Scroll Saws Vs Jigsaws (What Are The Key Differences?)

If you’re looking for an addition to your craftsmanship inventory, or perhaps you want to know the differences between both of these power tools, you’ve come to the right place.

What is the difference between a scroll saw, and a jigsaw? Well, firstly – we can look at the design.

A jigsaw can be corded or cordless, and is used upon a tabletop, with your hand using the tool to maneuver around your material as you’re working on the design.

A scroll saw is a tabletop saw – and it stays upon the tabletop. You won’t be able to find a portable scroll saw, yet using a scroll saw would be more in tuned for intricate, accurate designs.

Don’t have too much to spend reading through the whole article? No problem!

I’ve compiled a quick overview of the main points we’ve discussed today, for your convenience.

  • Jigsaws offer more power, whereas scroll saws offer more accuracy, yet both can be used for tricky designs
  • Both saws have a blade which reciprocates, and are often confused for each other unknowingly
  • Scroll saws sit upon a tabletop, which is built into the saw, a jigsaw is held by hand and can be corded or cordless
  • Jigsaw blades are larger than scroll saws, however can be more pricey compared to a scroll saw
  • Both the scroll and jigsaw have a set of foundation features that are found across all models, regardless of brand

An Overview Of The Scroll Saw & Jigsaw

Both of these saws are often used interchangeably, however they are quite different when you’re looking at them in closer detail.

Whilst both can be used for accuracy, jigsaws have a little more power behind them, and when compared – it’s a scroll saw you would be looking to use for complex, zig-zag type cuts.

Let’s look into both of these popular saws below, and discuss the ins and outs of their designs and uses – so you can be as informed as possible when deciding between the two to fit your need.

Scroll Saw

A scroll saw is a particular type of saw that is used to cut intricate shapes and curved lines into materials, and is a saw known for its’ finesse and accuracy more so than its’ power.

Due to this, it’s used in projects that require these particular designs, rather than the focus upon power in which many other saws are built on.

Scroll Saw Cuts & Uses

As you’re most likely aware by now – a scroll saw wouldn’t be used in demolition jobs, or to cut through incredibly thick pieces of wood.

Like other saws which fit different applications, a scroll saw has a specialized variety of cuts, designs and projects which can be made.

Here’s a list of the different uses that a scroll saw can assist in:

  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Designing plaques
  • Letter and number carving
  • Wooden portraits
  • Models
  • Cutting boards

As you can see, a great deal of creativity and imagination can go into a scroll saw and its’ cuts, which is why it’s a saw that’s favoured for hobbyists and creative minds alike.

Scroll Saw Features

I’ve listed the key features of the scroll saw below, which you’ll undoubtedly come across when looking through at the many models available.

As well as the basic features, we’ll quickly look over the scroll saw additions that you can find included on certain models.

Scroll Saw: Standard Features

Arm

One of the most crucial features of the scroll saw, the arm holds the blade in place through either a pinned or pinless feature.

There are three distinct arm types of a scroll saw – a C Arm, Parallel Type, and Parallel-Linked arm. The latter is the latest in advancement of the scroll saw.

The arm is linked to the motor, and the different arm types can result in different types of cuts (when comparing output, power wise).

Blade

The blade is another crucial component of the scroll saw.

Blades come in either pinned or pinless form, and you’ll select either one accordingly with the type your scroll saw accepts.

Older scroll saws usually take the pinned form of blades, yet most modern scroll saws accept both pinned and pinless blade types.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blades – as the blade makeup is contributed to its’ configuration (which includes the TPI and amount of gullets), and also the blade size.

There is a semi-standard blade sizing system, which ranks blades from <0 to a maximum of 12. This is not universal though – as many companies have their own numbering systems to differentiate blade sizes.

Throat Size

If you’ve used other woodworking tools in the past, this is a term you’d be quite familiar with.

The throat size is the term given to the amount of space from the blade to the back of the table’s surface, which gives a guide of the sizes of material you’re able to work with.

Typically, you can find throat sizes on scroll saws marked at 16” and 20”, although there are models which fit outside this range.

Scroll Saw: Additional Features

As the above are the standard features which make a scroll saw – there are many additional features which can be found – which all have their own uses and ways they enhance the scroll saw itself.

Additional features centre around visibility and increase performance and accuracy – with an example of visibility features including adjustable dust blowers and led lighting.

Cutting-wood-with-scroll-saw

Many scroll saws come with a variable speed trigger/know, which allows you to adjust the speed, in accordance with the type of blade being used, and the material being worked on.

A blade tension knob is another very handy feature which can be found in high-quality scroll saws. This allows you to dictate the tension needed in the blade, which is extremely convenient.

Jigsaw

If you find similarities between a jigsaw and a sewing machine aesthetically – don’t worry, you’re not alone in this method of thinking.

Jigsaws originated from the sewing machine, when an engineer by the name of Albert Kaufmann replaces the needle of his wifes’ sewing machine with a blade.

Fast forward from this innovation in 1946, and the jigsaw is a popular power tool, used by the average hobbyist, to the seasoned contractor.

Amazing, right?

Jigsaw Cuts & Uses

With a jigsaw, the primary cutting shape is that of a circular motion, with the jigsaw cutting as it oscillates. The blade protrudes from the top of the machine, connecting with the chosen material.

The blade reciprocates, akin to the scroll saw.

Unlike the scroll saw however, jigsaws are a little bit rougher, and can be used for a variety of jobs.

Jigsaws cut with a high degree of accuracy, although not as accurate as their scroll saw counterparts.

They are more powerful than a scroll saw, and you can use the tool for light demo and remodeling work (cutting frames with woods, metals, aluminium, drywall, etc)

Of course, they can also be used for similar projects a scroll saw can – and was used to create the jigsaw puzzle, hence the name.

If you’re cutting through materials in a non-linear motion, a jigsaw is what you would be using.

They are a very safe tool to use, which is why they’re very popular across all experience levels.

Jigsaw Features

When browsing through models of jigsaws, you’ll notice a few key terms thrown around – that are described in each model, regardless of brand and design.

These are the standard features, the features of a jigsaw that are necessary in order to assist with your work.

Like we did with the scroll saw, we’ll look into the features below – as well as some additional features of a jigsaw.

Jigsaw: Standard Features

Blade

Blade and stroke length are usually paired when discussing the jigsaw, yet we’ll reserve this section purely for explaining the blade.

Without a blade, your jigsaw is utterly useless, so it’s a pretty vital component, wouldn’t you think?

Jigsaw blades are categorized under the type of shank they fit – which are two types; a U-Shank (universal), and a T-shank (tang)

You can decipher which is which by looking at the shank – a U-Shank will have a small, U shaped indent on the shank, whereas a T-shank will have a rounded look.

Today, U shanks are not as common as the T shank- which have overtaken the U-shank design due to keyless blade clamp features of a jigsaw.

As well as the shank, the material in which the jigsaw blade is made of will determine what it can cut. Like the scroll saw, the blade is measured by TPI, which can range from 6, all the way to 36.

Motor

A jigsaw’s motor is what provides the power throughout the tool, allowing the blade to reach its’ maximum potential.

The jigsaw has its’ motor measured in amps, with the higher-end jigsaws sporting a 6-7.5 amp level.

The higher the amp level, the more powerful the motor – thus providing a more aggressive cut.

Stroke Length

The stroke length is the term given to the amount of distance the blade can travel when it reciprocates.

Put simply, the longer the stroke length, the faster the jigsaw can cut through materials.

How does that work, you might ask?

Well, as the blade travels both in the upwards and downwards direction, the blades’ teeth come into contact with the material.

The more teeth which connect with the material, the faster the jigsaw can cut through it.

Stroke lengths range from ¾” to 1”, with higher numbers found in jigsaws that are of high-end quality.

Jigsaw: Additional Features

There are many additional features that you can find on jigsaw models, which are designed to improve visibility, adjust and control speeds.

An example of these additional features include dust blowers, which clear any dust and debris from the material. Some also come with dust bags, however these are quite rare.

Scroll-saw-buying-guide

You may also come across jigsaws that hold a variable speed trigger and lock. With these additions, you’re able to adjust the speed of the jigsaw.

These speeds normally range from 500 – 3,000 SPM, so the variable speed trigger and lock features give you optimal control, for smoother cuts that are a quality of work you can be proud of.

Summary

Hopefully by now – you’d be able to determine the differences between both a scroll and jigsaw, as well as what applications each tool can be used for.

Both are tools which are an extremely helpful addition to your current set of tools – however it’s important to identify your needs and type of projects before choosing one over the other.

If you’re needing a small and portable saw to cut through an array of materials with some precision, then you’d best be buying a jigsaw, which would be perfect for your needs.

For the craftsman who is looking for a saw that fits a more creative and complex niche – such as designing plaques and carving numbers into wood – a scroll saw would be your go to here.

Either way, both models of saw can be found through all price ranges – so there is definitely a version of a scroll and jigsaw out there for you.

Isn’t that a lovely thought?

Speaking of thoughts, I would love to hear yours.

Is there a particular project you’re working on, that you can recommend either tool for?

Or perhaps you’d like to share some tips with our readers? Whatever they may be, leave your comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do both of these saws last? I don’t want to be spending money every year on a new one.

Both scroll and jigsaw are built to last, and you’ve probably heard of someone close to you that has a tool that was born before you were – yet they still rely on it, and it works fine!
It all comes down to care – like you would your car, yourself even – if you follow the instructional guide included within your saw, you’ll not have to worry about new saws every few years.

Are both jigsaw and scroll saw blades expensive to replace?

Jigsaw blades cost more than their scroll saw cousins, however that’s not to say they are overly expensive. Pending on what your use is for, standard jigsaw blades (high carbon steel blades), are rather inexpensive. If you’re looking for a specialized application – you’ll be paying a little more, however this is to be expected.

Scroll saw blades are quite cheap, as they are more prone to bending and breaking – plus they do not incur a high labor cost upon creation. Like the jigsaw specialized blades, scroll saw blades which are designed for a specific application will cost a little more.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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