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I always choose HSS over carbide for making staffs. Although the carbide edge will last longer the HSS edge can be ground and honed sharper providing a better finish. For me when doing one off non-production work using HSS applies whether using hand gravers or a cutting tool in a tool post. It’s also easier to grind HSS into whatever geometry you may want. For production work then Carbide or Ceramic inserts always win. Also as Paul mentioned carbide is excellent for machining wear hardened metal.
I purchase M2 blanks for making both hand gravers and tool post gravers.
When making staffs I normally use W1 (or W2 when I can find it in small enough sizes). HSS will easily cut this tool steel after heat treating and tempering. W2 is the same as W1 except it has a higher percentage of Vanadium than W1 which helps maintain a finer grain structure during and after the heat treating process which I think not only helps give a better surface finish when machining but a better finish after burnishing or polishing.