If you’re a woodworker, then you probably have an assortment of saws: band saws, scroll saws, miter saws, jigsaws, and more.
To the handyman and DIYer, the scroll saws and band saws might look pretty similar at first glance. However, there’s the main difference in their purpose. Both can be used to cut curves, but where a scroll saw is a specialty tool used for intricate and detailed work, the band saw is mostly used to cut straight lines on thick materials, but mainly on wood.
The differences don’t stop here, as these two pieces of equipment use different blades and offer different features. To decide which tool is best for you, you’ll have to consider the type of job you want to perform. With a specific project in mind, choosing between a band saw and a scroll saw is easy.
So, let’s get started!
What is a scroll saw?
A scroll saw is a small power tool that uses thin, short reciprocating blades to cut intricate curves in wood, mostly, but also in metal and other materials. These blades, which are usually less than ¼-inch wide only about 6-inches long, move up and down (in a reciprocating motion) at very high speeds that you can control by pressing on the pedal.
This tool has a flat worktable with a column that comes straight up from the back. This column ends at the top on an arm that runs parallel to the table. The blade is mounted vertically on the end of the arm, through the table, and down to the mechanism underneath the table.
If you go shopping for a scroll saw, you’ll have to pay attention to the throat and the throat size. The throat is the horizontal distance between the blade and the overarm (the place where the column joins the table).
Throat size is important because it determines how big of a piece you can cut. The larger the throat, the larger the material it can handle. Throat sizes usually come from 12 inches to 30 inches, and to know the size of the piece you can work with, you should double to throat size.
What you should keep in mind, however, is that you’re going to need a bit of wiggle room to make detailed cuts, so if your scroll saw has a 12-inch throat, your workpiece should be roughly 24 inches.
When it comes to the length of the material you can cut with a scroll saw, you’re going to be a bit limited. You can’t push long wood pieces through the blade because they will eventually hit the column.
Blades are another important feature of scroll saws. As we’ve mentioned before, the blades are usually 6-inches long, which might be a problem if your project involves cutting thick pieces of wood.
Scroll saw blades can’t cut wood that’s thicker than 2 inches, and even that will be hard to achieve since you have to account for the reciprocating motion of the blade itself. For optimal results, it’s best to stick to pieces that are 1 inch thick or less.
However, there is one big advantage to mention here: changing the blades and adjusting the tension is quick and very easy to do. This is what sets the scroll saw apart from the band saw.
You can remove the blade and then place it through a pre-drilled hole to cut internal profiles when you don’t have an entry slot. This feature is incredibly useful when you need to cut delicate and intricate designs, and it’s something that can’t be done with a band saw.
What is a band saw?
We’ve said before that scroll saws and band saws look similar, and that’s because band saws have a flat worktable with a blade running perpendicular to the center, too. But the design is the only thing they have in common.
Band saws are a lot more powerful than scroll saws because they’re equipped with a stronger motor that has a higher RPM and overall output. What’s more, band saws have an open front and back, so you can work with thicker and longer pieces of wood.
On a band saw, the throat size only refers to the width of the cut that can be completed with the tool. It’s measured by the distance between the blade and the column of the saw and determined by the size of the wheels because they dictate the shape and size of the blade.
You don’t have to worry too much about the throat size of a band saw, as it won’t influence the size of the piece you can fit on the table.
Blades are one of the biggest differences between the scroll saw and the band saw, particularly as regards their motion, size, and thickness.
Where the scroll saw blades are thin and move in a reciprocating motion, the band saw blades are circular, flexible, and move in a continuous downward motion. You’ll also notice that most band saws have a 2-wheel system.
The wheels are placed one above and the other below the table, or two in each position if the saw has a 4-wheel system. The blade stretches over the wheels and forms a rotating band (hence the name of the tool) that moves as the wheels move.
Scroll saw blades are quite versatile, and there’s a wide range of options you can choose from to complete different jobs. There are thin blades that allow you to get detailed cuts, but they won’t be as smooth as with a scroll saw.
However, if you equip this tool with the right blade, you can cut plastic, thick wood, and even metal.
When to use Band Saw Vs Scroll Saw
The key to deciding whether a scroll saw or a band saw is the right tool for you lies in defining the kind of jobs you plan to do because they can be used for very different purposes.
When should I use a scroll saw?
Scroll saws are fast, but not powerful machines, which means that you can only work with small and thin materials. Clean and intricate cuts are this saw’s specialty, so if you’re interested in doing crafts and decorative pieces, the scroll saw is the tool for you. Especially because you can use it for inside plunge cuts.
Creating pieces that require a high level of detail and maneuverability is a piece of cake with a scroll saw. Some projects that you can tackle include making jigsaw puzzles, wooden letters, numbers, and names, wooden plaques with detailed or curved edges, animal silhouettes, holiday ornaments, dollhouse furniture, and more.
However, if you need to make long straight cuts or thick materials, then the scroll saw isn’t the right tool for you. Even if you upgrade the blades, the motor and the tool’s design won’t allow you to work with bigger pieces.
When should I use a band saw?
Band saws are perfect for power-demanding tasks. What’s more, there’s no limit on the size and thickness of the piece you can cut. In fact, as long as you have the right blade, the only limitation is how much room there is between the worktable and the top of the machine.
Making aggressive and long, straight cuts is what the scroll saw was designed to do. Since the blade always goes in the same direction, there’s not even the slightest deviation from the path.
You can also tilt the table to get angled cuts up to 45 degrees, and with the proper blades, you can even make curved cuts such as arches and circles.
While you can’t be as detailed with a band saw, there are still some fun projects you can use it for, such as making pieces of furniture (tables, nightstands, and so on), shelves, planter boxes, and anything else you can come up with.
Bear in mind that band saws leave a lot of rough edges behind that you’ll need to sand down and smooth out afterward. You also won’t be able to get the intricate cut-outs you can achieve with a scroll saw, as you can’t drill a hole and thread the blade through it.
Thank you for reading our post on band saws vs. scroll saws! You’ll find no winners here since the scroll saw and the band saw are used for very different purposes.
The scroll saw is perfect for intricate and detailed projects, but they’re limited on the length, width, and thickness of material they can cut. They’re not suitable for long, straight cuts, but they’re one of the few tools that can do inside cuts.
The band saw has no restrictions on the size and thickness of material it can cut if it’s fitted with the proper blade. They can be used to cut other materials and not only wood. However, they can’t make precise cuts and leave rough edges.
As you can see, the scroll saw is perfect for crafting small pieces that require finesse, whereas the band saw is the best option for larger, heavy-duty projects.