When it comes to your workshop tools, you want to get the most versatility out of your saw toolset as you can. Deciding between a band saw and a scroll saw can be difficult since these two tools serve many of the same functions, but they are slightly different.
A scroll saw is better for creating intricate, tight, complex curves while cutting, but a band saw is better for cutting hardwoods up to twelve inches thick. While a scroll saw can make more nuanced designs, it cannot handle the thicker wood thicknesses that a band saw can. Each saw type is useful for different types of projects.
If both scroll saws and band saws are good, which saw type is better for your project? Keep reading to learn more about the difference between band saws and scroll saws and which would be a better choice for you to work with.
Band Saws vs. Scroll Saws
While band saws and scroll saws serve some of the same functions in a woodcutting shop, these different saw types are specialized to be used in specific kinds of woodworking projects. Here is a table breaking down the major differences between band saws and scroll saws.
|Band Saw||Scroll Saw|
|Motor Type||Variable motor||Fixed motor|
|Price||$150 -$2000||$80 – $1000|
|Material Thickness||12-inch maximum||1-inch maximum|
|Cut types||Simple curves and joints||Complex curve designs|
|Noise||More noise||Less noise|
|Material Types||Can cut wood, plastic, and metal||Can cut wood, plastic, and metal|
If we look down the list of attributes for both band saws and scroll saws, we can see some key differences between them.
The Main Difference Between a Band Saw vs. Scroll Saw
The main difference is in the thickness of wood that the saw can handle. Band saws can cut through a block of wood a foot across, while scroll saws are designed for detail and finishing work. (Source: Healthy Handyman)
It is possible to do a lot of the same work you’d do with a band saw with a scroll saw, but a scroll saw may not perform well under heavier loads in the same way that a band saw would.
If you’re choosing between the two types, you should look at the type of woodworking projects you’re planning to do. If you’re going to be building out a house, you’ll need a heavier tool as a band saw. But if you’re planning curved table legs to build a table, a scroll saw is probably the better option.
A Look at What Band Saws Can Do
While band saws can perform a straight cut as a table saw, this isn’t the best application for these saws. Instead, band saws perform best when they are used with any of the following:
- Rip guide
- Miter guide
- Circle guide
Like scroll saws, band saws can make curved cuts. But band saws cannot perform these delicate finishing techniques as easily as a scroll saw, and they can’t make intricate details as a scroll saw.
Band saws may cut a thicker piece of wood and a wider range of metals than a scroll saw, but along with these traits, they are also noisier and more expensive than a scroll saw. We’ll break it down into some pros and cons.
Advantages of Band Saws
- Can cut thick slabs of wood (up to 12 inches)
- Can handle a wider range of projects than a scroll saw
- Versatility allows a band saw to cut either with a very thin blade or a one-inch blade
- Band saws can be used for heavy load work such as cutting bone-in meats or timber
While band saws are useful tools, there are also some downsides to using a band saw.)
Disadvantages of Band Saws
- Noisier and more expensive
- It can’t be used effectively for plunge cuts.
- It can’t be used effectively on more lightweight wood crafts.
- It can’t be used for delicate or intricate cut woodworking designs.
Band saws can’t work with the same delicate, lightweight materials that a scroll saw can (think the thin pieces of wood that artisans use to make wooden jigsaw puzzles). Band saws also can make the kinds of plunge cuts and other nuanced cuts that a scroll saw can. (Source: Woodworkers Guild of America
A few design aspects of the band saw that mean band saws aren’t appropriate for every task. But if you’re looking for a workshop workhorse that can handle a wide variety of both straight and curved cuts, a band saw is a good choice. (Source: Timber and Tools)
A Look at What Scroll Saws Can Do
Scroll saws can perform many of the same operations as a band saw, but only on a smaller scale. Unlike band saws made for more heavy-duty furniture building work, scroll saws are designed for crafting and finishing work. While they’re good at doing inside cuts and other small jobs that band saws aren’t designed for, they can’t handle heavier woodworking jobs like cutting timber.
Advantages of Scroll Saws
- Cheaper and quieter than a band saw
- It can be used for sharp, tight curves in woodworking
- It can be used on delicate craftwork and decorative scrolling
- It is good for performing plunge cuts or other tight cuts
Scroll saws are a great saw to have around the woodworking shop for people who tend to do smaller or more intricate woodworking projects, but there are some drawbacks to these smaller saws. Here are some of the disadvantages of scroll saws in comparison to band saws.
Disadvantages of Scroll Saws
- Limited in the material thickness and type that they can handle compared to a band saw
- Not suitable for working timber or ripping straight cuts
- Don’t have the same level of power as a band saw for handling heavy workloads
Scroll saws aren’t appropriate for every woodworking job, and if you only have a scroll saw in your shop, you’re likely going to be restricted in what you’re able to create with it. The best option between a band saw and a scroll saw is actually both—if you buy both types of saws, you’ll be able to handle all kinds of carpentry jobs, from cutting raw lumber to building tiny delicate curved pieces.
Is a Bandsaw Better than a Scroll Saw? Depends on Your Use.
Have you looked over the advantages and disadvantages of both and you’re still not sure which kind of saw you should buy?
The best way to decide between the two is to check out your general workload regarding your woodworking shop. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure out which of these two saw types is a better fit for your shop:
- How much money do I have to spend? Many scroll saws are a bit cheaper than band saws, though there are a few economy-grade band saws that can also be purchased for around the same price as a scroll saw.
- What types of materials do I normally work within the shop? While both band saws and scroll saws can handle plastics and metals, band saws are capable of handling much tougher types of plastic and metal than a scroll saw.
- What thicknesses of materials do I normally work within my shop? If you tend to work with heavier materials like large wood blocks, you’ll need to go with a band saw. On the other hand, if you tend to do small woodworking projects and decorative finishing work in your shop, you’ll want to go with a scroll saw instead.
Once you’ve done an assessment of the work you usually do and the projects you want to accomplish in the future, you’ll have a better idea of whether you should invest in a band saw or a scroll saw.
Both Band Saws and Scroll Saws Are Useful in the Workshop
Even though they have slightly different functions, both band saws and scroll saws can be useful in a woodworking shop. Neither is better than the other; it just depends on the type of woodworking projects you plan to undertake.