Scroll Saw Vs. Band Saw – What’s The Difference

By now, you should be aware that there are a hundred and one types of saws. Jigsaw, scroll saw, band saw, table saw, circular saw, hacksaw, coping saw, basic handsaw, and more. The list of these types is nearly endless.

Amazingly, even with all these types, there aren’t two saws that work in the same way. Each is unique in its own way. That’s why when buying a saw, you have to be keen to pick the right type for the job.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. With the overwhelming number of types of saws, picking the one that works for your job best can be a little daunting. Things get more confusing when one has to choose between two types doing almost similar jobs.

For instance, most people find it hard to pick between a scroll saw and a band saw. That’s only one example of two types of saw that create confusion. There are many others. But for today, let’s focus on differentiating scroll saws and band saws.

So, what distinguishes the two saws? Where should you use each type? Well, by the end of this article, you should be able to tell the differences. We suggest that you take a walk with us as we draw a line between the two frequently-confused types.

What is a Scroll Saw?

A scroll saw is an electrically-powered tool with a thin blade that cuts by oscillating up and down. The unit has a flat worktable with a column running parallel to it and connecting right from the upper part of its back.

At the column end that’s closer to the user, a thin blade drops down through the table to an underneath mechanism. The blade is most of the time about 1/4-inch thin and approximately 5 inches long.

At first glance, you may mistake a scroll saw for a sewing machine. Actually, the similarity goes beyond the look and the vertical action of the blade.

For instance, you have to maneuver the workpiece you are cutting in and out of the scroll saw blade to get the type of cut you want. That’s similar to how you have to move clothing through the needle of the sewing machine.

Another feature it shares with a sewing machine is that it has a pressure foot. This feature keeps the stock from moving up and down when the blade is making the oscillating action. That’s why before you turn the machine on, ensure that you adjust and lock the pressure foot to match the thickness of the stock.

Where Can You Use A Scroll Saw?

Now that you understand the basics of how a scroll saw works, next is to know where you can use it. Like any other saw, a scroll saw hardly disappoints when it comes to versatility.

Some of the areas it comes in handy include making Christmas ornaments, objects with tight corners, jigsaw puzzles, and more. It’s one type of saw that will allow you to make angled, straight, and round cuts in a breeze.

However, since the blade is thin, short, and oscillating, this type of saw won’t work with thicker materials. In most cases, scroll saws will cut workpieces that are at most 2 inches thick.

Things To Consider When Buying A Scroll Saw

Throat Size

When buying a scroll saw, one of the things you need to pay attention to is the throat size. The throat size is the distance between the blade and the vertical column where the overhead arm connects to. The throat size will determine the size of the workpiece you can cut using the saw.

For instance, assuming that the throat size is 20 inches, you can only cut material that’s up to 40 inches wide. That’s because the blade needs to get to the center of the material. Once you’ve cut halfway, you can flip the workpiece over to work on the remaining half.

Usually, the throat size ranges anywhere between 12 and 30 inches. Choosing one with a long throat comes with lots of perks as you can use it for workpieces of most sizes.

The Blades

The other feature you have to carry in mind when buying a scroll saw is the blade type. There are two types of blades: pin-end and flat-end.

More than a few saws will allow use with a single type of blade. However, we still have several that are compatible with both types.

If you intend to use the saw for actual scrolling, avoid one that works with pin-end blades. That’s because pin-end blades are way too thick and won’t allow you to make sharp and delicate interior cuts. For such projects, you will need the flat-end models. However, for thicker and tougher stocks, the pin-end variety works better than the flat-end type. 

Also, avoid going for a saw that’s compatible with the two types of blades. While this kind of saw offers versatility, the majority of them are not high-quality. That’s why it’s better to choose one that works with a single blade.

The Speed

One of the features you will like about a saw blade is that it has an adjustable speed. Speed is the number of upward and downward movements the saw makes per unit-time. Usually, we express it in terms of the number of strokes per minute.

For adjustments, scroll saws feature knobs at the bottom or other control mechanisms. Some models have multiple speeds. For others, you can vary the speed within a given range. You can pick the one that seems to work the best for your needs.

The speed adjustability feature, however, has a learning curve. However, once you get used to how it works, you will find it easy and convenient to use in your projects.

Advantages of a scroll saw

  • You can use it to cut intricate contours.
  • The speed of the saw is adjustable.
  • The thin blades allow for tight turns.
  • They are usually quieter compared to band saws.
  • The finish of the cut is smooth and requires minimal or no sanding at all.
  • It takes a minimal amount of space.

Disadvantages of a scroll saw

  • It only works with thin materials.
  • They aren’t the best for projects involving precise straight cuts.

What is a Band Saw?

You already know what a scroll saw is—well done! Let’s now take some time and look at the band saws. As usual, we begin with the first things first. So, what is a band saw? Well, it’s a type of saw with two wheels, the upper and lower wheel on which a flexible band runs.

The band saw shares lots of similarities with the scroll saw. For instance, it has a worktable and looks almost similar to a scroll saw. Actually, at first, you may think that it’s a larger version of the scroll saw.

However, with a keen examination, you may notice lots of differences between the two. One of the distinguishing factors is the cutter. The blade of the band saw is thicker and longer than that of the counterpart.

Also, unlike with a scroll saw, the blade of the band saw runs on two wheels: an upper idle wheel and a lower drive wheel. The drive wheel connects to a motor via a shaft and to the other wheel through the band.

Once you turn a band saw on, the motor will make the lower wheel to start spinning. That sets the band in motion causing the upper wheel to rotate also. Therefore, there isn’t any oscillating action when it comes to band saws.

At times, band saws will come with as many as four wheels. However, compared to the two-wheel versions, there are more similarities than differences in how they work. No matter the model you choose, the size of the band will depend on the distance between the two farthest wheels.

Where Can You Use A Band Saw?

Now that you know how a band saw looks like, where can you use it? Well, getting the answer to this question will go a long way to help you understand whether what you need in your operations is a scroll saw or band saw.

Like with scroll saws, band saws are also versatile tools. In fact, since it doesn’t have a vertical arm to cause obstruction, you can use a band saw for more jobs than the closely-related cousin.

With this type of machine, you can work on thicker workpieces than with a scroll saw. Actually, the only thing that may limit how thick the machine can cut is the distance between the worktable and the top part of the saw. However, that shouldn’t worry you as there’s ample space between the two.

With that said, a band saw will work well for heavy-duty cutting applications that involve long and wide workpieces. If you want to make rip cuts, miter cuts, compound cuts, and long cuts, you will appreciate how a band saw does the work. Other areas of work involve making circles, arches, and other shapes and patterns.

Things To Consider When Buying A Band Saw

The Motor

A motor remains the heart of any saw. As is an engine to a car, so is a motor to a saw. When talking about a heavy-duty unit like the band saw, the motor remains one of the components to pay much attention to when buying.

The rating of the motor defines the capability of the unit. A saw with a top-rated motor will perform more powerfully than one with a low rating. But even before you get to power, choose a brushless motor as it’s more efficient and powerful than the brushed type.

In terms of power, go for one with a high number of amperes. A 10-amp motor is a decent purchase for heavy-duty applications. However, if that’s what you need, be ready to meet the price.

At times, the rating of the motor may be in terms of HP. If that’s the case, choose one with a rating of above 1 HP. That’s because a machine with a lower rating will struggle when using it for hard materials.

One thing to remember here is that the blade can only reach where the motor takes it. Therefore, even with a good cutter, you won’t enjoy the benefits until you pair it with a decent engine.

The Cutting Height

As aforestated, we don’t have a vertical arm with band saws. That leaves the distance between the worktable and the top guide as the only limitation to the size of material you can cut using a band saw.

When buying a band saw, ensure that it leaves ample space between its top and bottom. For a woodworker, the distance needs to be at least six inches. Ensure that you consider the nature of your projects to determine the cutting height.

However, whether you are going to take full advantage of the space will depend on the motor. For instance, assuming that the top guide extends upwards to leave a gap of 6 inches, it’s impossible to cut materials with this thickness if you don’t have a powerful motor.

The Speed

Since a band saw is for long cuts, you have to ensure that you consider the pace of cutting when buying one. We express the speed of a band saw in feet per minute (FPM). A higher FPM rating means that the machine is faster.

Other than the pace, you also have to consider its adjustability. Unlike scroll saws, not all band saws have adjustable speeds. If you are dealing with a wide range of materials, the machine you choose should allow for this variability.

Most of the band saws offer dual speed settings. While that may not give you the kind of flexibility you would want in your operations, it’s way better than one with a single speed setting.

Advantages of a band saw

  • You can use it for thicker workpieces.
  • It works on a wide range of materials.
  • Band saws are more powerful.
  • Ideal for long straight cuts.
  • The speed is decent.
  • The versatility is fantastic.

Disadvantages of a band saw

  • Since it cuts first, the finish isn’t ultra-smooth.
  • You can’t use it for inside cuts.

Scroll Saw Vs. Band Saw- What To Buy

To this point, you already know that there are lots of differences between these two types of saws. So, should you go for a scroll saw or a band saw? If I point out any of the models as better than the other, I probably will be lying. In fact, it will render void everything that I have said before.

To know the right model for your needs, you have to consider what each type does. In a nutshell, a scroll saw will work ideally for small projects that involve making interior cuts. If those are the kind of applications you deal with, you will appreciate a scroll saw.

On the other side, a band saw is more powerful and works for making long cuts. However, you can only use it for outside cuts. Therefore, we are safe to conclude that it’s not in any way a larger version of the scroll saw.

Final Remarks

Both scroll saws and band saws have worktables and look almost the same. However, that’s where the similarities between the two end. The difference comes in the size, anatomy, amount of power, blade, area of use, and more.

To make the right decision, you should understand the uses, strengths, and weaknesses of each. You should also be able to tell the differences between the two types. With that information in mind, it should now be more straightforward to determine whether you should buy a scroll saw, band saw, or both.

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