This paper describes a comparison of tool life between ceramics and cubic boron nitride (CBN) cutting tools when machining hardened bearing steels using the Taguchi method. An Orthogonal design, signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) and analysis of variance (ANOVA) were employed to determine the effective cutting parameters on the tool life. First order linear and exponential models were carried out to find out the correlation between cutting time and independent variables. Second order regression model was also extended from the first order model when considering the effect of cutting speed (V), feed rate V), hardness of cutting tool (TH) and two-way of interactions amongst V, f, TH variables. The results indicated that the V was found to be a dominant factor on the tool life, followed by the TH, lastly the f. The CBN cutting tool showed the best performance than that of ceramic based cutting tool. In addition, optimal testing parameter for cutting times was determined. The confirmation of experiment was conducted to verify the optimal testing parameter. Furthermore, the second order regression model and exponential model supported the first order model regarding the prediction capability. Improvements of the S/N ratio from initial testing parameters to optimal cutting parameters or prediction capability depended on the S/N ratio and ANOVA results. Moreover, the ANOVA indicated that the cutting speed was a higher significant but other parameters were also significant effects on the tool lives at 90% confidence level. The percentage contributions of the cutting speed, tool's hardness, and feed rate were about 41.63, 32.68, and 25.22 on the tool life, respectively. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.