Whether you’re a professional woodworker or just a hobbyist with some time to spare, you’ve probably noticed something about the woodworking field – it is filled with many, many different types of power saws. Moreover, you’ve likely noticed that these saws come in every imaginable shape and size, with each unit’s function not entirely clear to an average observer.
That can lead to a fair bit of confusion relating to which saw can best serve different types of projects.
One such point of confusion surrounds bandsaws and scroll saws, even to this day. At times, folks assume that these two must be similar in terms of function and application because they both feature thinner-than-average blades. But in truth, these tools have a number of differences that could seriously impact which one you need to chose for your upcoming project.
To try to resolve some of that confusion, we’ve created this comparison guide in which you’ll learn about some of those key differences, starting with each power saw’s most basic operations. From there, you’ll also gain some valuable insights about which of the two is best-suited for different types of wood cuts.
Bandsaws and Scroll Saws: The Basics
If you have much experience in a woodshop, then you’ve likely used each of these power saws before. But just in case you’re new to woodworking, we’ll start by looking at both the bandsaw and scroll saw at a basic level,
What Is a Bandsaw?
In its most basic form, a bandsaw is one of the most recognizable pieces of equipment in any woodshop. Their vertical form factor and long, thin blade make them among the very best for creating detailed cuts in almost any density of wood.
This includes cutting irregular or curved forms, much in the same manner as a jigsaw. They’re also well-known for the longevity of their blades, as well as their ability to resaw wood workpieces easily.
Bandsaws are also a preferred option compared to some other larger woodworking power tools. For example, bandsaws output very little feedback during the course of a cut, making them preferable to a larger table saw.
Along the same lines, bandsaws offer a decent amount of power across the entire length of their saw blade. This ensures that most cuts are consistent and show a moderately clean finish.
What Is a Scroll Saw?
At a glance, one might assume that a scroll saw looks like an unusual sowing machine. But in truth, this unique power saw utilizes a reciprocating blade motion that allows its very thin blade to effectively cut kerfs and curves of all kinds into wood.
As a result, a scroll saw is the preferred option for woodworkers who dabble in ultra-detailed work. In fact, the “scroll” in this saw’s name is even a reference to the scroll work performed by ancient woodcarvers.
When it comes to their actual use, though, scroll saws could not be simpler.
That’s because they are pedal-powered in nature – just like a household sewing machine. As a result, a user always has full control over the speed at which their unit’s blade is reciprocating. Scroll saws are also considered relatively safe, again as a result of their manual ignition system.
Their cost, however, is less user-friendly, with some units costing several thousand dollars.
Bandsaw vs. Scroll Saw: What Are the Differences?
Now that you know the basics, let’s dive deeper into the differences between the two.
When you pick up any power saw, your first question about its capabilities will likely relate to its overall cutting strength. On that front, the bandsaw and scroll saw differ noticeably.
To that end, the bandsaw is considered the stronger option of the two. This is because its weight-based reciprocating blade motion is more able to slice through even dense wood stock. This strength is even enough to cut through plastics and thin metals as well (so long as you have the right blade type attached).
Meanwhile, scroll saws are considered the weaker of these two power saws.
That’s primarily because the width of their blades does not lend themselves well to sheer power alone. Instead, these saws trade off strength for maneuverability.
Also, both of these saw types pale in comparison to the strength of a table saw or circular saw. Either of these two options would be more effective for making a series of repeated cuts through thick wood stock, in fact.
Variety of Cuts
Versatility is also a big issue for today’s woodworker, including professionals and DIYers alike. As such, it’s important to know which of these two saws can accomplish the kinds of cuts your upcoming projects need most.
When it comes to making more “traditional” cuts, a bandsaw will definitely be the right option for your workshop. That’s because these units are able to make straight, angled, and curved cuts with relative ease. In truth, these cuts are known to come out a bit rough if you are using a standard bandsaw blade.
But that’s nothing a little sandpaper cannot fix.
By comparison, scroll saw cuts are far cleaner without the need for sandpaper. These saws can also create far more ornate cuts compared to almost any other type of power saw. Jigsaw cuts are a prime example of what these saws can do in the hands of a skilled craftsman.
Blade Type and Width
Both the bandsaw and scroll saw are well-known for their minimized blade sizes. But which of these two power saws feature the thinnest blade?
That award goes to the scroll saw, whose blades are almost like saw string rather than a traditional flat blade. This allows these blades to be far more maneuverable when making detailed cuts. They are prone to wearing down quickly, though, due to their minimized dimensions.
Bandsaw blades, meanwhile, are fairly resilient due to their exceptional length. To be specific, a bandsaw runs its entire blade length while reciprocating, which reduces wear on any one section. Also, bandsaw blades come in several different widths that can effectively add to the unit’s cutting capacity.
Depending on the size of your woodworking shop, you may also want to take sizing into account when choosing between these two power saws.
Between the two, an average band saw is considered the “smaller” option due to its unique vertical form factor. This ensures that its horizontal footprint on a work surface is minimal, at best.
Scroll saws tend to take up a bit more worktop space, though.
This is due to their elongated form factor that must be steady and even on a work surface in order for it to operate correctly. These units still take up far less space than a heavy-duty bandsaw, though. Those units often stand tall from the ground up, requiring them to be placed on their own on the floor.
As always, you should follow any and all safety recommendations put forth by your power saw’s user’s manual. That being said, scroll saws are fairly safe for an experienced user. That’s because their foot pedal activation allows a user to turn off the moving blade at a moment’s notice.
Bandsaws don’t offer that kind of safety measure but can still be worked safely, as long as a user keeps their fingers far from the reciprocating blade.
Ease of Use
Finally, when it comes to choosing based on ease of use alone, you’ll likely want to opt for a scroll saw.
Much to many folks’ surprise, these saws are not hard to operate via their foot pedal. In fact, this style of operation makes it easier to control these saws when working through ultra-detailed cuts. Even a DIYer can master the scroll saw with just a few projects’ worth of experience.
Bandsaws are not “hard to use” by any means.
However, they do require a bit more work to adjust and finesse. This is even true when making curved cuts, which the bandsaw is fully capable of completing. In many cases, it is worth your while to test out the kind of cut you intend to make in advance so that you can get a feel for the bandsaw’s motion during the course of that cut.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
As you have probably surmised, both the scroll saw and the bandsaw can be used to perform detailed woodworking tasks. However, the scroll saw is still the preferred option for the most detailed cutting projects because of its exceptional level of control and finesse.
A bandsaw can also serve in those roles in a pinch but is better suited to performing more standard straight and angled cuts.
If you’re concerned about space, you may not find a scroll saw to be a great space-saver. Unless they have their own workbench area, in fact, you may find them to be a bit cumbersome. A bandsaw is a logical alternative, in that case.
They are widely available in desktop models, each of which utilizes a vertical form factor that won’t crowd out your other tools.
By now, the differences between a bandsaw and scroll saw should be as clear as day.
Though some of these differences are subtle, they may still impact which one you choose to invest in. As such, you should keep them all in mind when deciding which power saw to add to your workshop next.
Don’t skip that important comparison step, though, or else you might find yourself wanting the saw option that you passed up on.