The use of superalloy Inconel 718 is increasing in most of the sophisticated applications like aircraft engines, industrial gas turbines, rocket engines, space vehicles, submarines, etc. Hence, in-depth understanding of this material helps to determine the ability of this material to withstand severe conditions of stress, temperature, corrosion, and controls its longevity and reliability. In the present work, an attempt has been made to study the relationship of degree of work hardening and tool life as a function of cutting parameters like cutting speed, feed, depth of cut, untreated tungsten carbide and postcryogenic-treated tool. Work hardening and tool life are the major factors which need to be controlled/improved to enhance the machinability characteristics of superalloy Inconel 718. A significant performance in tool life was observed due to cryogenic treatment given to tungsten carbide tool. Moreover, it was observed that optimized cutting parameters not only minimized/controlled work hardening characteristics but also improved tool life while high-speed machining of Inconel 718. © Springer-Verlag London Limited 2011.