HSS vs Carbide

So I was talking to Keith in a PM and the topic of blades came up.  I’ve always used High Speed Steel.  Use 'em a lot and they eventually get dull and have to be swapped out for a fresh set.  They can be sharpened razor sharp.  Once at Aloha Glass I Iaid my Skil on it’s side on the shelf above the side light. Turned to get a sanding block and barely drug my finger accross the blades while they were still rotating a bit.  Yikes!  Took a couple of weeks for that finger tip to heal and quit hurting.  So my question is;  What do you prefer??  HSS or Carbide??  What are the advantages of Carbide??  I’ve heard that they never need to be sharpened.  But; I’ve heard that they can “blow up” or come apart at high speed, which can be damned dangerous.  So your opinions please.  Lowel

hi-speed bits/blades are really all you need.

i have a drill doctor that sharpens all steel bits,even the titanium coated jobs.

neat thing about carbide is it never needs sharpening(unless you are dealing with something like kevlar ).

down side to carbide is they.......... snap........crack...........and pop............much easier.

this is due to it's durability factor........................

durability is the tinsel strength of the material.

now let's not confuse this with hardness.

hardness is what carbide is known for.................(mohs scale of hardness 1-10.........1 = talc........10 = diamond).

diamond is the hardest known substance...................steel comes in around at 7.0-7.5-8.0..........carbide comes in at like 9.5.........9.8.

carbide in most cases........... never needs replacement..........but the downside is.......... if you drop it..........or bare down on it ...............it will break,shatter,pop.........sending chards of shrapnell everywhere.

now i'm not saying this can't happen with steel...............sure it can..................but the chances of it happening with steel is much less likely.

i use mostly steel/ti combos...............or just different types of steel......................but i do have some carbide bits/blades for those tough projects.

hope this helps.



I like my carbides because they’re low-to-no maintenance. Some people like to work on their own tools and may actually enjoy sharpening planer knives, I’m not one of them.

I use carbide blades at work as a builder the only time I’ve has them crack or shatter is from hitting a nail or screw.

Electric planers that run at high rpm’s don’t really need to be razor sharp. I like steel blades. I can hone the blades on my skil in 30 seconds. I use a dremel tool with one of those little cone shaped stones. just a couple of passes and it’s done. Don’t even take em out of the planer. Usually good for 25 boards. After doing this a few times i take the blades out and send them to the sharpening guy.Charges me $12.

   Carbide is good. Can’t give an opinion because i have never used them.

You can hone your block plane blades on the grinder used for sanding boards. Put some 150 grit on a medium power pad. Get a friend to hold it steady with the pad facing up. Hold the blade with a pair of pliers and hone the edge.be careful not to tilt the blade and cut your pad.

Sharpening is like skinning a cat…there are a thousand ways of doing it. Ever hear of sharpening a hammer?? Well it’s true but i will save that for another day. You kids have fun out there.


Allot of the Pen and other turners have migrated to carbide bit tools versus the old HSS gouges and skews,

Sharpening a gouge on a grinder only take a minute or two but the carbide bit tool seems to be a little more versatile.

hate to think of one of those bits exploding into your face though

the carbide version of my lathe tools didn’t seem any better or last that must longer still needed a quick brush with a diamond sharpener every now and then.

It completely different feeling to have your work spinning at hundreds of rpms while the tool remains fixed, versus having the tool spinning at hindreds of rpms while the work tries to remain stationary. I kind of like the prior experience cause there’s more control and its easier to do finer work.

Thats why a good planer shaper or even a chainsaw sculptor is a special artist.

You know I been so pissed and unhappy the last few days.  I reeeallly needed a good laugh!  You provided it with your “sharpening a hammer” comment.  Can’t wait to hear that one.  Good tip on the Dremel.  I’m gonna remember that.  Still smiling about the hammer.  Thanks.  Lowel

I used to do a lot of carpentry and we hammered nails with a hammer verus pulling the trigger of a nail gun. Anyway…we used to rub our hammer heads on a concrete slab  and they would work better when pounding nails. the old time Souther carpenters called it “sharpening” a hammer. They could also level a board by sitting a pint of Jack Daniels on it but thats yet another story.

Carbide is a very crystaline structure, where as high speed steel is not, HSS takes a much finer edge than carbide, but lacks the durabilty of carbide, under magnification there is a tremendous difference.

I have diamond hones I use for carbide router bits and a green stone on my bench grinder for milling planer blades, regular carborundum won’t touch carbide.

My HSS blades go for a year with out resharpening, but I don’t plane painted or reclaimed construction lumber either

Yes and ditto on not planing reclaimed lumber or paint with my Skils or even my old Hitachi.  I’ve got an older Makita that’s devoted to those chores.

HSS is my choice, carbide is unpredictable and even tiny pieces can be dangerous at 16K rpm.  It’s not so much what you’re cutting with carbide, but they get chipped if you set the planer on something or bump the bottom.  Get 2 sets of HSS, always keep one set sharp and they’ll last 10 years + if you don’t nick them.  Blades need to be balanced so always at least put them back-to-back and check that they match if you don’t want to weigh them.   To sharpen by hand,  keep the blade at 45 degrees and use wet carbide paper taped to glass.  Rockler woodworking and others make jigs with rollers for this.  Modern planers use reversible “strip” blades which cost about $20 and come in HSS and carbide versions;  just toss 'em when dull on both sides.  These are way sharper than heavy solid blades and outlast them too.  Makita, Bosch, and Skil Type 4A / 5 use these.

i use my grinder with a diamond dust plate to hone carbide blades...........it's a lap/jeweler's tool.

and i can get them razor sharp !



HSS blades in my opinion suck compared to carbide.  In the old days Skil used to send them to Germany to get sharpened which took forever, but they never really dulled compared to HSS.  Now whenever they seem to get dull which is about never- I just hone them with a diamond stone.  What would you rather have on your router, or band saw blade?  I prefer them on my planers as well.

Nothing beats super sharp blades.  How do you think some of the world’s best shaper’s got the name “Terry” anyways or is it tarry, or teary? Foam in the eyes, and the good old days, always makes me teary.

I’m happy with HSS.  They last a guy like me pretty long.   I always have spares and it just doesn’t cost that much to have them sharpened.  I think I’ve got a decent pair of Carbide for a Skil.  If you like 'em make me an offer.  Lowel

There is some amazing cutting edge development using spiral designed cutters…they are smooth , quiet and  pruduce a very clean surface…not sure if they are readily available in barrel form for a power planer , but they would work extremely well…HSS or tungsten.


I used to do a lot of carpentry and we hammered nails with a hammer verus pulling the trigger of a nail gun. Anyway...we used to rub our hammer heads on a concrete slab  and they would work better when pounding nails. the old time Souther carpenters called it "sharpening" a hammer. They could also level a board by sitting a pint of Jack Daniels on it but thats yet another story.


When I used to frame houses for a living, we used "waffle face" hammers, with a grid like an abalone hammer, for extra traction on the nail head, sink a 16 penny nail in two hits, tap BAM (pre nail-gun days LOL).  After a lot of use, the waffle grid would wear flat.  We'd give 'em to the saw sharpening guy, and he'd sharpen 'em (cut the grooves back in), they were magic again.  Hit your fingernail, 'tho, and it'd take it clean off in one fell swoop.  Which could be kinda painful.

In 1959 I tried to sink 20d, on the first sheewhack, the hammer head glanced off it and it ricocheted into my left eye, spent 30 days in the Chelsea Naval hospital in Boston, 20/400 vision ever since, broke my dads heart, no chance of the AF academy after that

5 years old now so wondering if anyone has more up to date opinions on blades? I am buying a planer today and its used so I am buying new blades. Wondering between Hss and carbide. I had carbide in old planer. I overtightened the bolts which hold the blade and thought I heard crack but wasn’t sure. I was sure after i tried planing a blank with it! The carbide blade had just cracked but at speed i think the crack opened more and caused a mess. Thinking of going for hSS this time but wondered if anyone had any advice before i dive in

A friend of a friend (in Alaska of all places) did a planer conversion for a shaper I know. I had a look at it the other day and it’s lovely and he only charged $50, he is retired and plays around in workshop for fun. I am gonna ask him to do me one, I have had enough of trying to make my cheap planer work (no adjustment on the fly, so I can’t foil properly). His name is Paul and he can be contacted via his blog - http://paulskvorc.com, in case anyone else looking for something similar cheap but done properly.

I’ve been using a Skil 100, since 1958, with steel blades.       It gets the job done, especially on the lighter/softer modern foam.     Use the HSS, and get the blade sharpening block from PeteC, for periodic touchups.