Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Barry Gray
Band saws and scroll saws sometimes look similar and work in similar ways, so it’s easy to see why many people don’t know the difference. But understanding what sets them apart can change the way you use your tools.
The primary difference between scroll saws and band saws is their size. Band saws use much bigger blades that can cut thicker, tougher materials, whereas scroll saws’ small blades are useful if you want to make fine, detailed cuts.
If you’re having trouble choosing between the two, this guide will walk you through the primary differences between scroll saws and band saws, and a few things to think about to buy the scroll saw or the band saw for your needs.
So before you make those important decisions, here are some of the key differences to consider when you decide between a scroll saw or a band saw.
Before you buy any tool, you should start with what you want to do. After all, you wouldn’t buy a screwdriver if you need to hammer nails.
Similarly, you need to think about what kinds of projects you want to do before you can figure out if you want to buy a scroll saw or a band saw.
You might want to use a scroll saw if you’re trying to make exceptionally fine cuts, intricate designs, or tightly curved lines in thin wood or plastic.
The scroll saw’s thin blade can easily turn tight corners and make fine cuts in wood and other materials. People use scroll saws to make clocks, writing, puzzles, and other finely-made products.
Band saw blades are typically much larger and more difficult to maneuver. That has its own advantages, but it makes the kind of details that scroll saws do easily, impossible. But band saws can make curved cuts, so they could fit your needs depending on the level of detail necessary.
You should also consider what you’ll be cutting with your saw. Band saws can handle some metals, but those can break the smaller scroll saw blades.
Band saws are also better for large amounts of wood. If you plan on cutting wood that is more than two inches thick, a scroll saw wouldn’t be appropriate for the job. Band saws, on the other hand, can fit much thicker and more durable blades.
Are you trying to cut curved edges? Are you cutting wood that is more than 2 inches thick, or cutting plastic, non-ferrous metal, or other synthetic materials? Are you splitting thick or long boards in half?
If you answered “yes” to all of those, you might need a band saw. Although other tools can do these same things, the band saw has the versatility to do all of them. It can also cut a wide variety of materials, eliminating the need for multiple tools to do the same job.
While your personal needs will determine whether you have any use for a band saw or a scroll saw, it’s important to note that the band saw is significantly more versatile. Because it can cut more, tougher materials, you’ll run into less frustration using a band saw than a scroll saw.
No matter how focused you are on your project, it’s always important to keep in mind that safety has to come first. If you’ve never used a scroll saw or band saw before, you’ll need to be certain that you can safely use the one you purchase before you make that investment.
Fortunately, scroll saws are relatively safe power tools. The same things that make them less versatile than band saws–lack of size and power–also make them safer. Accidents involving scroll saws are less likely to be serious, and their precision makes those accidents much less likely to begin with.
On the other hand, band saws can be much trickier. Their size and power can make slips much more dangerous, and they often lack the scroll saw’s air nozzle, which can improve visibility and make errors less common.
Another key safety feature is the foot pedal. Scroll saws are controlled by a foot pedal that requires constant pressure, so moving away from the machine will cause it to stop running. That isn’t the case for band saws, which run independently.
Even with these differences, band saws remain a fairly safe tool compared to other saws. Band saws are simple tools, and although they might be more dangerous than scroll saws, beginners can learn to use both safely.
For people without the benefit of a professional shop, a tool’s size can be a deciding factor in whether they can use it. Large tools just aren’t useful if they take up too much space.
Scroll saws are relatively light and compact, at least as far as saws go. You won’t be taking your scroll saw on a walk with you, but it isn’t too difficult to move most scroll saws around, and you shouldn’t need to worry about the footprint yours takes up.
Band saws can be much larger than scroll saws. This is especially true with the more powerful, professional models. That can make investing in a band saw a difficult choice for many people–if it means you can’t have two other, equally useful tools, you might need to find a more compact option.
There are portable band saw options, but these often sacrifice power for portability. That means that you could lose out on one of the primary advantages that band saws have: their ability to cut through thick, tough materials.j
At the lower end, scroll saws and band saws are similarly priced. These lighter uses are great for hobbiests, but won’t necessarily cut it for professionals.
A budget scroll saw can be as low as $100, and discount band saws are close by at $200. But neither of those will be the most durable or powerful saws, and they wouldn’t be suitable for professional work.
At the high end, band saws and scroll saws sit much farther apart. An expensive scroll saw can be as much as $4,000, which sounds like a bargain when you compare it to the $10,000 that you might have to pay for a top-end band saw.
Overall, price likely won’t be a deciding factor in whether your get a scroll saw or band saw. Budget-conscious buyers will find that you can get tools of similar quality for similar prices, whether they’re band saws or scroll saws.
Advantage: Scroll Saw
Overall, scroll saws have unique advantages over band saws. If you’re choosing between one or the other, the scroll saw is likely the better choice.
However, that will depend on what tools you already have, and what you’d like to do with your shop. If you have plenty of money, you’re an expert with band saws, and you want to cut tough materials, the band saw is the obvious choice for you.
But with a scroll saw, money and space become much smaller concerns. They’re also much easier for beginners to learn how to use without significant risks.
At the end of the day, it comes down to how you want to use your saw. If you’re looking for a single, one-size-fits-all tool, a band saw will do more for you than a scroll saw.
Scroll saws do have a strong advantage because of their unique ability to make fine cuts. Band saws can’t compete in that category, and few other tools can. While everything that a band saw does can be done by other common power tools, there are few others that could replace a scroll saw.