Unless you have had experience using both a scroll saw and a band saw, you may not be clear on which saw to use for specific cutting needs. If you are in the market for a saw of this type, begin by knowing exactly what type of projects you will be doing.
Some cuts can be done almost identically on a scroll saw or a band saw. Other cuts can best be done on one machine or the other. Many people are confused at first regarding the issue of scroll saw vs band saw.
If you want to buy only one saw, either the scroll saw or the band saw, let’s look at the capabilities of each in more detail so that you can be sure you purchase the correct one for the specific work you need to do.
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By Being Clear On The Types Of Cuts You Need To Make
Each saw has its strong points and limitations. Knowing what you need the saw to do will help you determine which saw is right for your purpose. Start by knowing the answer to these questions:
- Do you need a saw for intricate cutting, such as for craft items?
- Will you need to make large cuts quickly?
- What is the thickest piece of wood you will be cutting?
- What is the tightest radius you need to cut?
- Will you be making small items, such as knick-knacks, or large items, such as furniture?
What Is A Scroll Saw Used For?
In general, a scroll saw is used to make intricate cuts, some with tight radiuses. It can also cut straight lines but the table has no fence so the wood must be guided with a steady hand.
The Craftsman 16″ Variable Speed Scroll Saw 00921602000P is designed to cut wood up to 2″ thick. However, a strong blade is needed to cut that thickness. This saw is usually used to cut thinner wood.
Nearly every crafter who makes wooden items will have a scroll saw. Intricate fretwork is done with a scroll saw.
What Is A Pierce Cut?
A scroll saw can also make pierce cuts. This is a cutout made inside a project where the outer edges must not be cut.
For example, if you need to cut a circle in the middle of a piece of wood, a scroll saw can accomplish this. You would begin by drilling a hole inside the circle area. The hole must be a little bit wider than the scroll saw blade.
The saw blade is removed from the machine, thread through the hole and reattached to the scroll saw. When the saw is started, the wood is guided in a slow circle until the wider hole is cut. Then the blade is removed from the saw again so that the piece of wood can be removed from the saw’s table.
See how this scroll saw artist uses pierce cuts with a scroll saw to create a wooden portrait of Elvis Presley .
This type of cut cannot be made with a band saw because the band saw blade is a continuous loop. There is no way to feed the blade into the drilled hole without cutting the outside edge of the wood.
What Materials Can A Scroll Saw Cut?
Scroll saws are primarily designed to cut wood up to almost 2″ thick. These saws are ideal for cutting plywood, poplar, basswood, pine boards and the like up to 3/4″ thick.
However, with a metal-cutting scroll saw blade, soft metal can also be cut. If metal is something that you will need to cut, a call to the saw’s manufacturer will help you determine if the scroll saw is the right tool for the job.
Plexiglass can be cut with a scroll saw but care must be taken that the friction of the blade does not melt the plastic instead of cutting it.
Scroll Saw Disadvantages
The scroll saw is not designed to cut thick pieces of wood. Even if the specifications indicate that wood up to 2″ thick can be cut, the work can go slowly and the blade can be worn out quickly.
Also, vibration can be an issue for some projects. If the saw is not heavy, the up and down motion of the saw blade can cause annoying vibrations that make the work unpleasant. This issue can sometimes be remedied by bolting the machine to a heavy work bench and upgrading to a higher quality blade.
Since the scroll saw has no side guide fence, cutting perfectly straight lines can be a challenge. Band saws have fence attachments but woodworkers usually use table saws to make precision straight cuts.
Some models are not well designed for inserting and removing blades – something that may need to be done often. If your work wears blades out rather quickly or you are making many pierce cuts, you want a machine that allows for quick and easy blade removal and replacement.
Scroll saw blades are prone to break if a curve is taken too quickly, if an unexpected knot in the wood is encountered or if the blade gets too hot.
Band Saws Vs Scroll Saws
Band saws differ from scroll saws in several ways:
- Band saws blades are one continual loop whereas scroll saw blades are straight pieces of metal about 5″ long.
- The band saw blade moves in one continual downward circle, whereas scroll saw blades move up and down.
- Band saw blades can be up to 2″ wide, whereas scroll saw blades are rarely wider than ½”.
- Band saws can rip wood, also called recutting, whereas scroll saws cannot.
- Band saws cannot do pierce cuts, whereas scroll saws can.
- In most cases, band saws are usually operated while standing, whereas scroll saw workers are usually seated.
- Band saws can cut wood up to 6″ thick, whereas scroll saws handle wood up to 2″ thick.
- With the right blade band, a band saw can cut metal, whereas scroll saws can cut only thin soft metal.
- The band saw speeds are generally 1500 and 3200 FPM (feet per minute). The scroll speeds can generally vary from 400 to 1600 STM (strokes per minute).
- Band saws are relatively safe, but not to be used by children, whereas a scroll saw is a good wood working tool for children and teens to use (with adult supervision).
- Band saws make cuts that generally need sanding, whereas scroll saw cuts are smooth and rarely need sanding.
- The band saw leaves a wider kerf (the width of the wood that is removed by the blade) , wheras the scroll saw’s kerf is thinner.
- The band saw’s dust port is larger than the scroll saw’s dust port.
- Both models can be purchased as table models or with stands.
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Here is a Grissly brand band saw with a heavy-duty stand:
Here is a Skil brand workbench band saw:
Uses For The Bandsaw
Band saws can cut and rip boards. With a special blade, they can cut some metals.
One of the interesting uses for a band saw is cutting meat. With a meat-cutting blade, the meat and bone can be cut fairly quickly.
A Note About Foot Pedals
With either machine, foot pedals are a plus. If you have a job that needs precise cutting, you want to have both hands on the wood at all times. A foot pedal allows you to start and stop the machine without taking your hands off the piece being cut.
To see how to set up a band saw and witness some amazing band saw work, watch this!
So there you have the debate regarding scroll saw vs band saw. As you can see, there are some distinct differences in band saws and scroll saws. Choose the saw that is best suited for the cutting job you need done.
Here is a very good quality variable-speed Dewalt scroll saw that will meet the needs of a typical scroll saw project.
If you have a comment or question, please leave it below. Feel free to share your experience with our readers. Happy woodworking!