A Band Saw and a Scroll Saw may perform the same basic function but they 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 to cut intricate patterns in the wood and give the material a final touch.
- A key difference between a Band saw and a Scroll saw is their design and how they operate:
- The Band saw uses a motor and wheels, usually two, to drive a continuous loop blade with teeth on one side around the wheels and it cuts in a downward motion.
- The Scroll saw uses a motor and an arm to move a very thin, needle-like 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.
- Scroll Saws are usually benchtop or table-top sized, with some wheeled versions, and used more for smaller projects. They are perfect for detail work and you can use them for inside cuts as well. Mostly they are used to design complex patterns on wood already cut to the finished size. And since their design focuses the 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, puzzles|
|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 really thinking of a Table Saw, then see my Band Saw vs. Table Saw post or my main Table Saws page.
If you are familiar with band saws and scroll saws, see my lists of recommended ones below – they are based upon a combination of power, features, and price for a range of users, from the occasional hobbyist to the professional contractor.
And you want to know more, keep reading for more details on the similarities, differences, and uses of Band Saws vs. Scroll Saws.
Recommended Band Saws – My List
Recommended Scroll Saws – My List
What’s a Band Saw?
Let’s start with what is a band saw. The band saw is more powerful than a scroll saw. Using the right blades you can even cut metal, but 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 to 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 speeds to accommodate different materials. The tension of the blade as it runs around the wheels affects the cutting performance, therefore, band saws will come with different types of tension adjustment knobs or handles. And some come with other features, such as a foot-pedal brake, 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 a lot of space and they are fast and powerful. The best thing about a band saw is its versatility. There are a lot of different blade options, in blade width and type, that you can use for this machine. See my Band Saws main page for all the details about band saws and the recommend ones in different sizes.
Band Saw Wheel Size
If you are looking online to buy a band saw, you will see band saws designated as “xx-inch”, which is referred to as their wheel size. The wheel size is the diameter of their wheels that drive the blade, not the cutting capacity (see below). Common 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 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 looking to buy a band saw, you will also the see the cutting capacity terms of 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. Basically, if you were cutting a board or wood piece down the middle, the throat measurement would tell you half of the maximum board width that the saw can handle. Generally, a bandsaw’s throat size will be slightly less than it’s wheel size, due to the guidepost covering the other side of blade taking up a quarter to a 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’ of a wood piece or board that 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 of the throat capacity and on smaller band saws, the resaw capacity can be as low as 2 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 a high speed.
Similar to 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 speed that the blades move by just pressing a pedal or a switch.
This combination of design and use makes the Scroll saw fit for cutting, or designing, intricate patterns in the wood, such as jigsaw puzzles, letters or numbers, and figurines.
Scroll Saw Cutting Capacity – Throat (Horizontal)
If you are looking online to buy a scroll saw, you will see scroll saws designated as “x-inch”, which is referred to as 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 of the maximum board width that 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 wood pieces you saw. Let’s just say that you bought a scroll saw that has a size of 15 inches. That means that you can use it on materials that are 30 inches across. The blade can just reach the center of the material, then you can turn the material upside down and work with the blade at the other side. So, if your object across size is 40 inches then you should buy a scroll saw with at least 20 inches throat.
But you have to keep in mind that you should always leave a little space between the edge of your wood piece and 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 that 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, which means that they can’t cut thicker than 2 inches. To get the best of the scroll saws is better to use materials that are 1-inch thick.
When it comes to changing blades, you would be surprised at how easy is to change blades on scroll saws. The only thing that is somehow considered hard is to get the tension right. But, using a tensioning knob can make things easier.
As we mentioned earlier, blades are the first thing you may notice when it comes to differences between these two tools. Actually, they are the biggest difference. And scroll saws allowing you to do inside cuts can be another thing that sets these two machines apart.
When to Use Band Saw Vs Scroll Saw
When it comes to buying one or another, then you have to know what tasks you are gonna use them and then you can decide. The truth is that these two 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 do. That automatically means that you should only use this machine for small tasks.
If you have to work with thin and small materials then you definitely should go for scroll saws. These machines do 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
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 scroll saws blades but even that doesn’t help a lot, it doesn’t come near the power that band saws have.
Basically, they are made just for small tasks, so if you have to cut a wood object in half or make a big cut then 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 are gonna do before buying a saw
When Should You Use a Band Saw?
If speed, accuracy, and power are your concern then 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. If you have a high-quality band saw then you can tilt the table to make cuts up to 45 degrees.
When it comes to band saws, then you just 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 that we mentioned here 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. And even if you found a workaround to do it, the cut won’t look clean and 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.
Conclusion and My Recommended Lists
While they are both are 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 your size, 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.
Both tools are useful ones to have in your shop and for woodworking projects.
If you are now ready to start a woodworking project, here’s my list of recommended Band Saws:
And if you are into intricate wood designs, here’s my list of recommended Scroll Saws: