If you are going the non-AH route, for rings, I think you can usually find the x-dmg with a socket from the vendor pretty regularly. I find these types of rings to be the most useful while I'm working a character to 60.
Finding decent weapons and shields is always a problem for me though.
I think at level 35 you can craft a rare axe. I think I made one and with a ruby in it, am getting 85 dps with it. also consider keeping your str and vit about equal as you progess thru. that will make a difference. I know you need a lot of life but all the life in the world will not help if you can't kill anything.
At level 47 is the raid sword you can craft. I used the blacksmith on my first play thru mostly self found to keep up with item being as close to my level as possible. He has some decent armor and weapon options but you will need to roll alot of them to get good stuff. It is not really expensive until the level 60 items.
keep checking the vendor that sells rings for a good high str/vit combo and upgrade when you see it. I think i used some crappy blue rings all the way to level 50-53 or so. but if you keep checking him you might find some good upgrades.
thank you for The encouragement and tips! Feels good learning from others who have done it self found in HC
for The time being I have parked My barb in act 2 nm and am playing a wiz, which is already level 32 and is a much Quicker killing machine, Even thugh I still know My barb is and will be The most durable char i have, and that she will indeed be My first level 60