We’ve all been there, standing in the tool aisle with a carbide saw blade in one hand and a tungsten carbide blade in the other. What’s the difference, and more important, which is better? Turns out, the first question is easier to answer than the second- it’s likely that both blades are tungsten carbide. How do I know? Because I recently spoke with Zach Geschke, Milwaukee Tool’s Senior Materials Engineer. Here’s what I learned.
What is carbide?
For starters, did you know that it’s technically incorrect to refer to carbide as just “carbide.” All carbides are a composites containing carbon and one other ingredient, usually a super hard metal like titanium, vanadium or tungsten. So “carbide” is wrong, whereas “tungsten carbide” or “titanium carbide” is correct.
And to get even more technical, when you’re talking about carbide cutting blades, the proper name is “cemented carbide composites.” Cemented carbide composites are a mix of a carbide composite and a binder that holds everything together. Common binders include nickel, iron, and cobalt, which is the most prevalent.
Carbide composites are most often joined to steel with one of the following methods: mechanical, brazing (hard soldering), welding, adhesives and pressure bonding.
Most carbide cutting tools used by construction professionals are made of tungsten carbide. That’s because it’s incredibly hard; it has great wear and impact resistance, and it’s readily available to manufacturers.
Which carbide is best?
Not only do the ingredients in carbide vary, but there are also different grades within each cemented carbide composite that are more suitable for one application over another. Unfortunately, that means there really is no way to tell if one carbide cutting edge is superior to another. A better way to determine which tool to buy is to consider the other design elements of the tool. Also, stick with the tool or blade that indicates right on the package which types of materials it can cut efficiently and safely.
Click here for some great circular saw cutting tips.