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High-speed steel circular saw blades are widely used in industry for a variety of cut-off operations that require a combination of high-dimensional accuracy and a good-quality surface finish. The authors have been involved in an extensive programme of work to evaluate the effectiveness of applying advanced surface engineering treatments to enhance the performance and life characteristics of this form of tool. The work included optimizing cutting conditions with respect to tool performance when machining different workpiece materials, characterizing the wear mechanisms developed throughout tool life, and evaluating of the effect of different substrate surface preparations and advanced surface engineering treatments on the performance and wear characteristics of the tool.One interesting feature to arise from the work that has not been reported elsewhere has been the notable variation in performance and wear characteristics of nominally identical tools machining materials with similar hardness. The current paper compares the performance and wear characteristics of high-speed steel circular saw blades machining a tool steel and a nimonic nickel-based alloy (340–390 Hv). These are termed “difficult to cut” materials because of their poor machinability. A comparison is also made of the performance and wear characteristics of an Inconel nickel-based alloy and a low-carbon steel (120–150 Hv), both of which exhibit good machining characteristics. Differences identified between the resulting wear mechanisms emphasize the difficulties inherent in developing a universal tooth geometry and advanced surface engineering coating system that would be effective for all machining applications.