As a craftsman, machinist, or custom tool manufacturer, your carbide-tipped tools are some of the most important implements in your arsenal. When they’re sharp, they can make your work faster, easier, and safer. But when they’re dull, they can—quite literally—grind your production down to a halt.
Unfortunately, carbide is one of the toughest materials to work with, so achieving that perfect edge isn’t always easy. In fact, it takes a lot of careful planning and execution. The good news is, as a specialty tool sharpening shop, we know a thing or two about how to properly maintain your custom carbide tips.
To that end, here is our step-by-step guide for achieving the ideal edge on your carbide-tipped tools.
1. START WITH A CLEAN SURFACE
Cleanliness is key when sharpening carbide tools—or any tools for that matter. Any dirt, debris, or build-up on the surface will only get in the way of achieving a sharp edge and can dull the tool more quickly. So, before you even begin sharpening, use a clean cloth to wipe down the tip and ensure the surface is free of any obstructions.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
The next step is to select the right equipment for the job. At Special Tools, we use state-of-the-art CNC grinders with diamond wheels specifically designed for carbide tips. This ensures a precise, consistent edge with every sharpening. For more on this, follow our guide on how to use a CNC grinder to sharpen and refine your tools.
If you don’t have access to a professional-grade machine, you can also use a handheld rotary tool with a diamond bit. Just be sure to go slowly and apply light pressure to avoid damaging the tip.
The type of grinding wheel you use will ultimately depend on the material of your carbide tip. For example, if you’re working with tungsten carbide, you’ll need to use a different wheel than if you’re working with something a little softer, such as titanium carbide.
Since tungsten carbide is one of the hardest materials on Earth, you’ll want to use a diamond wheel because it can withstand the high temperatures and extreme hardness of carbide without wearing down too quickly. Plus, it will give you a cleaner cut and help extend the life of your tool.
3. FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER’S INSTRUCTIONS
Each manufacturer has its own specific sharpening instructions for its carbide tips. So, before beginning the sharpening process, make sure to consult the owner’s manual or website for guidance. This will ensure you don’t accidentally damage the carbide tip beyond repair.
One of the most important aspects of sharpening carbide tools is maintaining a consistent angle. The general rule of thumb is to sharpen at a 10-15 degree angle, but again, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific piece.
4. TAKE YOUR TIME AND APPLY LIGHT PRESSURE
When it comes to grinding carbide, more pressure is not better. Carbide tips are extremely hard, so you can’t just go at them with all your might. Instead, take your time and sharpen slowly and steadily. Apply only enough pressure to keep the tip in contact with the wheel without causing excessive heat build-up.
5. USE A COOLANT
Speaking of excessive heat build-up, another important tip for sharpening carbide is to always use a coolant. This will help keep the tip from overheating and becoming damaged. You can use water or a commercial coolant designed specifically for carbide, but either way, be sure to apply it generously and often.
6. CHECK YOUR PROGRESS REGULARLY
Last but not least, don’t forget to check your progress at regular intervals. Carbide is very hard (and sometimes rather finicky), so it can take a while to grind down to the opportune sharpness. Stop and check the edge of your tool regularly to make sure you’re removing an even amount of material and not overshooting your desired angle.
HAVE YOU CONSIDERED GETTING YOUR CARBIDE TIPS PROFESSIONALLY SHARPENED?
By following these six simple steps, you can achieve the perfect edge on your carbide-tipped tools every time. But if you want to take the guesswork—or work in general for that matter—out of the equation, perhaps it’s time to trust the carbide sharpening pros at Special Tools.
Our tooling experts have decades of experience using commercial CNC grinders and can help you get the most out of your cutting tools. At a time when the initial cost of custom carbide tools can be very high, we make sure you get your full use out of them with precision sharpening.
Our in-house inspection team can verify rake angles, flute depth, variable helixes, and other stringent specifications to ensure peak OEM performance. Click here to get a free resharpening estimate or give us a call at 763-753-6515. And if you ever have any questions or need assistance, the experts at Special Tools are always here to help.