A bad worker blames their tools, but using the wrong tool for the job can produce sloppy work. The best way to get the most out of your projects is to make sure you’re using the right tools.
If you’re looking for a new cutting tool, then you might have already considered picking up either a scroll saw or a jigsaw. Many beginners get roadblocked by the options available. While these tools can work for similar tasks, they’re not the same. Understanding the difference is important for getting what you want.
Figuring out which type of saw might be the best option for your requirements can be a daunting task. What’s the difference between a scroll saw and a jigsaw anyway? Is one better than the other? This page will explain what each tool is capable of and which scenarios they’re best suited for.
Scroll Saw vs Jigsaw Compared
What is a Scroll Saw?
The first thing to mention here is that scroll saws are the less portable option. You’ll need to make space at your work table, or use a model with a stand of its own. Scroll saws consist of a work surface positioned underneath a thin, reciprocating saw that is capable of making very delicate, detailed cuts for ornate projects.
The blade can be removed and slotted through a pre-drilled hole in your cutting material. This makes it possible to make interior cut outs without using an entry slot. The lighter touch of a scroll saw comes with some distinct advantages.
They run very quietly and produce a lot less dust than other options. If noise or debris is a concern, a scroll saw is an excellent option.
There are some tasks that can only really be achieved using a scroll saw. These are tasks like pierce cuts and marquetry that are only possible with a high-finesse tool.
There are a variety of scroll saw sizes available. The distance from the blade to the rear frame of the saw is called the throat. The throat size is what determines the size of your saw. The bigger the throat, the bigger the cutting capacity. Smaller saws are typically around 12 inches, while the largest commercial models are almost 30 inches.
Think about the type of materials you’re likely to be working with and pick a saw that’s a suitable size.
When Should You Use a Scroll Saw?
If your work involves a large number of intricate, detailed cuts, then a scroll saw is what you need. In some contexts, the cuts are so delicate that you won’t even need to sand any edges!
A project that’s a perfect example of where a scroll saw shines is making a jigsaw puzzle. Cutting out such a high number of delicate curves and shapes would drive you insane if you were using the wrong tool. The delicate precision of a scroll saw makes this kind of work much easier.
The level of control possible with a scroll saw makes them a popular tool for decorating projects and builds with a lot of detail. Work that demands interior cuts can be completed much more efficiently with a scroll saw.
When Shouldn’t You Use a Scroll Saw?
Larger cutting materials are the downfall of most scroll saws. It’s possible to buy tougher blades that can improve things a little, but the motors on most models can’t tackle thicker cutting pieces.
The maximum width and length you’ll be able to cut is also limited when working with this type of saw. For bigger materials, a jigsaw is probably the better option.
As scroll saws are purpose built to make delicate, smooth cuts, they’re not the best tool for straight cutting lines. The flexibility of the blade is not appropriate for making lots of straight cuts.
Pros of Scroll Saws:
• They run very quietly. These are not noisy machines. Their motors and blades are a great option for people who want to work quietly.
• They produce less dust. At best, dust is a nuisance and it can cause serious problems if left unchecked. Scroll saws kick up significantly less dust and debris than other options.
• They’re perfect for detailed work. Projects that need intricate, smooth lines are made easy with a good scroll saw.
• Interior cuts can be made without an entry slot. For certain contexts, this can save you a lot of time and make for a slicker end result.
Cons of Scroll Saws:
• They’re not great for larger cutting pieces. Scroll saws aren’t designed to cut through thick, wide or long pieces. A jigsaw is the better option in this context.
• They take up a lot of space. You’ll need to make plenty of room for a scroll saw in your workshop. If your work moves you around from A to B, you might want to consider a jigsaw.
Our Scroll Saw Top Pick
There is a fantastic amount of choice when it comes to picking a new scroll saw and there’s plenty of good options available. Notable brands worth considering include WEN and DEWALT.
This offering from WEN can accept blades in two directions, allowing for an infinite cutting capacity. Most scroll saws come with an excellent level of control, but the Wen 3921’s variable speed control settings stand out. They’re remarkably easy to use and greatly improve the versatility of this tool.
Blade changes are a breeze thanks to the tool-less switching system. Other features that caught our eye include the convenient air pump, handy onboard storage and durable design.
What’s a Jigsaw?
These are a far more practical option for many use cases; jigsaws trade finesse for versatility. There are many tasks that are made much easier with these tools. It’s worth keeping in mind that these saws don’t have anywhere near the level of precision and detail when compared to scroll saws.
Depending on where you’re from, you might also know these tools as saber saws. Just to make things more confusing, some people also refer to jigsaws as scroll saws! There is a big difference though, and it’s more accurate to describe these machines as jigsaws.
These are portable, handheld tools that run on either direct power through a cord or electricity from a lithium-ion battery. As a general rule, corded options come with a boost to power, but can be cumbersome to maneuver and tie you to an outlet. Battery powered saws are the most convenient option if portability matters to you.
Jigsaws use a reciprocating blade that’s guided by a large foot for improved accuracy when cutting. With the right blade installed, you’ll be able to cut through a wide variety of materials. These include wood, metal, PVC, and drywall.
The number of different blade types available means you shouldn’t have any trouble tackling most sizes and types of cutting material. The handheld nature of a jigsaw means you’re not tied to a specific throat size. This frees up your work considerably.
Jigsaws are able to make plunge cuts quite effectively. Once you’ve drilled an initial hole into the centre of your material, plunge and interior cuts are simple to execute. Many people prefer this method compared to scroll saws, as it doesn’t require you to remove and then reinsert the saw’s blade.
When Should You Use a Jigsaw?
The flexibility of these saws means there’s a countless number of tasks that they can power through with ease. With the right blade and power, a good jigsaw can feel limitless. There are far fewer limitations here in terms of cutting capacity. Name a cutting task and a jigsaw can probably handle it.
Of course, there are plenty of contexts where another machine might be a more perfect fit, but few tools can handle as many different jobs as a jigsaw.
Scroll saws are gentle and precise. Jigsaws are powerful and versatile. If you’re an average DIY professional or hobbyist, a jigsaw is likely the better option for you.
When Shouldn’t You Use a Jigsaw?
If your work requires a high level of fine detail and precision, a jigsaw will probably be too heavy-handed for you.
The handheld nature of these tools means there’s a much larger margin for error when working. Without a clamp or table to secure your cut, there’s much more that can go wrong. The blades on these saws aren’t flexible or delicate enough to achieve the level of precision that more ornate projects deserve.
- They’re ultra-versatile. A good jigsaw is a jack of all trades. You might be surprised how many jobs are made easier by a jigsaw.
- They’re portable. These tools are much smaller and lighter than scroll saws and are very easy to carry around. If portability matters to you, then you’ll appreciate a jigsaw.
- There are far fewer limitations when it comes to cutting capacity. Because jigsaws are handheld devices and aren’t limited by throat size, they can handle much larger cutting pieces than scroll saws.
- They don’t have the finesse of a scroll saw. Highly detailed projects may be butchered by a jigsaw.
- They can leave behind very rough edges. You’ll be doing a lot of sanding after making cuts with these tools.
Our Jigsaw Top Pick
This 6.2 lbs machine from DEWALT is worth a mention. It’s simple to use and is a great option for both professionals and hobbyists. The modern, heavy-duty design comes with a price tag that’s hard to ignore and the three-year warranty adds peace of mind to an already compelling package.
The 5.5-amp motor can handle the toughest materials, and the adjustable speed settings let you cut anywhere between 0 and 3100 strokes a minute. This jigsaw comes with a keyless blade, meaning you can change the edge quickly without having to touch it.
This tool comes with a durable metal gear case and can make bevel cuts between 0 and 45 degrees. This machine’s orbital action with 4 possible positions allows for faster, more determined cuts through a variety of materials.
We hope this page has outlined why scroll saws and jigsaws are very different beasts. Scroll saws are all about fine details, smooth edges, and intricate designs. The headline for jigsaws is that they’re one of the most versatile tools you’re likely to add to your kit.
If you know for a fact that a jigsaw won’t be able to handle the level of detail required for your work, then definitely consider picking up a scroll saw. Otherwise, the portability, versatility, and ease of use that comes as standard with a jigsaw make them the best option for most people.
As always, the more you know about what you’re looking to achieve, the easier it will be to pick the perfect tool for the job.