Scroll Saw vs Band Saw – How Do You Choose?

Last Updated on October 16, 2021

Scroll saws and band saws may look similar in appearance, but the two machines do differ enough to not be complete substitutes for each other. The mechanics of both of these types of saws are similar.

That is, there is a table that has a saw running perpendicular to it, and when a piece or block of wood is placed on the table and moved along, the saw pierces through it and provides a clean and precise cut.

Both machines are excellent for intricate and decorative woodworking. But which one should you get? The following scroll saw vs. band saw guide may help.

Scroll Saws

A fact that is hard to miss about the scroll saw is that it resembles a sewing machine, from its smaller size (compared to a band saw) to its needle-like saw blade to its foot pedal. This is why you might come across tutorials on the internet on how to turn a sewing machine into a scroll saw.

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The blade of a scroll saw is quite thin, with tiny teeth across it. It gets its power from the engine to cleanly cut through wood. Just like the needle of a sewing machine, the scroll saw’s blade moves up and down to saw the wood.

Scroll saws are known for being useful in craftier projects such as making jigsaw puzzles, dollhouse furniture, ornaments, and inlays. This is because the tiny saw blade allows for great accuracy, a smooth finish that barely requires any sanding, and the ability to cut really tight corners.

There will either be a button or foot pedal (or both) to get the engine running. All you have to do next is move your piece of wood in any shape you want. The speed of the saw blade is also adjustable, allowing for the careful carving of particularly intricate pieces.

Band Saws

This is the more heavy-duty one out of the two saws. Due to its bigger size, both overall and in terms of the height of the blade, band saws allow you to cut thicker and bigger pieces of wood than a scroll saw.

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While the blade of a band saw can still be as thin as that of a scroll saw, its height is adjustable. So the height of a band saw’s blade can be adjustable up to 14 inches (and even higher for some brands of band saws).

How it works is that the saw blade runs along with the machine in a continuous loop with the help of two wheels (one at the top and one at the bottom of the band saw).

And this means that the blade only moves in one direction while it is sawing: downwards. This eliminates the kickback of dust from the sawing and gives a cleaner finish to the wood overall. The blade of a band saw is also customizable, in the sense that you can switch it out and use a thinner, thicker, wider, or narrower toothed blade.

Uses of Scroll Saws

Scroll Saw vs Band Saw – How Do You Choose

Scroll saws are generally used for woodworking that requires accuracy and intricacy, such as making jigsaw puzzles, dollhouse furniture, etc. This is why there is also a speed control option on scroll saws.

One of the biggest appeals of scroll saws is their accuracy. You can easily turn your wood mid-saw to make a clean 90-degree angle, and also cut really tight corners quite easily.

The upper component of a scroll saw (which has the blade attached to it by tension) can also be angled before sawing the wood so that it has a slant. This feature is also useful when doing marquetry. Scroll saws are ideal for inlay work and pierce cutting.

If you have outlined on a piece of wood that cannot be cut out from the outside, what you can do is drill a hole in the middle of the outline, release some of the tension and separate the blade from the upper component. Then thread the blade through the hole in the wood.

This makes it easy for you to cut out detailed shapes within the wood. Scroll saws are also one of the safest woodworking tools out there, and a great way to get kids to take up the craft.

Uses of Band Saws

uses of band saw

Band saws, though heavy-duty, still allow delicate cuts such as curves and circles to be sawed. Unlike a jigsaw, band saws give you more control while cutting out circles and curves, due to sawdust not coming up and blurring your outline. Not to mention, they provide smooth cuts most of the time.

Another common use for band saws is for resawing wood. As explained above, resawing allows you to get two or more (depending on the size of the woodblock) pieces of wood out of one large block. By resawing, you are eliminating the waste that would have been caused by using a planer to saw down the wood.

Similarly, you can use band saws in order to do bookmatching. This means cutting down the side of a plank of wood so that when sawed down, the two halves match symmetrically. For the most part, band saws do a ton when it comes to utilizing wood that you otherwise would have sanded down and thrown out.

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Scroll Saws vs Band Saws – How They Are Different

Below we are gonna compare both of them feature-by-feature.


Given the higher working capacity of the band saw, it is usually the heavier of the two machines. Scroll saws, though still heavy, are the more ‘portable’ option.

So, if weight is an issue for you and the other differences between the two do not matter, it is suggested that you go for the scroll saw as it is almost always the lighter option.


Both scroll saws and band saws are known for giving wood an almost sanded down, smooth finish after cutting. You will only need to do minor sanding after using either saw.

However, it is the band saw that allows you to cut a higher quantity of wood at once. Band saws make it easy to stack thick pieces of wood together and carve them at the same time.

They are also ideal for resawing wood. That is, sawing down the thickness of wood to get two pieces out of it. This eliminates the need to plane the wood down to the thickness you require.

Quantities of Wood That Can Be Cut or Carved

Band saws allow for bigger pieces of wood to be cut, both in terms of height, width, and length.

As mentioned above, the height of a band saw’s blade is usually adjustable up to 14 inches or more. Additionally, because the blade on a band saw faces sideways and not in or opposite the direction of the back of the machine, the length of wood that can be cut is usually not an issue.

Scroll saws, on the other hand, will usually only allow wood of an inch (and sometimes a bit higher) of height to be cut.

The throat size of a scroll saw is the distance between the blade and the rear frame of the machine. This distance determines how long a piece of wood can be cut on the saw. So, the length wood you can cut on a scroll saw can be between 12 inches (on a personal workshop scroll saw) to 30 inches (on an industrial scroll saw).

Scroll Saws vs Band Saws – Which One is for You?

Scroll saws and band saws are different enough for you to not feel guilty about owning both. As seen above, each serves a very different role in woodworking.

If you are someone who makes wooden crafts that require intricate cuts or someone wants to get a younger relative or student into woodworking, a scroll saw would be the option for you.

However, if you need to repurpose heavy blocks of wood that you have at hand or carve and cut long pieces of wood, you should likely get a band saw.

Of course, there are more uses for each of these saws than the ones mentioned above, and some of their functions are also interchangeable. So as with any big purchase, the ultimate decision lies with you and your individual woodworking needs.

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