Scroll Saw vs. Band Saw – Differences Between These Tools

Scroll Saw vs. Band Saw – Differences Between These Tools

When it comes to tools we don’t always know all the applications that a certain tool can handle.  This would obviously ring true for many beginners.  There can be some difficulty for beginners in wood working when it comes to understanding the uses of the scroll saw vs the band saw and determining when to use which tool.


What’s the difference between a Scroll Saw vs Band Saw?

A scroll saw is an oscillating table saw designed to make more intricate finer cuts than any other saw.  It has smaller blades for these cuts and can create some very detailed woodworking projects.  A band saw is a larger more powerful tool for cutting thicker material.  A band saw does not do to much in the way of detailed work, but is very nice for taking on bigger cuts that cannot be accomplished by a scroll saw.

There are some very different aspects of these two tools and I have taken some time to go into detail on both tools and their applications for further reading below.

What’s a Band Saw? (Band Saw Features)

The band saw can be a fairly large cutting tool that is designed to cut larger, even thicker wood.  The size of the machine makes it one of those stationary machines where you cannot port it easily to a particular project.  If you purchase one of these machines you will definitely need a spot in your workshop to place it.  With that in mind, you will likely need some other accessories such as lighting and a chair.

I have noted that there are some band saws out there that now defy the notion of it being a stationary machine.  For example, the…

DEWALT 10 Amp 5-Inch Deep Cut Portable Band Saw

DEWALT 20V MAX Lithium-Ion Band Saw, Bare-Tool

Milwaukee 2429-21XC M12 Cordless Sub-Compact Bandsaw Kit

…are portable saws.  They look like nice tools and I might get one someday, however in my thoughts it almost looks like a glorified jig saw.  It does not look hands free as you have to touch the tool to make the cuts.

One great features about the band saw is that it is a hands free tool, meaning you don’t actually have to touch the tool to make the cuts, as apposed to a jig saw or a drill for example.  This is in similar to the scroll saw and makes it nice to hold onto the wood and push it through to make your cuts.

Band saws can have a range of blades and tooth configurations attached to it to vary the type of cutting you can do.  Depending on the blade and size of the blade, you can get as intricate as a jig saw.  As I mentioned earlier you can cut thicker wood as the band saw is vertically adjustable.

One of the biggest benefits of the band saw is the power of the tool to make very accurate cuts and to do so quickly.   Repetitive cuts can be made quick and simple with the band saw, so for quick cutting this tool will fit those types of jobs nicely.

When it comes to making cuts on other things besides wood, the band saw is my cutting tool of choice, even over the jig saw.  Ensure you use the right blade and obviously you will likely need to bring the item to be cut to the saw itself, unlike the jig saw.

Like the jig saw and the scroll saw the band saw have an oscillating blade that moves vertically.  Very like the scroll saw, you have a table to place the wood on and move it through the blade.   Being able to hold onto the wood or item to be cut with both hands, in my opinion, is a very nice advantage and I am guessing many would agree.

The band saw is a bit more expensive.  This is a tool for the more serious wood worker that plans to spend some time in the workshop.  From what I have seen the price of these things range in the hundreds to the thousands.

The band saws that range in the hundreds may not be as nice of a saw, but may be up someones ally whom may be in a tighter budget.

WEN 3962 Two-Speed Band Saw with Stand and Worklight, 10″

SKIL 3386-01 2.5-Amp 9-Inch Band Saw

Some of the more expensive bands saws can go for much more:

Delta 28-400 14 in. 1 HP Steel Frame Band Saw

Grizzly G0555 The Ultimate Bandsaw, 14-Inch

Grizzly G0513ANV 2 HP Bandsaw Anniversary Edition, 17-Inch

Grizzly G0513X2 Bandsaw with Cast Iron Trunnion, 2 HP, 17-Inch

The expensive ones look nice and may have more features but the budget ones will likely do the job as well.


Band Saw Uses

Sawing along the thickness of the wood is a great use for the band saw.  This means that you can take a 1″ thick board and cut it down the middle to create two roughly 1/2″ thick boards.   This is of course you need to keep in mind the width capabilities of the band saw.  When I do my scroll sawing projects, being able to do this particular task to get some really nice thin pieces of wood to work with is quite invaluable.

Creating a nice edge on your wood is one very nice ability of the band saw.  A lot of wood you buy or even refactor for a project, may not have a nice edge on it.  With the band saw you can make a cut and reform that nice edge you are looking for.

One of the best uses I can think of is the ability to make some very accurate strait cuts.  When I am resizing wood I have purchased, I often pull out the table saw to make my cuts.  With the band saw, you can get that same accuracy without using such an enormous blade.  At times you may only need to resize smaller pieces of wood and the band saw is perfect for that.

You can cut out some pretty good detail projects with the band saw.  It is versatile enough to make some nice curves and detailed edges on your wood.  With this in mind you can keep from firing up the scroll saw on some of those projects that don’t require so much detail.


Band Saw Non Uses

The major non use of the band saw is the major use for the scroll saw.  You do not want to do intricate work with a band saw.  Though you can get some smaller blades for the band saw and do some level of tighter cuts, the scroll saw will be more beneficial in this regard hands down.  Leave intricate detail to the scroll saw.

This is my opinion is the one major factor and difference between the scroll saw vs the band saw.  Trying to do anything too intricate with the band saw will likely get you frustrated and cause some bad cuts which will lead you to throwing away wood.


What’s a Scroll Saw?  (Scroll Saw Features)

The scroll saw is not a portable tool, similar to the band saw.  It takes up space and can be a bit heavy.  When using a scroll saw you need some space where you can sit and do your work.

Scroll saws have some very tiny blades, and they attach differently than a band saw.  Like the band saw though, they do have some different types of blades, though most of those scroll saw blades are used for wood working.

The scroll saw blades can be pin-less or pinned.  I use the pin-less blades on my Dewalt and they are not too difficult to switch them out.  I believe the pin-less blades are typically clamped in to hold them in place.  The pinned blades are as they sound.  They have a little pin on each end of the blade to help you attach the blade to your scroll saw.  It would seem that pinned blades are not as widely used.a74d0-dewaltscrollsaw

The scroll saw has a long arm that I have heard many call the throat.  How long this arm is can be important as it gauges how large of a project you can rotate on the table.

You have a variable speed on many scroll saw models, I’m not sure why they don’t put that on all of them, but this controls the speed of the blade cutting.

You also have tension of the scroll saw blade.  This is how loose or how tight the blade is when you make your cuts.  Having a proper and correct tension for the type and thickness of the wood is important when cutting out your scroll saw projects.

Other features you may find on your scroll saw are the blower, which blows some air at where you point.  Typically the blower would be pointed somewhere near the blade to blow away the dust as you make your cuts.  A light may come with your scroll saw to help with visibility of your cutting.  The table can be of varying sizes, and I recommend a larger table if you can get it.  More room to support your scroll saw project is always a good thing.

I love my Dewalt scroll saw and it comes with some great features.  Though it is a bit more expensive then some of the other scroll saws, I would not trade it in for something else at this point.

There are some other choices out there with some good ratings and features.  When I did my research to buy a scroll saw, I had the following scroll saws in mind when I finally made my purchase with the Dewalt.

WEN 3920 16-Inch Two-Direction Variable Speed Scroll Saw with Flexible LED Light

DEWALT DW788 1.3 Amp 20-Inch Variable-Speed Scroll Saw

Porter Cable 18″ Variable Speed Scroll Saw with Stand

Delta Power Tools 40-694 20 In. Variable Speed Scroll Saw


Scroll Saw Uses

The major use of a scroll saw is for detailed and intricate wood art.  So far I have not used my scroll saw for too much else other than that.

I am sure you can use it to make some other delicate cuts for things but I don’t really recommend that unless you have the right blade I suppose.  (I have tried to make some slight cuts into plastic, I had some difficulty until I realized if I were going to use it this way, I need to do a burst of cutting then stop, then start up again.  The heat of the blade melted the plastic!)

I have cut out Intarsia projects and various scroll saw patterns to create some very cool stuff with the scroll saw.  Just to name a few I cut out an American Indian, a frog, a unicorn picture frame, and a fish.  All these were intricate types of projects a scroll saw could handle.

To me the scroll saw is definitely more about art then treating it as any sort of handy man/woman tool.


Scroll Saw Non Uses

I would not use my scroll saw for anything other than wood art type projects and maybe a small cut for some other applications.

For one, the scroll saw is not portable.  I can’t walk it over very easily to a project somewhere else.  Two, the blades are not designed for cutting much else other than wood.  You can find some different blades for other material cutting, maybe you are cutting out aluminum or copper art of some sort.

And three, the saw is just meant for intricate work.  If you want quicker cuts and more versatile cutting use the band saw.  The band saw is a very good tool for cutting many things, even some cuts that might be a little more intricate, but no where near as intricate as the scroll saw.



To simply sum up here, the scroll saw is going to be used for more intricate details on your projects.  The band saw is a bit more of a universal tool for cutting may things.

The great thing about the band saw is it is very complimentary to the scroll saw.  I can resize and reshape wood on the band saw before I take it over to the scroll saw for some more detailed work.