© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature.Water-based metalworking fluids are applied in the form of a liquid jet to flood the entire cutting zone and increase the tool life. The objective of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of flood cooling in reducing the tool chip interface temperatures during continuous cutting. An instrumented smart cutting tool with a thin film temperature sensor was fabricated to accurately measure the real-time cutting temperatures from 1.3 µm below the tool chip interface in orthogonal turning of AISI 4140 steel under dry and flood cooling conditions. The cutting process was simulated in Deform 2D with the Johnson–Cook material model to present the transient temperature distributions on the coated cutting insert. The heat flux into the cutting tool was also estimated analytically and then three-dimensional finite element heat transfer simulations were performed to determine the maximum convective heat transfer of the cutting fluid in steady state. The measurements with the embedded thermocouple showed that flood cooling with a water-based cutting fluid slightly lowers the tool chip interface temperature. Moreover, the chip color may not be a good characteristic indicator to evaluate the cutting temperature in machining of metals. It was also found that flood cooling becomes more effective at a distance of approximately 150 µm from the cutting edge where the chip does not contact the rake face of the cutting tool.