High speed steel [note 1] (HSS or HS) is a subset of tool steels, usually used in tool bits and cutting tools. It is often used in power saw blades and drill bits. It is superior to the older high carbon steel tools used extensively through the 1940s in that it can withstand higher temperatures without losing its temper (hardness). This property allows HSS to cut faster than high carbon steel, hence the name high speed steel. At room temperature, in their generally recommended heat treatment, HSS grades generally display high hardness (above HRC60) and a high abrasion resistance (generally linked to tungsten content often used in HSS) compared to common carbon and tool steels.

The main use of high speed steels continues to be in the manufacture of various cutting tools: drills, taps, milling cutters, tool bits, gear cutters, saw blades, etc., although usage for punches and dies is increasing. High speed steels also found a market in fine hand tools where their relatively good toughness at high hardness, coupled with high abrasion resistance and fine, made them suitable for low speed applications requiring a durable keen (sharp) edge, such as files, chisels, hand plane blades, and high quality kitchen and pocket knives.


M2 is a high speed steel in tungsten-molybdenum series. The carbides in it are small and evenly distributed. It has high wear resistance. After heat treatment, its hardness is the same as T1, but its bending strength can reach 4700 MPa, and its toughness and thermoplasticity are higher than T1 by 50%. It is usually used to manufacture a variety of tools, such as drill bits, taps and reamers. Its decarbonization sensitivity is a little bit high.


M35 is similar to M2, but with 5% cobalt added. The addition of cobalt increases heat resistance.


M42 is a molybdenum-chromium-vanadium-tungsten high speed steel alloy with an additional 8% cobalt. It is widely used in metal manufacturing because of its superior red-hardness as compared to more conventional high-speed steels, allowing for shorter cycle times in production environments due to higher cutting speeds or from the increase in time between tool changes. M42 is also less prone to chipping when used for interrupted cuts and cost less when compared to the same tool made of carbide. Tools made from cobalt-bearing high speed steels can often be identified by the letters HSS-Co.

High Speed Steel Technical Chart