Scroll Saw vs Band Saw

What’s the difference?

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
A Ryobi 16 in. scroll saw.
A Ryobi 16 in. scroll saw
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This article was updated on 02/17/21.

We can’t have too many power tools in the shop. The extent of our acquisitions can be guided by 3 principles — budget, storage space, and frequency of use. There are exceptions. For example, you may not use your biscuit joiner often, but when you need it, nothing else will do. Some tools are similar enough that they can have almost overlapping functionality, when some ingenuity and/or woodworking jigs are used. You might assume that the scroll saw vs band debate saw falls into this camp. You would be partly correct but there are some important differences.

Benefits of a Scroll Saw

We’ll look at the scroll saw first. It has certain benefits for certain projects.

  • It can make internal cuts. All you have to do is drill an entry hole in your work piece, insert the blade, and cut away. Then you can clean up the internal edges with the sanding implement of your choice.
  • It is a better choice for small detailed work and parquetry and inlay work, as it cuts tighter than a band saw.
  • It can be used to cut the cheeks of a dovetail joint and to divide a wide tenon into two smaller ones.
  • It can make angled cuts up to 45 degrees.
  • They are available in various throat sizes. The throat size when it comes to the scroll saw is the distance between the blade and the rear part of the saw. A larger table surface handles larger projects.

Benefits of a Band Saw

A Ryobi tabletop band saw
A Ryobi tabletop band saw
  • Like the scroll saw, it can make angled cuts up to 45 degrees.
  • It can cut much thicker stock than a scroll saw.
  • It’s more powerful than a scroll saw. Since the table is open on both ends, throat size is not so much of a consideration, although table size still is.
  • Using the right band saw blades you can even cut metal, but I never have so I offer no opinion on this point.

The Million Dollar Question: Should You Invest in a Scroll saw or a Band Saw?

In the spirit of full transparency, I own both. Why? Because it’s easier to use the right saw for the job. But if you are limited to one or the other, consider which will better fit your woodworking needs. Most of the tasks suited to a band saw can also be done on your table saw. Another consideration is your shop configuration. I have 2 large work benches, one stationary and one wheeled so I use a lot of bench-top tools and just swap them out as needed. Whichever saw/s you purchase, look for a reliable brand name and a heavy base.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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