Both scroll saws and jigsaws are great tools for cutting curved lines and plunge cuts. However, many beginning woodworkers tend to mix them up despite there being a lot of differences between the two.
In this article, you will get the rundown on what both a scroll saw and jigsaw is, as well as their differences and when you should use one or the other.
Scroll Saws and Jigsaws: The Basics
These two tools are used for similar projects but have entirely different applications. Before jumping into the differences, let’s start by taking a look at what each of the saws is.
What Is a Scroll Saw?
A scroll saw consists of a work surface with a blade running through the center. This saw requires either a space on your work table or a stand of its own. The blade is attached to the saw both below the work table and into the arm extended out above it.
One of the best things about scroll saws is that they can do inside (plunge) cuts. All you need to do is drill a hole into the middle of the area that needs to be cut out and insert the blade through it. Then, reconnect the blade to the saw and readjust the tension to get it going.
A plunge cut lets you cut out the center hole of material without having to cut through the material itself. This type of cut is one of the biggest benefits of a scroll saw when you’re doing intricate designs. The outer part stays intact, which means it’s less likely to break even after you cut the material.
Something to keep in mind about a scroll saw is there’s a limit to the size of material it can cut. You should always consider the throat size when using this saw, which is the measurement of the space between the blade and the back column of the saw.
This distance is actually half of the total width that the saw can handle because, to reach the other half, all you have to do is turn the material around and approach from the other side.
The cutting surface of the blade faces away from the rear column, so the material moves toward it as you cut.
You should also keep in mind the thickness of the material. You can purchase different blades for a scroll saw but most are usually most effective on materials under 1-inch thick, especially if you’re planning an intricate design.
What Is a Jigsaw?
A jigsaw is considered to be a sort of jack-of-all-trades when it comes to handheld tools. It is convenient and versatile and good for a variety of different cuts but not necessarily the best for fine details. Jigsaws are handheld tools and have a narrow, straight blade that’s attached to the saw at the top of the blade that moves up and down.
There’s a wide foot that is used to guide the blade, which is suspended from the top of the saw through the center of the foot.
Inside cuts are much easier with a jigsaw because you don’t have to remove the blade or do any adjusting. All you should do is drill a hole in the material. The blade of a jigsaw is only attached at the top, and because of this you can just place the bottom part directly into the pre-drilled hole and you’re ready to make a cut.
Blades come in a lot of different lengths and, with the right blade, jigsaws can cut through drywall, PVC, metal, and foam. You can find them as long as 10 inches but the 1- to 3-inch lengths are more standard.
It’s important to consider the thickness of the material you’re going to cut when choosing this saw. You want to get the right blade for the job and, because of the way the tool is designed, a blade that’s too long for the material at hand can be dangerous if too much of the length is sticking out from the bottom.
Also, since a jigsaw is handheld and not bound by a worktable, there is no limit on the size of material that a jigsaw can cut. You can cut wide material or long material and the only restriction is how far you can reach.
Scroll Saw vs. Jigsaw: What Are the Differences?
With the basics out of the way, let’s jump into the differences between these two types of saws.
Scroll saws will typically come with a small, thinner blade while the jigsaw uses a straight and narrow blade. However, both of these saws can use different blade types and sizes depending on the material you will be cutting.
The blades on the scroll saw will have a maximum size of 1/8-inch and the jigsaw blades can be up to 3/5-inch. The scroll saw will also use a fairly standardized blade while jigsaws will either have a “T” or “U” shank blade.
Another key difference between the blades is the scroll saw holds its blade both from the top and below, while the jigsaw’s blade will only be secured at the top.
#2: Cutting Depth
The maximum cutting depth you get out of either of these saws will depend on factors such as the type or strenght of the material being cut. It will also, of course, depend on the type of blade you choose.
The blade on a jigsaw is only held in place on one end, which means there will be more cutting area exposed. This allows you to use the blade to cut thicker materials and make deeper cuts. A jigsaw can make cuts up to about 4 inches deep which is generally about double the depth you get with the scroll saw.
The key reason why scroll saws are not able to cut deep is the throat limits how far the blade can go.
#3: Ease of Operation
When it comes to this, the jigsaw is much easier to use than a scroll saw. Scroll saws are more like the table saw because their fast-moving blade is out in the open and, if you are not careful, accidents can happen easily.
With a jigsaw, you do not have to face the blade directly. Also, with this saw, you must move the blade to the material and not bring the material to the blade. Most jigsaws will also come with a sole for guiding the blade and it in turn also provides an extra level of safety.
#4: Types of Cuts
Scroll saws are built for making intricate and delicate cuts and, in many situations, these cuts will be needed for different projects. Not to mention, they can make these kinds of cuts on a variety of materials.
Jigsaws, on the other hand, will be often used to make straight cuts on wood, curved lines, and perfect circles on different materials. You will need to be extremely precise when using these saws to make other kinds of cuts and it will take a lot of practice.
The jigsaw is a handheld power tool and it will typically be a smaller size which is meant to not only make it easier to handle but also make it more portable. Jigsaws are much lighter than scroll saws and take up less space as well.
Some jigsaws will even come in cordless, battery-operated models that will be more convenient to carry around.
Scroll saws, on the other hand, will not give you the same luxury. These tools are not very portable and you will hardly find any cordless model which will often restrict you to using them in the workshop or garage only.
You can still find some lightweight scroll saws that will be more portable but these models tend to be less accurate, so you have to be able to find the right balance if you plan on using one of these saws.
Scroll saws and jigsaws are both fairly cheap in comparison to other power tools that a woodworker or DIYer may need to buy.
Overall, the scroll saws tend to be more expensive and most quality ones will go for somewhere between $100 and $500. These are bulkier saws and are thus more expensive to produce.
Jigsaws are more the more common and affordable. You can get a basic model for as little as $50 while the top of the line saws will hardly go for anything more than $300.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
You should use jigsaws when you are looking for versatility. With the right blade, they can cut through just about any material and because they’re handheld, there’s no limit as to where they can go.
Jigsaws can handle much thicker material than a scroll saw can as long as you use the right length blade. Their blades can be as long as 10 inches, though blades that are 1 to 3 inches long are more common.
However, when you need very intricate and precise cuts, a scroll saw is your best bet. It’s built for making clean cuts in thin materials and creates lines that are so precise you may not even have to sand the edges.
One example of a project that a scroll saw is perfect for is making a wooden jigsaw puzzle. Not only does it cut the lines clean, but they’re also made precisely enough so that they fit back together perfectly.
A scroll saw is best for craft and decorative projects because it gives the user a lot of control and makes very detailed designs much easier to pull off.
Both the scroll saw and jigsaws are great additions to a seasoned woodcutter’s workshops and, ideally, it is a great idea to have both for different projects.
For the more experienced craftsmen looking for a powerful tool for making delicate and intricate cuts, the scroll saw is perfect. For the beginner DIYer that needs a more versatile and easy to use saw for a variety of projects, the jigsaw is a great buy.
Should you decide to get a jigsaw, don’t forget to check my recommendations.