Although scroll saws and bands saws are helpful power tools that will help you refine your woodworking, using one or the other will yield different results. Similar at first glance, the tools are used by both professional woodworkers and amateurs, but each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Whether you want to perfect your skills or begin your woodworking journey, you must understand which tools best serve you. We’ll break down the key features of each saw, examining their advantages and disadvantages, to help you make an informed decision and take your woodworking to the next level.
- What Is a Scroll Saw?
- What Is a Band Saw?
- Things to Keep in Mind When Deciding Between a Scroll Saw and a Band Saw
- Scroll Saw vs. Band Saw Debate: Where Do You Land?
A scroll saw is a power saw that slightly resembles a sewing machine. Its long, thin blade is attached to a motorized arm, enabling the blade to go up and down rapidly. The blade’s automatic movement allows you to have complete control of the piece of wood, changing its position to achieve the desired pattern and design. It’s also possible to rotate the saw and adjust the blade’s speed by pushing a small switch or pedal.
Scroll saws are an excellent option for creating complex wood patterns, thanks to this user-friendly construction. In addition, the tool is typically used to create jigsaw puzzles or intricate figurines.
To better understand a scroll saw’s efficiency, let’s look at some of its main benefits.
Ideal for Creating Precise Shapes
Thanks to its elongated and thin blades, a scroll saw boasts impressive precision, enabling you to complete projects that involve delicate curves and complicated shapes quickly. A scroll saw is the most reliable tool if you want to decorate furniture or toys with attractive and clean patterns. You’ll often see the clean cuts a scroll saw makes on decorative pieces like puzzles or figurines. As these items are small, a scroll saw minimizes the possibility of mistakes and keeps the shapes distinct.
Relatively Easy to Use
Scroll saws have foot pedals or switches to control the blade speed, so they’re relatively easy to use even with limited woodworking experience. However, depending on the nature of your project and the material, it’s essential to tweak the speed to achieve optimal results.
A scroll saw will give you a firmer grip on the material. It allows you to maneuver it into the desired position without pausing and setting down the wood. If you notice the machine is struggling to cut through the wood, press down on the foot pedal. The increased speed will enable you to get the shape you want without difficulty.
Additionally, most models come with a high-tech dust collector that eliminates wood dust as you work. The thick dust could impair your vision and lower your efficiency. However, the collector lets you complete your project quickly without stopping every so often to remove the dust manually.
Great for Making Plunge Cuts
Plunge cuts are considered to be the most challenging part of woodworking. To make a precise plunge cut, you need to create a shape on the wood’s surface. Without the right tools, it’s easy to make a mistake and create uneven lines, giving the wood piece an unsightly appearance. However, the compactness of a scroll saw makes it the ideal plunge cutting instrument.
While other saws require you to have advanced technical skills to decorate wood surfaces with small and precise patterns, a scroll saw bypasses this issue. After you drill the initial hole, drop the blade into it. When you power on the saw, move the piece of wood until you’re satisfied with the shape.
You can smooth out the process by sketching the pattern before making the plunge cut. Professionals also prefer this method to ensure a clean shape with no wood damage.
Before committing to a scroll saw, you also need to know its main drawbacks.
Not Suitable for Thicker Materials
A scroll saw’s blades are 1/4 inch thick and can cut through materials such as wood, thin metals, and plexiglass. However, the thickness of the material influences the type of power tool you’ll use. Scroll saws perform best when used with soft materials whose thickness doesn’t exceed 1 inch. The maximum thickness most models can handle is 2 inches.
Before beginning a project, it’s best to pick out materials that are easy to work with to avoid damaging the tool. For example, if you plan on cutting a more rigid 2-inch piece of wood, you risk ruining your scroll saw’s blade. On the other hand, sticking to softer materials between 1/4 and 3/4 inches will significantly prolong your scroll saw’s service life and prevent costly repairs.
Not Suitable for Straight Cuts
Although you can use a scroll saw to get a short straight cut, the tool is meant for creative work with many sudden curves that form ornate patterns. For example, a scroll saw will get the job beautifully done if you’re etching a portrait or landscape onto a smaller board. But it won’t perform as well when you need to make a long straight line.
The tool lacks the support necessary for longer cuts, and you won’t have control over its movement unless you’re cutting curved shapes. Instead, consider opting for a saw with more guidance and power for such projects.
A band saw is a powerful piece of equipment and is more versatile than a scroll saw. The tool can cut through more durable materials like metal with the appropriate blades. The saw’s two wheels allow the blade to rotate instead of going up and down, making cleaner and more accurate cuts. The thicker blade is perfect for handling large wood pieces that won’t fit other models like scroll saws.
Additionally, many models come with a working table you can angle in different directions for increased accuracy. Finally, to achieve a specific design, users modify the pressure of the blades by pressing the saw’s pressure handles. Generally, band saws are the way to go for demanding projects like making furniture, shelves, boxes, etc.
Let’s look at how a band saw can benefit your next woodworking project.
Makes Straight Cuts With Ease
This device is excellent for creating several thinner pieces out of thicker wooden slabs. In addition, it offers the necessary support for making long straight cuts. To successfully resaw thicker materials, look for band saws with a wall where you’ll rest the material you’re working on. It’s commonly referred to as a fence, and it allows you to precisely push the wood piece into the blade without losing control over the power saw.
It Works Fast
Operating a band saw only requires you to move the material towards the blade, meaning you can complete more challenging projects quickly. In addition, the tool’s efficiency makes it a popular choice for construction workers. They often carry it onto their job sites to complete woodworking tasks and beat their deadlines.
Compared to scroll saws, bands saws offer more versatility since they allow you to work with durable materials between 4 and 6-inches thick. Due to their high resistance to wear and boosted toughness, these machines can be used for making irregular cuts or long straight lines. Whereas a scroll saw is considered a niche tool that best suits small-scale decorative projects, a band saw can complete more complex tasks such as making furniture, jewelry boxes, name plaques, birdhouses, etc.
Although a band saw can tackle more challenging materials like thicker metals, it does have several drawbacks you should consider before making a final decision.
Can Be Expensive
The steeper price tag reflects the durability and reliability of a band saw. More expensive than scroll saws, these models are built to last for years with minimal repairs. As a result, they’re a long-term investment usually purchased for commercial and professional settings.
If you decide to turn your home projects into a small business, a band saw is a high-return investment that might be right for you. Although pricing is an important aspect, it shouldn’t be the key element in selecting the appropriate power tool. Other notable factors include the nature of your projects, your skill set level, and the time you intend to dedicate to woodworking.
Not Suitable for Plunge Cuts
While it’s perfect for making straight cuts, a band saw cannot create intricate inlay work. Plunge cuts are decorative pieces etched into softer material that won’t withstand the power of a band saw.
Things to Keep in Mind When Deciding Between a Scroll Saw and a Band Saw
To summarize what we’ve learned from our scroll saw and band saw discussion, let’s examine what you should remember when making up your mind.
A scroll saw might be the perfect fit for you if:
- You enjoy arts and crafts projects and want to make toys and decorations with beautiful wood carvings.
- You don’t want to strain your household budget.
- You work with softwood pieces and want increased precision with minimal sanding to correct mistakes.
Investing in a band saw is a good idea if:
- You want to perfect your furniture-making skills.
- You prefer to work with thicker slabs of wood.
Finally, you’re ready to make a high-return investment and turn your woodworking hobby into a small business.
Scroll Saw vs. Band Saw Debate: Where Do You Land?
Now that you understand where each saw excels and falls short, the ball is in your court. Both will be reliable aides if they align with the purpose of your project, your skill level, budget, and personal preference.
Art and crafts enthusiasts will get good use of a precise and relatively easy-to-handle scroll saw. On the other hand, the versatility of a band saw allows you to complete more demanding tasks and quickly upgrade your home with unique furniture. It also takes the hassle out of making straight cuts when working with heavier materials.