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What Is a Carbide Tool?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A carbide tool refers to any metal tool with a carbide-based tip or work surface. This includes hand-held tools such as screwdrivers and handsaws, as well as large-scale equipment like wood routers or industrial cutting machines. Many drills use carbide bits, and most woodworking tools and saws feature carbide cutting blades. The carbide used to make these tools is a blend of carbon and another element, typically tungsten or silicon.

The standard carbide tool is not made from pure carbide. Instead, the tool is crafted from steel or another inexpensive metal. A carbide tip or blade is then fastened to the steel base through a brazing process. For example, a typical carbide saw blade is constructed primarily from steel. The cutting teeth around the edge of the blade, which are made from carbide, are then joined to the circular base to form a complete blade.

It is rare for manufacturers to construct a carbide tool from pure carbide for a number of reasons. First, while carbide makes an excellent cutting or work surface, it tends to be too brittle for use as a base material. Constructing tools from steel then adding as carbide tip improves the overall strength and durability of the tool while also utilizing the strongest possible cutting surface. Carbide is also very expensive, so using a cheaper base material helps make these tools accessible to a wider consumer base.

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Carbide tools offer many advantages over standard steel or composite tools. Carbide tends to wear much more slowly than steel, and is able to withstand higher temperatures without damage. This ability to accommodate high temperatures means that these tools can safely be used over extended periods in most manufacturing equipment. Because of its high strength, it produces very clean cuts, resulting in a better-quality product or finish. A carbide tool also lasts longer than one made from steel, which means less maintenance and longer production runs for industrial users.

A carbide tool can be sharpened to restore performance and remove dull edges after extended use. Because carbide is so strong, however, this process requires a very hard material. Typically, a diamond or carbide-composite wheel must be used to sharpen carbide tools. While these wheels are fairly expensive, they are some of the only materials strong enough to sharpen carbide and help extend the life of carbide tools. Most of these tools can be sharpened over and over until the carbide tip or cutting surface is completely gone.

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