A Complete Guide to Carbide and HSS Form Milling Cutters

The debate between whether to use carbide or high-speed steel (HSS) for tools has gone back as long as both options have been available on the market. But which one is specifically better for milling cutters? Here’s a quick overview of both metals, including their strengths and weaknesses, to help you decide which option is best for your workshop’s needs.

A Complete Guide to Carbide and HSS Form Milling Cutters

So what are the differences between the two different types of metals when it comes to woodworking?

Generally speaking, carbide tends to be stronger, but also more brittle. This makes it a good choice to use in modern machines that have little chatter, allowing you to draw out the time between having to replace or sharpen the cutters. They can be run as high as 2.5 times faster than HSS cutters and are able to operate at higher SFPM than other cutting metals.

Due to the brittleness, they tend to operate better when used in a hydraulic-type of holder. They also don’t do well with rapid temperature shifts, so if you’re planning on using coolant to keep the temperatures down, you’ll want to use it throughout the process rather than adding it quickly in the middle. The higher speeds you can use them at also helps provide a better, smoother finish for your millwork, giving you a better overall quality to the finished piece.

However, HSS is more reliable when you’re working with older machinery with more chatter, as it is more flexible and adapts better to that type of abuse than carbide cutters. It also tends to be less expensive overall, but must be sharpened or replaced more frequently than its carbide equivalent.

HSS  is also significantly better at dealing with temperature changes than carbide cutters, making it a better option when you have rapid shifts in temperature in your shop, such as an overhead A/C unit or drafty conditions.

Though both options have benefits and drawbacks, there’s no doubt that they each have advantages for specific situations. But which option is best for your particular needs? If you need help developing the perfect milling cutters for your woodworking operation, the experienced professionals at Custom Tool & Grinding are here to help. Please feel free to contact us today to get a quote on the right solution for your workshop.

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