Stainless steel is a good example of a metal that is not easily machined. To explain such behavior an understanding of the fundamental adhesion between the workpiece and the tool is invaluable. It is a well-known fact that build-up layers form in the interface, but little attention has been given to the very first layer that adheres to the tool surface. Although this layer rapidly becomes covered by successive material transfer, this layer and its ability to stick to the tool surface control the successive material transfer and influence the cutting properties. In this work, a quick stop test is employed to interrupt the cutting of a 316L stainless steel using a TiN-coated cemented carbide cutting insert. Different analytical techniques, such as transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy, as well as theoretical atomistic modeling, were used to study the early adhesion.