It is commonly known that commercially available uncoated hardmetals, cermets and Si3N4-based inserts are not suitable for high speed and dry machining of steel because of the chemical incompatibility of the above mentioned materials at elevated temperatures. Based on thermodynamic equilibrium solubility calculations, a number of potentially suitable ZrO2- and sialon-based ceramic composites with 30 vol.% of TiB2, TiC0.5N0.5 or TiN were selected and manufactured by means of uniaxial hot pressing. The calculated chemical stability was verified by means of static steel-ceramic interaction couple experiments at elevated temperatures. Actual turning tests were performed and the: predictive capabilities of the chemical stability calculations and interaction couple results were evaluated. In this paper, thermodynamic stability calculations, abrasive wear susceptibility estimates and interaction couple experiments are used in order to elucidate the chemical compatibility of novel ceramic composites and steel and to predict the actual relative wear behaviour under those conditions in which chemical wear is the predominant mode of tool wear. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.