Tungsten carbide is found throughout the power tool industry. Often referred to simply as carbides, there are actually more compounds than tungsten. We are often asked the question, "What is tungsten carbide?" To give you the best answer, we interviewed the manufacturer. We wanted to dig a little deeper into this material to see how it could make accessories more effective.
Table of contents
- What is tungsten carbide material?
- What makes tungsten carbide popular in power tool accessories?
- Inexpensive and High Quality Carbide
- Tungsten Carbide Drill Cost vs. Life (Durability)
- the bottom line
What is tungsten carbide material?
The general term "carbide" simply means that it is a compound using carbon and a less electronegative element. Tungsten carbide contains equal amounts of carbon and tungsten and begins as a powder.
The powder goes through a sintering process and is used in many different products, including accessories such as drill bits and saw blade teeth.
It is a tough compound that can withstand tough applications such as drilling. Since I use power tools every day, it's this toughness that's why I chose it for my wedding ring instead of gold.
Most fittings are not pure carbide. On circular and reciprocating saw blades, it's just a single tooth. On most drills, it's just the cutting edge. The rest of the fitting is usually some form of steel. With concrete bits, there are still grooves in the shaft for removing material, and the overall feel is like using a standard steel bit. You don't have to change the way you work to use carbide drills.
In CNC machine tools and a wide range of metal cutting, cemented carbide plays a larger role. These bits typically feature solid carbide for most of the cutting surfaces.
Fittings using tungsten carbide are believed to perform better than non-tungsten carbide fittings. But does this perception match reality?
In most cases, it does. Carbide inserts outperform and last longer than steel or bi-metals in almost all applications. This combination makes it the go-to standard for the best miter saw blades and hammer drills. It also gets more traction for reciprocating saw blades and oscillating tool blades.
In terms of raw speed, some tasks benefit from standardized blades. In particular, steel reciprocating blades cut certain materials faster. Steel blades generally beat wider, slower carbide-toothed blades because they can optimize the tooth geometry for the material and avoid wider kerf sizes. You also can't beat the price of an inexpensive steel reciprocating saw blade. If you're not going to be cutting wood or anything other than PVC, steel blades are great.
Inexpensive and High Quality Carbide
The quality of cemented carbide is closely related to the quality of the raw material and the process of forming and attaching the material to the steel.
Cheaper carbides are more brittle and more prone to chipping. If the attachment process is not good, it may come off completely. With cheap carbide drills, you most likely won't buy another one.
Just don't blame the whole material – usually you just need to buy from a more reputable manufacturer. We found great products from all the major players, including Bosch, Milwaukee Tool, Freud/Diablo, Lenox Tools and more.
Tungsten Carbide Drill Cost vs. Life (Durability)
Labor is the single biggest cost in any workplace, and the bane of your existence is downtime—paying people when they're not working. Your tools need to be ready, and you need to replace parts in the field to minimize downtime. Productivity is stagnant and your customers are unhappy with the lack of progress.
One of the main advantages of tungsten carbide fittings is that it keeps everyone working longer. Jobs move faster, too, thanks to the ultra-fast speed carbide offers for many attachments. Faster work with less fatigue, and less fatigue means higher quality work.
If that's not enough, check out some claims for carbide inserts. 10, 50, or even 75 times longer than standard lifespan? They may cost more upfront, but when you look at the cost per cut or per hole, they will save you money over the course of the job.
the bottom line
At the end of the day, tungsten carbide fittings are worth it when the heat won't kill it, the cutting edges won't break, and the tough material won't wear them down. When you buy carbide drills that use high-quality materials and manufacturing, they will outperform and outlast any standard drill you may have used before.