HSS vs. Carbide Drill Bits – 10 Quick Facts!

HSS and carbide drill bits are both the same in color. Those are bright finished drill bits. When some coating is applied to the HSS drill bits, their color can be changed. Carbide drill bits are stronger than HSS drill bits. HSS drill bits can be used on limited metals. But carbide drill bits can be used on most of metals due to their high hardness. HSS drill bits need to sharpen when it is used frequently. But carbide drill bits are not needed to sharpen frequently. More than that, HSS drill bits have a higher cost per hole than carbide drill bits.

01. HSS Drill Bits Are Cheaper Than Carbide Drill Bits

High-Speed Steel (HSS) drill bits are generally less expensive than carbide drill bits. The manufacturing process for HSS drill bits is simpler and less expensive compared to Carbide drill bits.

HSS drill bits can be produced by conventional methods, while Carbide drill bits require specialized equipment and techniques.

Further, HSS drill bits can be coated with materials like titanium nitride or black oxide to increase their wear resistance and extend their lifespan. These coatings are less expensive than the coatings used on Carbide drill bits, which can also contribute to lower costs.

Carbide drill bits also have a longer lifespan than HSS drill bits and are less likely to wear out or break during use. However, they are more difficult to resharpen than HSS drill bits, and they require more specialised equipment to do so.

However, carbide drill bits tend to be more durable and can last longer than HSS drill bits, which can make them a better long-term investment for certain applications.

Black oxide coated HSS drill bits
HSS drill bits are coated with black oxide drill bits. It improves physical properties of HSS drill bits

02. Carbide Drill Bits Are Stronger Than HSS Drill Bits

The HRC value of carbide drill bits can vary depending on the specific composition and manufacturing process used to create them.

However, in general, carbide drill bits typically have a hardness rating of around 90 HRC or higher. 

This high level of hardness allows carbide drill bits to withstand high temperatures and resist wear and chipping, making them a popular choice for drilling into tough materials such as metal and concrete.

HSS drill bits typically have a lower HRC value than carbide drill bits. The exact HRC value can depend on the specific type and grade of HSS used, as well as the manufacturing process used to create the drill bit. 

However, HSS drill bits typically have an HRC value of around 60 to 66. While HSS drill bits are not as hard as carbide drill bits, they are still able to withstand high temperatures and can be used to drill into a wide range of materials, including wood, plastic, and soft metals. 

HSS and carbide drill bit
HSS drill bit and carbide drill bits

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03. Carbide Drill Bits Are Faster Than HSS

Carbide drill bits are known for their exceptional hardness and durability, making them ideal for drilling hard materials.

Compared to High-Speed Steel (HSS) drill bits, carbide drill bits are faster due to their lower coefficient of friction, better heat control, and increased rigidity. 

The lower coefficient of friction encountered by carbide drill bits means they experience less resistance as they penetrate the workpiece, resulting in a faster drilling speed.

They also generate less heat, reducing the likelihood of the bit overheating or becoming dull. Additionally, the tungsten carbide material is an excellent conductor of heat, dissipating heat more effectively than HSS bits. 

Lastly, carbide drill bits are more rigid than HSS bits, maintaining their shape and sharpness during drilling, resulting in a more efficient and faster drilling process.

These features make carbide drill bits ideal for high-volume production environments where speed and efficiency are essential.

Carbide drill bit on CNC
Carbide drill bits are used on CNC machines in order to gain faster cutting and drillings

04. Carbide Drill Bits Have Longer Service Life Than HSS

Generally, carbide drill bits have a longer lifespan than HSS (high-speed steel) drill bits. This is because carbide is a much harder and more durable material than HSS. Carbide drill bits are made from a combination of tungsten carbide and cobalt.

This material is extremely hard and can withstand much higher temperatures than HSS, making it ideal for drilling through hard materials. 

On the other hand, HSS drill bits are made from a type of high-speed steel that is softer than carbide. While HSS bits are still very durable and can withstand high temperatures, they tend to wear out more quickly than carbide bits, especially when drilling through tough materials.

That being said, the lifespan of a drill bit also depends on several factors, including the quality of the bit, the material being drilled, the drilling speed and technique, and the maintenance of the bit.

Proper maintenance, such as keeping the bit clean and lubricated, can significantly extend the lifespan of both carbide and HSS drill bits.

05. HSS Drill Bits Are Easy To Re Sharpen

In general, High-Speed Steel (HSS) drill bits are easier to sharpen than carbide drill bits. Carbide is a very hard material, and it requires a diamond wheel or similar abrasive to sharpen it. HSS, on the other hand, can be sharpened with a regular grinding wheel.

The main reason why HSS is easier to sharpen is that it is more forgiving of heat buildup during the sharpening process.

When you sharpen a drill bit, the friction between the grinding wheel and the bit generates heat. Too much heat can damage the temper of the steel, making it less effective at cutting.

HSS can withstand higher temperatures without losing its hardness, making it more forgiving of mistakes during the sharpening process.

Sharpening drill bits can be a tricky process, and it requires some skill and practice to do it correctly. It is also worth noting that not all HSS drill bits are created equal, and some may be more difficult to sharpen than others, depending on the quality of the steel and the coating of the bit.

06. Carbide Drill Bits Have a Lower Cost per Hole

Normally, carbide drill bits are more expensive than HSS drill bits. As well as, many holes can be drilled using carbide drill bits. It can be thousand times considering the HSS drill bits.

How much we are spent on the hole is measured as the cost per hole. When the number of holes increases, the cost per hole decreases. Hence using a carbide drill bit always provides the lowest cost per hole every time.

07. Carbide Drill Bits Are More Versatile Than HSS

Carbide drill bit
A carbide drill bit is a stronger drill bit. Hence it can be used for wide range of materials.

When it comes to versatility, both carbide and HSS drill bits have their strengths and weaknesses. High-Speed Steel (HSS) drill bits are versatile because they can be used on a wide range of materials, including wood, metal, plastic, and composites. They are suitable for general-purpose drilling tasks and can handle most drilling jobs with ease. 

Carbide drill bits, on the other hand, are more versatile when it comes to drilling harder materials, such as ceramics, glass, and hardened steel.

They are also highly resistant to wear and can maintain their sharpness for longer than HSS bits. However, carbide bits are more brittle than HSS bits and can chip or break if used improperly. They are also more expensive than HSS bits, which can be a consideration for some users.

Accordingly, HSS bits are versatile and cost-effective for general-purpose drilling tasks, while carbide bits are ideal for drilling hard materials and demanding applications but are more expensive and require careful handling.

08. HSS Are Good For Starters and Newbies

For inexperienced users, High-Speed Steel (HSS) drill bits are generally a better choice than carbide drill bits. HSS bits are more forgiving and less likely to break or chip when used improperly, making them easier and safer to use for beginners. 

They are also more cost-effective than carbide bits, which can be an important consideration for hobbyists or DIY enthusiasts who don’t need to drill hard materials on a regular basis. HSS bits are readily available in most hardware stores and come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, making them a versatile and convenient option for most drilling applications.

That being said, carbide bits may be necessary if the inexperienced user needs to drill hard or abrasive materials, such as ceramics or hardened steel. However, they should be used cautiously and properly to avoid chipping or breaking. Due to such reasons, HSS drill bits are a popular choice for hobbyists and inexperienced users.

09. Carbide Drill Bits Can Be Used For High-Temperature Drilling Applications

Solid carbide drill bit
Carbide drill bits have inside cooling flow. Hence it can be used for fast drilling purposes with higher temperatures.

Carbide drill bits generally perform better than HSS drill bits in high-temperature drilling applications. Carbide drill bits are made of a material that is highly resistant to heat and can withstand much higher temperatures than HSS bits.

This makes them ideal for drilling materials that generate a lot of heat during the drilling process, such as high-strength alloys, hardened steels, and abrasive materials like ceramics and composites.

In contrast, HSS drill bits can become dull or even soften when exposed to high temperatures, which can lead to reduced performance and premature wear. While HSS bits can be used in high-temperature drilling applications, they may require frequent sharpening or replacement.

That being said, carbide drill bits can be more brittle than HSS bits and require careful handling to avoid chipping or breaking. They are also more expensive than HSS bits and may not be necessary for all high-temperature drilling applications.

10. Carbide Drill Bits Are More Accurate Than HSS

In general, carbide drill bits are more accurate than HSS drill bits due to their superior hardness and rigidity. However, the accuracy of any drill bit depends on a variety of factors and can be improved with proper techniques and conditions.

Carbide drill bits are made of a material that is much harder and more rigid than HSS, which means they are less likely to wander during the drilling process. This results in more accurate and consistent holes, especially when drilling through tough materials.

In contrast, HSS drill bits can be more prone to wandering, which can result in inaccuracies or deviations from the desired hole size or shape. This is especially true when drilling through harder materials or using larger diameter bits.

Tom Mackency

Tom Mackency

Hi, I am Tom Mackency. It has been 10 years that I have been working as a professional woodworker since 2013. I am really enjoying my carrier by creating many kinds of projects in my workshop. But mostly I like for home improvement projects. Home improvement and DIY projects are the most interesting things for me. More than that, the coolest things are power tools. Those are very precious and efficient than a decade ago. So I try to introduce so many things about power tools, woodworking, DIY projects, home improvement and many more interesting topics here.