When it comes to saws, it can be confusing to know what each type does. How do you know which one is best for the work you need to get done? If you’re renovating, or you just enjoy wood or metalwork, a new type of saw could be a great purchase that you will use time and time again. With the right blade, it could see you through all types of work – from cutting large pieces of wood to intricate metal or glasswork.
Band saws and scroll saws are actually pretty different in their process and application – so how do you know which one to use? In our scroll saw vs band saw comparison, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at how they both work, the different types you can get, and their pros and cons. We’ll also recommend a model for each that we think is worth considering.
If you cannot decide between a band saw or a scroll saw, keep reading – we’ll help you to pick which one is right for you.
The Main Differences Between Scroll Saws vs Band Saws
The Main Differences Between Scroll Saws vs Band Saws are:
- Scroll saws allow you to create very intricate and delicate work – great for craftwork, whereas Band Saws are used to cut thicker and heavier materials
- Scroll Saws is generally quieter, whereas Band Saws are more noisy but a little easier to use for beginners
- Scroll Saws have a thin and precise blade that you can remove while you work which allows you to cut out sections of wood or metal, whereas Band Saws have a long and looping blade that work in continuous circular motion
What is a Band Saw?
A band saw is a power saw. It has a long blade in the form of a band of metal, which stretches between wheels. You can move a piece of wood or metal through the saw to create precise cuts. It is encased in a frame, usually made from cast iron or welded steel. They sometimes have wheels, too. They have a blade guard, which helps to keep you safe as you work. You can get floor standing models, which take up more room, or a benchtop band saw, which you can move around your workshop.
They’re mainly used to cut wood or metal, but they can be used to cut other materials, too. What’s great about a band saw is that it can make a variety of cuts – it can do straight edges, angles, and even curves. They’re designed to handle re-sawing (cutting a board across its thickness – check out the band saw’s ‘resaw capacity’ to see the maximum thickness it can work with), as well as rip cuts (ripping lumber into strips) and rip cuts (similar to re-sawing, but cutting across the grain).
The SFM (Surface Feet Per Minute) of your machine measures its speed. Different types of the blade will have different maximum amounts of SFM – so it’s important to know the speed at which your machine can work.
In terms of power, it is measured in amps, HP and RPM (horsepower and rotations per minute). The higher the amps, the more powerful the motor.
To figure out which size of the band saw you need, you have to look at wheel measurement. The wheel diameter helps you to work out the throat width, which tells you what size of board you can fit through it. The bigger the measurement, the bigger the material you can work with – so if you’re making large pieces of furniture, for example, you’ll want a bigger size.
Different Types of Band Saws
Metal Band Saw
These are designed to deal with metal, cutting them with precision and enabling you to work safely.
Wood Band Saw
As the name suggests, a wood band saw is designed to work with wood.
Meat Band Saw
Usually seen in a butchers’ shop, a meat band saw is used to cut slices of meat.
Horizontal Band Saw
These are great for cutting pieces of wood to size, but not so good for intricate work. They operate similarly to a chainsaw. They require a bit more room than a vertical band saw, and tend to be heavier.
Vertical Band Saw
This is the type of band saw that allows you to make intricate cuts as you feed the wood through the saw.
Portable Band Saw
A portable band saw allows some of the function of a larger band saw, but are usually lighter and easier to move around.
Automated Band Saws
These have settings for feed rate, fall, and return. They enable you to work very efficiently and are usually used in the production industry.
There is also a bit of choice when it comes to blades, and it’s important to get the right one. In terms of width, they usually come in ¼”, 3/8” or ½” options – but bigger band saws can take bigger blades.
Generally speaking, the more teeth they have, the slower they cut – but the better the finish. Most band saws come with a 10 TPI (tooth per inch) blade, but you can buy different types depending on your needs. If you’re looking to do a lot of quick cuts that can afford to be a little rougher, you can go for fewer teeth per inch.
Different Styles of Band Saw Blades
These are great for making basic straight or curved cuts.
Skip tooth blades are great for rip cutting. They have a wide space which allows the blade to clear away the material as it is cut – great for avoiding clogging.
Hook tooth blades operate very similarly to skip tooth blades, and they’re great for very fast cutting.
A variable pitch blade has different sizes of teeth at intervals across the blade. They’re good for cutting curves.
A great bonus about band saws is that they work pretty quietly in comparison to other tools. They’re also known for producing less dust – this is important for your health if you plan to use it often.
One model we would recommend is the Grizzly G0555LX 14-inch Deluxe Band Saw. Firstly, it looks pretty nice, with a teal cast-iron frame. Secondly, it’s powerful enough to handle many different types of projects you may be working on at home.
With up to 220 volts of power and 1800-3100 FPM, it’s capable of completing many tasks. It has a miter gauge and a magnifying window, helping you to work accurately. It’s on the pricey side, but it has excellent reviews, and it’s a great piece of kit to have at home.
Pros and Cons of Band Saws
- Can produce all kinds of cuts – great for a woodworking enthusiast
- Can cut through metal with ease
- Can handle resawing (cutting through a block of wood at its thickness)
- Produces less dust
- Can leave rough edges
- May require extra purchases (different blades, for example).
- Requires maintenance
Band Saw Maintenance
So what maintenance does a band saw require? There are a few things that need to be done on a regular basis to keep it working correctly and help you to stay safe:
It’s important to keep a band saw lubricated to keep it working smoothly. Make sure you use a lubricant that is compatible with your machine.
Flutter testing helps to correct the tension in a machine. It’s a pretty important job that will help it to run properly. Check your manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly before you begin.
Blades expand and contract as they heat and cool during use. This can cause your machine to wear out more quickly. It’s important to de-tension your machine after using it – again, check your manufacturer’s instructions to see how.
What is a Scroll Saw?
A scroll saw is similar to a band saw in that it is powered by electricity and uses a foot pedal to be operated. However, it does not have a continuous loop blade – instead, it has a very fine blade that can be removed as you work, allowing you to start cutting at the center of the material.
They have a tilting table, which allows you to move your material with great precision. You can make some very detailed, intricate cuts by using a scroll saw. They sometimes come equipped with a dust blowing nozzle – this is helpful as it prevents you from having to stop to clear away dust as you work.
They’re known as being a great woodworking tool. However, if you purchase the right kind of blade, you can cut metal or even glass – obviously, it’s important to make sure you get the right blade for these tasks.
The power of a scroll saw is also measured in volts and amps, and the speed is measured in RPM. A good scroll saw will have variable speeds, which makes them more versatile.
In terms of size, a scroll saw is also sized by its throat – this measurement will enable you to figure out the largest piece of material you can work with.
Different Types of Scroll Saws
This is the most common type of scroll saw. The arms are parallel to each other when cutting (which is where it gets its name). This type of scroll saw will see you through various types of wood or metalwork.
This is slightly different, in that it has motor-powered rods in the upper and lower arms, which control the blade.
These consist of two arms which pull the blade downwards and upwards. They used to be quite popular, but have been overtaken by the parallel arm type.
These have space between the arms to mount the blade – they’re not as widely used, however.
Different Styles of Scroll Saw Blades
In terms of blades, again, you have a few different choices. They’re normally sized at 5 inches. You will need a different type of blade if you want to work with metal or glass. Here’s an overview of the different types you can get:
Standard Tooth Blades
Most models of scroll saw will come equipped with a standard tooth blade. The teeth are the same size and distance apart.
Double Tooth Blades
Double tooth blades have a large gap between the teeth – this is great for precise work.
Skip Tooth Blades
Skip tooth blades have every other blade missing. These are great for beginners, as they allow you to take your time.
These are blades that have been twisted together in a spiral shape. They’re great for projects that require a more unusual or irregular cut.
Suitable for advanced users, precision-ground blades are very sharp and should be used with caution. They’re great for very detailed, intricate work.
You can get blades that are designed to do specific tasks. For example, crown tooth blades are designed to work well with plastic, whilst diamond scroll saw blades are good for cutting glass.
The thing that distinguishes scroll saws from other types of saw is the level of precision you can get. They are favored by woodworking enthusiasts for good reason – they’re great for working on very small, detailed pieces. You can get very creative with a scroll saw, creating beautiful pieces of art for your home and for your loved ones.
In terms of product recommendation, the DeWalt DW788 20-inch Variable Speed is great. It has a double-parallel link arm, designed to reduce vibration and noise – this helps to increase accuracy in your work.
The blades can be removed and changed without needing a tool, allowing you to make quick swaps when you need to. It has a flexible dust blower, which is great. The cast-iron table is sturdy, and the 1.3 amp motor is powerful enough to handle most projects. Like most DeWalt products, this model comes with a three-year limited warranty.
Pros and Cons of Scroll Saws
- Excellent for detailed, intricate work
- Dust-blowing nozzles on some models allow you to keep your materials clear
- Can be used for wood, metal, glass, and some plastics
- Can be pretty affordable if you pick the right model
- Not the most convenient for working on larger pieces
- They can overheat during use
Scroll Saw Maintenance
A scroll saw also requires some maintenance to keep it going for longer.
You can tighten the tension rod to adjust the tension on your scroll saw. You will need to keep doing this to help it to work properly.
Some models don’t require lubrication. Others require a little greasing from time to time – check your manufacturer’s instructions to see.
Frequently Asked Questions About Scroll Saws and Band Saws
Here are a few of the most commonly asked queries about scroll saws and band saws:
Yes – they can either be sharpened yourself or taken to a specialist to be sharpened.
Different models create different amounts of noise – some are designed to be extra quiet. They’re generally about as noisy as a sewing machine. If you live in an apartment and have people underneath you, you might not want to use them at night, but in the daytime, they should be okay to use.
Yes, they can – you need to make sure you are using the right blade, however.
This depends on both the scroll saw itself and the materials used. Check the description on the model of the scroll saw you are considering – it should help you to figure out the maximum thickness you can cut.
They’re used for all sorts of projects, but they’re great for cutting irregular shapes – you can get some smooth, curved cuts with a band saw.
Yes – you can get a sharpening jig for this task, or you can take it to a professional to be sharpened.
They can be – they come in different weights, but they’re generally on the heavy side. A portable band saw is a lighter option if you require it.
Yes – if they are not maintained properly, a band saw blade can break. It’s really important to stay safe while using a band saw, as the blades are very sharp.
What to Look for When Buying a Saw
Whether you decide on a band saw or a scroll saw, there are some things to keep in mind:
The first consideration for most people will be price. There are some excellent brands out there producing top-quality tools – but these can come with a hefty price tag. Shopping around will help you to find the best deal.
Many companies offer great warranties on their power tools. DeWalt, for example, tends to offer three-year limited warranties on their products. This is really reassuring, especially if you’re spending a lot of money.
Noise is another consideration, especially if you live in an apartment or you share a home with others. Both band saws and scroll saws can vary in their noise levels depending on the model – some models are advertised as being extra-quiet.
Similarly, size is a big consideration for most people. If you have a dedicated workspace for your tools, like a workshop, you won’t be as concerned as someone who has to squeeze their tools into a smaller home. Check the dimensions of the product and bear in mind that the extras will take up space, too.
What does your power tool come with? Does it come with extra blades? Spare parts? A case to keep the smaller pieces in? On a similar note, how easy is it to source spare parts for your machine?
It’s difficult to say for sure which one you need, as it depends on what you want to use it for.
A scroll saw may be a little difficult for new users. It’s great for intricate work. Hobbyists enjoy using scroll saws, as they allow for precise, detailed work. If you want to be creative, a scroll saw will be a great tool to learn to use – you can make anything from intricately carved picture frames to jewelry, to children’s toys.
The DeWalt DW788 20-inch Variable Speed model is great for creating precise, detailed cuts. Although it may take a little while to get used to using one, they could be an excellent purchase if you’re willing to learn.
Band saws, on the other hand, are a little more multi-purpose. Although you can still be very creative with a band saw, you can also use it for general DIY jobs. They’ve been described as the ‘workhorse’ of power tools – so for general renovation work or repairs, they’d be a great choice.
Although they can be expensive, you may find yourself reaching for it more often than you would a scroll saw. The Grizzly G0555LX 14-inch Deluxe Band Saw we mentioned earlier is on the pricey side, but a good investment.
For renovation and general DIY purposes, we’re going to say a band saw is generally a safe bet if you’re looking for a new piece of equipment to invest in. However, you may really enjoy using a scroll saw, too – they’re both great pieces of kit for different purposes.
If you enjoyed this article, why not check out our A-Z Guide to Power Tools for Home Improvement Projects