Abstract Ultrafine grained WC–0.6VC–10Co hardmetals are produced by monoaxial vacuum hot pressing (MVHP) between 1280 and 1320 °C around the eutectic temperature of the alloy. The microstructure and properties of the resulting hardmetals show that fully densified alloys can be obtained when MVHP is carried out at temperatures ≥1300 °C starting from commercially available ultrafine WC and cobalt powders. In the fully densified hardmetals, the grain size of WC is not increased. The average grain interception is between 169 and 179 nm and hardness values are over HV 30 2000. The Palmqvist toughness ( K c) of the hardmetals increases with sintering temperature; the highest value obtained is 517 N/mm at 1320 °C. The distribution of the Co binder is almost completely homogeneous at micro level but still inhomogeneous at submicron level. In order to further improve the toughness of the ultrafine WC–VC–10Co hardmetals, the optimization of the composition, the use of pressure-assisted liquid phase sintering, and the optimization of the milling regime are discussed.