Choosing Between Steel and Carbide Cutting Tools

When it comes to manufacturing tools, steel and carbide are often two of the most popular material options. In most cases steel is a more budget friendly option and carbide cutting tools tend to be advertised as being high quality tools, especially for high speed applications. Today we will be looking at both of these options so you can understand the different advantages of both of these tool materials.

What is Steel?
Steel is one of the most important metal alloys ever created. The combination of iron, carbon, and other elements produce different varieties of steel with different traits. There are many different types of tools steel, but when it comes to cutting tools like end mills, high speed steel alloys are one of the most popular options due to their ability to hold their temper.

Tempering is a process of heat treating metal tools. The process involves cycling tools through certain temperatures in order to ensure that the tool’s internal structure keeps the cutting edges sharp and hard. If metal tools get too hot, they can lose their temper and the cutting edges will soften and begin to degrade. High speed steel is able to handle higher temperatures without losing temper, but it is still possible for these tools to lose their temper when exposed to high enough temperatures. If you are looking for tools designed for high speed applications, Carbide is a superior option.

What is Carbide?
Carbide might look metallic, but it is actually a composite material made up of metal and ceramic. The actual carbide in carbide tools is tungsten carbide, a grey ceramic powder. This ceramic material is roughly twice as strong and twice as dense as steel, but in its powdered state it cannot be used for much. In order to make carbide tool stock, carbide powder is mixed with a stabilizing metal like cobalt to create a unique composite tool material.

The cemented carbide product has several advantages over conventional steel tool stock. The cobalt helps to provide stability and strength, while the carbide provides an exceptionally dense and heat resistant cutting edge. Ceramic materials do not have to be tempered to increase the strength of their cutting edges. Ceramics are stable enough that carbide tools can handle extended high speed while staying sharp. The strength of their edges also means that these tools should last longer than steel options.

Ultimately the slightly higher price tag that comes with solid carbide tools may seem steep, but the extended lifespan of these tools makes them worth it when compared to steel tools, especially if you are doing a lot of high speed milling. Many carbide cutters will also be treated with coatings like TiAlN that will provide an extra layer of insulation so your carbide tools will last even longer.

If your shop is looking for some amazing carbide cutting tools, you can find some amazing options at Online Carbide. Their solid carbide milling cutters are made from high quality micrograin carbide tool stock which helps them stay sharper and last longer. Their inventory includes a wide range of drill bits and end mills so you can find the high performance cutting tools that your shop needs at manufacturer direct prices. The team at Online Carbide manufacture all of their tools here in the USA and they are always just a phone call away. If you have any questions about their products or you are interested in placing a custom order, feel free to reach out to them by calling 630.238.1424 or sending an email to

For more information about Chamfer Mills and Variable Flute End Mills Please visit : Online Carbide.

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