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A band saw and a scroll saw may perform the same basic function but are different tools. A common question among those getting started in woodworking is, which one should you buy? To help you answer that question, we will explore the differences between a band saw vs scroll saw.
What’s the Difference Between a Band Saw and a Scroll Saw?
The main difference between a band saw, and a scroll saw is the purpose:
- The band saw is mostly used to cut thicker wood and make curves and angles in the wood
- The scroll saw is used for detail work, cutting intricate patterns into the wood and giving the material a better finish
- The Band saw is mostly used to cut thicker wood and make curves and angles in the wood.
A key difference between a band saw and a scroll saw is their design and how they operates
- The band saw uses a motor and wheels, usually two, to drive a continuous loop saw blade with teeth on one side around the wheels and cuts downward
- The scroll saw uses a motor and an arm to move a very thin, needle-like saw blade in an up-and-down motion, similar to a jigsaw
Another important difference between a band saw and a scroll saw is their features and how they are used:
- Band saws are more powerful and can easily handle big projects. They are mostly used for woodworking and cutting big wood objects, but with the right blades, they can even cut metal. Band saws mainly come in floor-standing and benchtop sizes, with some portable versions, but generally, they are designed to stay in your garage or workshop. Band saws are one of the staple tools for woodworking and if you don’t already have one, then check my post “Best Band Saws,” which will help you choose the best one for your needs.
- Band saws are more powerful and can easily handle big projects and thick material. They are mostly used for woodworking and cutting big wood objects, but with the right bandsaw blade, they can even cut metal. Band saws mainly come in floor-standing and benchtop sizes, with some portable versions, but generally, they are designed to stay in your garage or workshop. Band saws are one of the staple tools for woodworking and if you don’t already have one, check my post, “Best Band Saws” to help you choose the best one for your needs.
- Scroll saws are usually benchtop or tabletop sized, with some wheeled versions, and used more for smaller projects and more intricate curves. They are perfect for detail work and can also be used for inside cuts. Mostly they are used to design complex patterns and make intricate cuts on wood already cut to the finished size. And since their design focuses the saw blade on a precise area, they are used with smaller objects.
Here’s a quick comparison table of the tools:
|Features||Band Saw||Scroll Saw|
|Uses:||Cutting thicker wood, curves, angles, resawing||Intricate patterns, numbers, letters, jigsaw puzzle|
|Motor Power:||0.3 to 3 HP / 2.5 to 15 Amp||0.5 to 2 Amp|
|Blade Speed:||600 to 4000 FPM (Feet Per Minute)||400-1800 SPM (Strokes Per Minute)|
|Blade Length:||60 to 90 inches||4 to 6-inches|
|Weight:||50 to 300+ pounds||Up to 50 pounds|
|Height:||2 to 8 feet||1 to 4 feet|
|Sizes:||Portable to Benchtop/Tabletop to Standing-Height to Industrial||Portable to Jobsite to Professional to Industrial|
|Key Deciding Features:||Wheel Size, Throat Capacity, Vertical Cutting Capacity, Motor Power||Blade Size, Table Size, Motor Power, Safety Features|
|Price Range:||$200 to $10k||$100 to $4k|
But that’s not all. If you are just getting started in woodworking or want to learn the basics about the different types of saws, see my post “9 Different Types Of Saws – Their Difference and How They Work?“
And if you were thinking of purchasing a table saw to add to your workshop, see my Band Saw vs.Table Saw post.
See my recommended products below if you are familiar with band and scroll saws. My recommendations are based on a combination of power, features, and price for a range of users, from the occasional hobbyist to the professional contractor.
If you want to know more, keep reading for more details on the similarities, differences, and uses of a scroll saw vs band saw.
Recommended Band Saws – My List
Recommended Scroll Saws – My List
What’s a Band Saw?
What is a band saw? The band saw is more powerful than a scroll saw. Using the right blades, you can cut metal; however, they are mostly used for woodworking.
Think of a band saw as a vertical one-piece blade loop that runs around two wheels, one at the top and one at the bottom, that are driven by a motor in a downward motion.
One side of the blade is exposed for the working section, and the other side of the blade is covered in a guidepost, with each wheel covered in housing or panels. The exposed area of the blade usually has a small to medium-sized working table, and a guide called a fence or a rip fence. Many also come with a miter gauge.
The user pushes a wood board or piece into the running blade from various directions and angles to cut boards down to size, cut specific shapes in the wood, or create bevels in the wood piece. Many bandsaws have working tables that tilt up to 45 degrees to assist the user in creating bevels in the wood piece.
Most bandsaws have one blade speed, sometimes two, to accommodate different materials. The blade’s tension as it runs around the wheels affect the cutting performance; therefore, band saws will come with different tension adjustment knobs or handles.
And some come with other features, such as a foot-pedal brake, a work light, and a dust port, which can be used to vacuum the wood shavings if connected to a separate dust collector or vacuum system.
Band saws are perfect for contractors who don’t have a big workplace. They don’t take up a lot of space, and they are fast and powerful. The best thing about a band saw is its versatility. There are many different blade options, in blade width and type, that you can use for this machine.
Band Saw Wheel Size
If you are looking online to buy a band saw, you will see them designated as “xx-inch,” which is their wheel size. The wheel size is the diameter of the wheels that drive the blade, not the cutting capacity (see below).
Common band saw wheel sizes are 9, 10, 14, 17, and 20-inch, with the smaller ones usually covering benchtop or tabletop sizes, while 14-inch is a popular standing-height size, and 17-inch and above is usually used by serious hobbyists, professional contractors, and woodshops for cutting thicker wood varieties or sawing larger boards.
Band Saw Cutting Capacity – Throat (Horizontal) and Resaw (Vertical)
When buying a band saw, you will also see the cutting capacity terms: throat and resaw.
The throat size is the horizontal distance, measured in inches, between the blade and the guidepost covering the other side of the blade. If you were cutting a board or wood piece down the middle, the throat measurement would tell you half the maximum board width the saw can handle.
Generally, a bandsaw’s throat size will be slightly less than its wheel size due to the guidepost covering the other side of the blade taking up a quarter to half an inch.
The resaw size is the vertical distance, measured in inches, between the work table and the blade guide assembly attached to the top wheel housing. This measurement tells you how ‘tall’ a wood piece or board the saw can handle.
A bandsaw’s resaw, or vertical cutting capacity, size can be various sizes, usually less than the throat or horizontal cutting capacity. Sometimes it’s half the throat capacity, and on smaller band saws, the resaw capacity can be as low as two inches.
What Is a Scroll Saw?
A scroll saw is a saw that has a small, very thin blade, almost like a long pin. The “pin” blade is connected to an arm with a motor that moves the blade up and down at high speed.
Like a band saw, the user pushes the wood piece from various directions and angles into the blade. But different from the band saw, a user can also rotate the scroll saw as well. And a scroll saw usually allows you to control the blades’ speed by just pressing a pedal or switch.
This combination of design and use makes the scroll saw fit for cutting or designing intricate patterns in the wood, such as a jigsaw puzzle, letters or numbers, and figurines.
Scroll Saw Cutting Capacity – Throat (Horizontal)
If you are looking online to buy a scroll saw, you will see them designated as “x-inch,” which is their throat size. Similar to bandsaws, the throat size for scroll saws means the distance between the blade and the rear part of the saw.
Again, if you were cutting a board or wood piece down the middle, the throat measurement would tell you half the maximum board width the saw can handle. Common scroll saw sizes range from 12 inches to 30 inches.
The scroll saw size you want depends upon the general size of the wood pieces you saw. Let’s just say that you bought a scroll saw that has a size of 15 inches. That means you can use it on materials 30 inches across.
The blade can reach the center of the material, and then you can turn the material upside down and work with the blade on the other side. So, if your object across size is 40 inches, you should buy a scroll saw with at least 20 inches of throat.
But you have to remember that you should always leave a little space between the edge of your wood piece and the rear part of the saw arm. So, if your object is 24 inches across, then make sure to choose a throat size of 13-14 inches.
Another thing you may want to consider before buying a scroll saw is that the blades are only 6 inches long. The blades are not good with thick materials because they have to move up and down, so they can’t cut thicker than two inches. To get the best out of a scroll saw, it is better to use thinner pieces of wood that are 1 inch thick.
When it comes to changing blades, you would be surprised at how easy it is on a scroll saw. The only thing considered hard is getting the tension right, but using a tensioning knob can make things easier.
As we mentioned earlier, blades are the first thing you may notice regarding the differences between these two tools. The blades are the biggest difference. Additionally, scroll saws allowing you to do inside cuts and achieve fine detail can be another thing that sets these two machines apart from each other.
When to Use a Scroll Saw vs Band Saw
When buying one or the other, it is important to understand what tasks you have to do. The truth is that these two tools do look quite the same, but they are used for different tasks.
You can use one to do the other’s job, but you won’t get a clear and quality cut. So, when should you use these machines, and when you shouldn’t use these machines?
When Should You Use a Scroll Saw?
As we said before, scroll saws do not have the same power as band saws. That automatically means that you should only use this machine for small tasks.
You should use a scroll saw if you have to work with thin and small materials. A scroll saw does a good job when it comes to creating a clean and intricate cut.
Some of the things you can do with scroll saws are:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Making numbers or letters from wood
- Detailed cuts
- Intricate shapes
If you have to work with long and thick materials, then a scroll saw isn’t the right tool to help you cut them. Sure, you can upgrade the blades of scroll saws, but even that doesn’t help a lot; it doesn’t come near the power band saws have.
Scroll saws are made just for small tasks, so if you have to cut a wood object in half or make a big cut, you should look for other choices; scroll saws can’t handle that. That’s why it’s always good to know the materials and projects you will do before buying a saw.
When Should You Use a Band Saw?
If speed, accuracy, and power are your concern, the band saw is your go-to. They can cut almost every material, thick or thin, it doesn’t matter; as long as it fits on the table, then the band saw will be able to cut through it.
While scroll saws can’t make a straight cut, band saws are known for aggressive & fast straight cuts. And this is all thanks to the blades that always go in the same direction.
Except for straight cuts, band saws can also be used for angled cuts. You can tilt the table to make cuts up to 45 degrees if you have a high-quality band saw.
When it comes to band saws, then you have to be a little creative, and you can do almost everything. Although there are a lot of things & projects that you can complete using this machine, here are the things I use a band saw for:
- Making Tables
- Making Shelves
- Making Planter Boxes, etc.
While band saws can be used for a lot of things, there are some things that you can’t use them for. One of them mentioned earlier is that you can’t use this machine to do inside cuts. Imagine if you have to make the letter Q or O.
With a scroll saw, you would easily make a hole in the middle and make these letters, but you can’t do that with a band saw. And even if you found a workaround to do it, the cut won’t look as clean and have the same quality. And in most cases, it will make the wood weaker.
Who’s More Expensive a Band Saw or Scroll Saw?
If you don’t have a large budget then you should know the price differences. Power tools will always cost a lot. So, be prepared to spend at least xxx$ amount of money for one or another.
If you compare the price of these two, then scroll saws are cheaper. They cost less and they are mostly used by DIYers and beginners. On the other hand, band saws cost generally cost more money.
There are band saws that cost up to 1,000$. A reason for this is because they are more commercial and are used by contractors or professionals.
What Is More Expensive: Scroll Saw vs Band Saw?
You should know the price differences if you don’t have a large budget. Power tools will always cost a lot. So, be prepared to spend a good bit of money on one or the other.
If you compare the price of these two, you will find that scroll saws are cheaper. They cost less, and they are mostly used by DIYers and beginners. On the other hand, band saws cost generally cost more money.
There are band saws that cost up to $1,000. A reason for this is that they are more commercial and are used by contractors or professionals.
Which Saw Is Best for a Beginner Woodworker?
When choosing between a scroll and a band saw, your skill level is definitely one consideration that will come into play. If you are just getting into the world of saws, then the scroll saw will prove to be the right choice because of the learning curve.
However, if you are already familiar with different saws and have more woodwork experience, don’t hesitate to pick up a band saw for your next project.
Considerations When Choosing a Scroll Saw vs Band Saw
Finally, let’s take a look at a few other considerations to keep in mind when deciding between these two versatile and hard-working power tools.
Who Is It For?
The scroll saw is a good choice if you are a hobbyist, artist, or pattern maker, and your work involves a lot of great attention to detail and finer intricacies. However, if you are a carpenter or work in a metalworking shop or with general woodwork, you will probably reach for the band saw.
What’s Your Budget?
If you have a good budget to work with, you will want to get both of these tools. Overall, though, the band saw would be a better pick. It has a higher cutting capacity, more power, and is incredibly versatile.
How Much Space Do You Have?
When it comes to space, you need to be sure you can accommodate the power tool. If you have a good amount of space to spare, then a band saw is a good choice. However, if there are limitations when it comes to space, you may want a scroll saw.
What Is Your Project?
Finally, it really comes down to what you are working on. Choosing between a band saw and a scroll saw boils down to what you are cutting. Scroll saws, again, are for more detail, while band saws are great for tightly angled cuts and round shapes.
While they are both used in woodworking projects, they are used for completely different tasks. Again, band saws are the staple woodworking saw used to initially cut the larger pieces of wood down to size and are often used for making furniture pieces and creating different kinds of edges.
And scroll saws are used on smaller pieces to create intricate and complex designs, letters or numbers, and even puzzles and are the ideal choice for the woodworking hobbyist or artist. Both tools are useful in your shop and for woodworking projects, making either a great investment.
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