloing, first time/once).
Then focus on 1-2 citizen skills and you should be ok for a while.You can see it is pretty much the same system across all versions. Can we ask what did you tried to craft? Low level equipment has a seemingly lower chance and bonus (1-2?). That could be why you never saw any bonuses from your results. Try it again with weapons recipes, like a cleaver (level 18 saber), which has a bonus of up to +22. You're bound to get some kind of bonus.