Coping Saw vs. Scroll Saw: A Comprehensive Guide to Selecting the Right Saw

When choosing a saw for cutting complex shapes and skilled art work, the choices often come down to a coping saw and a scroll saw. Which one is best for your needs starts with the types of projects that you will be creating.
Both can cut curves, but they excel in different scenarios. This guide will help you discern which saw best fits your projects and your skill level.

But first, you will need to understand the basics of what coping saws and scroll saws can do.

Understand the Basics

What’s important to note is that both types of saws do the same type of work. They are designed to cut curved profiles in wood and other materials. Such curved cuts are often used in making cabinets, instruments, models, and more. It’s how each saw accomplishes the task that makes the difference.

What is Coping Saw?

A coping saw is a handheld manual saw used to create curved cuts with considerable precision. The coping saw is noted for its U-shaped frame, where a thin, replaceable blade is attached between each end of the frame.
A coping saw
You can easily swap the blade depending on the material, allowing you to cut through wood, plastic, or even metal.
Unlike a jigsaw which can also create curved cuts, but with much rougher edges, a coping saw offers a manual means to create curved cuts for a wide variety of projects.

What is a Scroll Saw?

A scroll saw is a type of power saw that is also designed to cut curves into wood and similar materials. What’s interesting is that a scroll saw has the same basic design of a coping saw, which is the blade connected to two arms with the wood placed on the blade.
Scroll saw
But unlike a coping saw, you are not moving the saw blade along the cut lines. Instead, like a bandsaw, you feed the workpiece into the scroll saw blade to make the desired cut.
Scroll saws can accept different types of blades for different materials, and uniquely, they can thread blades through a pre-drilled hole for interior cuts, something a band saw can’t do unless you have a built-in blade welder.

Coping Saw vs. Scroll Saw Comparison

coping saw vs scroll saw comparison

Design Comparisons

As noted before, the overall design of the coping and scroll saw are similar. Both have a blade that is anchored at two points, creating a tension that keeps the blade firm.
The difference is that with a coping saw, you manually push and pull the blade into the material. On the other hand, a scroll saw has an electric motor that drives the scroll saw blade in and up-and-down reciprocating motion.

You hold the coping saw when sawing through the material, while with a scroll saw, the device is secured in place while you push the material through.


Both saws have the similar purpose, to cut curved shapes into the material. From rounding corners to creating intricate shapes and designs, both saws serve the same purpose.

But there are a couple of subtle differences.

  • Coping Saw: A coping saw is used for making coping cuts on crown moldings and trims. In addition to cutting complex shapes, a coping saw is also used for cutting certain types of wood joints.
    Coping Saw Cutting Curves
  • Scroll Saw: A Scroll saw is mainly used for creating fretwork, templates, marquetry, cutting jigsaw puzzles etc.
    Cutting wood on a scroll saw

Cutting Action

Arguably the biggest difference is how the cutting action takes place.

  • With a coping saw, you manually push and pull the blade into the material which is secured. Generally, it is regarded as a pull saw, meaning the cutting occurs during the pull stroke.
    Man using a coping saw to cut a semi circle in wood
    With a coping saw, the manual push-pull action provides direct control, allowing for nuanced direction changes, but requires more physical effort. This is particularly beneficial for detailed cuts in small spaces or unique shapes, as it offers greater maneuverability.
  • With a scroll saw, the device itself is secured to a workbench or table. The blade moves up and down while you push the material into it.
    Scroll Saw cutting shape
    This requires less manual effort and facilitates precise, intricate cuts for larger, more complex designs but limits maneuverability compared to the coping saw.


Both coping saws and scroll saws use similar types of blades that are designed to cut through different materials. That means cutting through softwood and cutting through copper require different types of blades.

The only difference between coping and scroll saw blades is the length and design of the blade so that it fits the saw itself.


Generally, scroll saws tend to be precise, while coping saws under certain conditions, tend to be a little more easy to control. However, in most cases, both saws are roughly the same in terms of accuracy.

  • Coping Saw: While it can deliver accurate cuts, a coping saw’s precision largely depends on your cutting skills. As a handsaw, it is easier to maneuver, especially when cutting bevels and compound cuts to match trims.
  • Scroll Saw: The scroll saw can provide more precise cuts due to its ability to support the material on a table. This allows the cut to be perpendicular to the surface (or any angle you set) throughout the cut.
    Since these power saws are mechanically operated and provide a stable, consistent cutting motion, unlike manual saws, where accuracy can vary with the user’s skill and fatigue.


Scroll saws are faster due to their electric-powered operation. For occasional projects, the coping saw is the better choice.
For a continuous series of projects, the scroll saw is better since it does all the work. Most modern scroll saws also provide you with the ability to change the speed.


The coping is an inexpensive hand saw. You can get one with a set of blades for less than $15.
As a power tool, scroll saws are significantly expensive. They range from over a $100 to several hundred dollars for high end models from big brands.

Which Saw Should You Get?

You probably know the answer to this question by now. I will tell you my recommendation on when and who should get a coping saw or scroll saw.

Coping Saw

  • When: Get a Coping Saw if you are doing carpentry work, installing trims, etc. A coping saw or a fret saw is also ideal if you have to cut some intricate shapes on wood, especially for occasional use or smaller projects.
  • Who: It’s a good choice for DIY enthusiasts, hobbyists, carpenters, and professionals who need to do detailed handwork in wood, especially in spaces that are hard to reach with other tools.

Scroll Saw

    • When: You should consider getting a scroll saw when you need to make highly accurate, detailed cuts for larger, more intricate projects or for professional quality work.
    • Who: Scroll saw is for professional pattern makers, serious hobbyists and professional woodworkers who often need to make intricate designs or patterns. It is ideal for the mass production of craftwork, wooden toys, fretwork, etc.