Both the band saw and scroll saw look similar in shape and operate on a similar working principle. However, they are used for different types of jobs, one is popular among sculptures and pattern makers, whiles the other is for woodworkers and carpenters.
The main difference between a scroll saw and a bandsaw is that a scroll is a light-duty machine designed to cut intricate shapes precisely, whereas the band saw is a heavy-duty machine that can cut large pieces of wood to different sizes and shapes fairly accurately.
You can jump to the scroll saw vs. bandsaw section to see the comparison table for a quick overview.
Because power tools tend to be on the more expensive side, it is best to be very thorough when deciding what power tool to add to your collection next. Ideally, you will want to purchase a tool that you get actual use out of. But, in order to do that, you need to know what each tool is best at doing. That is where I come in. In this article, I will explain the scroll saws and band saws, the differences between two very popular tools, and what job each is best for.
What is a scroll saw?
A scroll saw is a form of specialty saw. You tend not to find them in most amateur workshops or tool sheds because of this. Most people will encounter scroll saws in professional workshops or woodworking classes, where they are often used to help beginners make accurate cuts.
Scroll saws have a regular saw base but with an extremely small blade (at least when compared to most other saw blades). Also, unlike many other saws, scroll saws can often be operated using a foot pedal. This gives you better control during the cutting process.
In terms of how the saw actually works, the user maneuvers the material they are cutting into the saw blade. Again, this is sets the scroll saw apart from a lot of other saws, where the user controls the blade instead of the material.
Further reading: Scroll Saw 101, the complete guide.
Scroll saw uses
A scroll saw has a very specific use within a workshop, and that is to make very small and very accurate cuts. Now, when I say “accurate cuts” I don’t just mean that it is slightly more accurate than a regular saw. A scroll saw makes complex, ultra-precise cuts.
To give you an idea of how it is used, think about things like wooden sculptures, wood art, puzzles, clocks, toys, etc. Those are all very intricate projects that require very accurate, curved cuts. A scroll saw excels at making those sorts of cuts. You can probably guess why amateur woodworkers and DIYers won’t get much use out of this saw; after all, how many amateur DIYers need to make these sorts of accurate cuts regularly?
What is a band saw?
A band saw is another kind of specialty saw, although band saws tend not to be as rare as scroll saws. A band saw is made up of a single long band of metal that is kept between two wheels. The wheels drive the band of metal called the band saw blade and enable it to cut through materials.
The way band saws are used can differ depending on the variant. Vertical band saws work similarly to scroll saws in that the user moves the material into the saw blade, which remains stationary. Horizontal band saws are the exact opposite, where the rotating saw blade on the swing arm is fed against the fixed workpiece to do the cutting.
Additional resource: Detailed bandsaw guide.
Band saw uses
Band saws have a wide variety of uses. The vertical models are very well suited for making accurate and curved cuts. This is because the user of the saw can maneuver the material, which allows for more accurate cuts when compared with a lot of other saws. When equipped with the right blade, a band saw is capable of cutting through not only wood but things like meat and metal as well.
Horizontal band saws have a lot more value to professionals and factories than to amateurs or DIYers. Horizontal band saws are more powerful and can, therefore, cut through materials at a much faster rate. This makes them ideal for situations where you need to cut through massive amounts of materials on a daily basis (think of things like metalworking shops, where large amounts of metal need to be cut on a daily basis). You can learn more about the difference between horizontal and vertical bandsaw here.
Scroll saw vs band saw
So, what are the real differences between these two tools? The most obvious difference is their range of use.
Uses: As I mentioned in the section on the uses of a scroll saw, a scroll saw is intended to be used for ultra-precise cuts. Now, there is a certain range of jobs that require very accurate and for those, a scroll saw can be quite useful. However, the vast majority of woodworking jobs, carpentry jobs, etc., can be completed without using a scroll saw. The people who will get the most use out of a scroll saw are craftsmen and hobbyists who enjoy creating fretwork, wooden sculptures, wood art, and things like that.
On the other hand, a vertical band saw will be a lot more useful for both professionals and amateurs alike. This is the saw you should get for resawing wood or cutting wood into thin slices. Band saws enable you to make a wide variety of accurate cuts relatively quickly. This makes them extremely useful in a wide variety of jobs.
Cutting Action: While both scroll saw and a vertical bandsaw are similar in appearance there is a key difference in the working principle. In case of a bandsaw a the cutting blade is a continuous loop which circulates; whereas in a scroll saw the blade reciprocates up and down similar to a reciprocating saw or a Sawzall.
In practice, the cutting procedure is similar on both the saws. You are feeding the workpiece against a circulating/reciprocating blade at a fixed position.
Blade: Scroll saw utilizes you to use thin blades with comparatively very less width. This will allow you to cut sharp corners, small patterns, and complex shapes. The narrow blade results in thin kerfs which ideal for cutting jigsaw puzzles and wood toys.
On the contrary, the bandsaw blade is wider. Remember, I said that the bandsaw blade is long continuous loop running between two wheels. In order to have adequate strength, the long blade needs to have a certain minimum width.
Size: In terms of size and portability, the scroll saw has a slight advantage. You can get tabletop band saws that are smaller, but most band saws are pretty bulky and difficult to transport from place to place. On the other hand, scroll saws are relatively small and are very easy to move around.
Surface Finish: A scroll saw produces fine cut edges that require no sanding or very less sanding. In contrast, you have to do sanding of the cut surfaces.
Comparison between Bandsaw and Scroll Saw
|Uses||Resawing, cutting meat, metal, carpentry work and general woodworking.||To make patterns, fretwork, wood art, jigsaw puzzles.|
|Advantages||1. Higher cutting capacity.
2. More versatile
3. Ability to cut soft things like meat to tough materials like hardwood and metal.
|1. Ability to cut thin kerf, small arcs, and intricate shapes.
2. Foot pedal switch for better control
3. Less noise and vibration
|Blade||Long and closed loop. Wider and thicker.||Short blade. Less width and thickness.|
|Working Principle||A continuous loop of blade circulating at a fixed position.||Workpiece moved against a reciprocating blade.|
|Portability||Large and heavy. Generally less portable.||Small and light. Highly portable.|
|For who?||Carpenters, general woodworkers, metalworking shops, meat industry.||Artists, wood sculptures, pattern makers and hobbyists.|
Who should buy what?
In my experience, versatility is the number one thing to look for when buying a saw. Therefore, I would recommend that most people go for a band saw. It is just a more versatile saw. However, there are other factors that should influence your decision.
For example, if you think that in the future you might want to try things like making wood art, then it is a good idea to get some experience with a scroll saw right now. Also, if your workshop is already crowded and you need a saw that can be easily stored and moved around, then I would definitely recommend going for a scroll saw instead of a band saw.
Now that you have a good idea of the differences between a band saw and a scroll saw, you can make an informed purchase that fits your needs. In an ideal situation, you could buy both, but not everyone has the budget or space to do that.
Band Saw: Get a bandsaw if you are doing home improvement, building furniture, cabinets and for other carpentry and general woodwork.
Scroll Saw: Ideal for cutting intricate shapes in small pieces of wood. If you are a craftsman or artist making wood art, toys and patterns get a scroll saw.
If you are still on the fence after reading this article, I would encourage you to look up reviews of individual saws that you are interested and base your purchase off both the information from this article and from the review.
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