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Cutter Materials

Cutter Materials
  HSS - High Speed Steel
Good quality HSS Cutters are machined from a single piece of High Speed Steel, to the required flute profile and ground to a fine edge. Inferior types have a body produced from cast steel. Generally HSS cutters are less expensive than their TCT grades, but are more suited to those applications where a superior finish is required on specific materials such as non-abrasive natural timbers, PVC and acrylics (non-tinted varieties). HSS cutters are often used in conjunction with more durable TCT cutters of similar size and profile, the latter removing the bulk of the waste and the former to make a light finishing cut to achieve a non-feathered edge.

TCT - Tungsten Carbide Tipped
These routers cutters again have the body and shank machined from high grade steel, but with tungsten carbide tips brazed onto each flute. They are more durable than HSS cutters, although they cannot be honed to such a sharp edge. Designed for cutting the most abrasive materials, under normal conditions they will outlast HSS grade cutters by many times over. They are able to keep their cutting edge more efficiently and preclude the need for constant re-sharpening. Small sized cutters have a solid carbide insert set into the shank rather than TC tips brazed to the flute(s). Tungsten carbide is an extremely hard material, but is prone to chipping when knocked or dropped against hard surfaces or other cutters. Applications include routing natural timbers, plywood, chipboard, fibreboard including medium density fibreboard (MDF) and hardboard, glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP), acrylics (tinted variety) and other abrasive plastics such as Tufnol®, and solid surface materials such as Corian®.
Cutter Materials
  STC - Solid Tungsten Carbide
Solid tungsten carbide cutters are ground from a solid piece of tungsten carbide and provide the greatest durability when used under stress load conditions, and where heat build-up can potentially damage the cutter or the material. They can also be ground to produce better plunge cutting characteristics than TCT and can be re-sharpened many times more. Furthermore, they will out perform TCT cutters as a harder grade of carbide can be used, as tip brazing operations are unnecessary.

Replaceable Tip Cutters
Replaceable tip cutters are comprised of a solid tungsten carbide blade held by retaining screws to a ground steel body. When dull, the blade can be rotated to expose up to three more cutting edges. While initially they are more expensive than standard TCT cutters, they prove effective in high production applications where ‘downtime’, required to change tooling, is kept to a minimum while allowing constant machine settings to be maintained. Their use is normally aimed at fixed head applications i.e. Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) routers. The smaller size cutters, are limited to hand held applications where abrasive materials necessitate the frequent renewal of a keen cutting edge.
Cutter Materials
  HSSE - Super High Speed Steel
Super High Speed Steel cutters are produced from a specially developed high grade steel, precision ground to the highest tolerances. They are generally used for specialised applications, typically by window and door fabricators for machining aluminium and uPVC extrusions. They are able to resist the abrasive nature of extruded anodised aluminium and will plunge drill and mill lateral slots in this material. However, they do require the use of a continuous coolant such as a water soluble oil or mist spray to maintain low cutting edge temperatures and to reduce the likelihood of ‘weld back’.
Cutter Materials
  PCD - Poly Crystalline Diamond
Polycrystalline Diamonds are bonded to tungsten carbide tips under extreme pressure and intense heat, resulting in a cutting edge that outlasts normal TCT many times over. Their expense warrants use only in very specialised or high-cost production applications on CNC or other large industrial fixed head routers with automatic feed. PCD tooling offers the highest cutting performance available with current manufacturing technology.
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