Scroll Saw VS Band Saw: What’s the Difference?


Christmas will be here before you know it and you want to make delicate tree decorations as gifts. Or maybe you’ve been wanting to build a custom wood bench for your front yard and have decided now is the time. Knowing that you need a scroll saw or a band saw is easy but knowing which one you need can be a little trickier.

Scroll Saw VS Band Saw

In this article we will compare the two, reviewing their features, specifications, and what each one is intended for. We’ll even add in our recommendation of models to consider. So, keep on reading to discover which saw will be right for the projects you want to create.

What is a Scroll Saw?

What is a Scroll Saw

Named after its traditional use of making scrollwork, the scroll saw is used for small projects with detailed work and often intricate designs. It delivers the accuracy of a small, handheld blade, with the speed and power of an electric saw. Scroll saws are generally used for wood, but can also cut through plastic, plexiglass, and some very thin metals. In addition to intricate and detailed designs, a scroll saw is also a great tool for making inside cuts in these same materials.

A scroll saw has a relatively small worktable and uses short, thin blades that move in an up and down motion at extremely high speeds. They are powered by electricity and their speed is typically controlled either by a pedal or a variable speed knob. The table can tilt and lock in place allowing you to cut bevels at various angles and a specially designed foot holds your work safely and securely to the saw.

The throat of a skill saw is the distance between its blade and the rear part or neck of the saw. This distance dictates the size of material you can work with and generally ranges from twelve- to thirty inches. While cutting, the blade will reach up to the center of the material and you can then flip the material upside down and work with the blade on the other side. This means that if your scroll saw has a twelve-inch throat, your material can be up to twenty-four inches.

Blades for a scroll saw are easy to change and are available in various widths. They come in two types called plain-end or pin-end. Because of the way the blades work, only cutting on the downward stroke, they cannot cut material thicker than two inches and ideally should not cut material more than one inch thick unless specified to do so. The tension on the blades can be easily adjusted with just the turn of a knob.

What is a Band Saw?

What is a Band Saw

In contrast to scroll saws and other types of saws you might have in your arsenal, band saws are typically used for bigger woodworking projects and can handle much thicker material. They have more power than a scroll saw and offer more versatility as well.

A band saw has a worktable similar to the scroll saws, but it is open in the front and back letting you cut long pieces with no obstruction.

As its name suggests, the blades of a band saw are long, continuous, metal bands that stretch between two and sometimes four wheels. Most models are two-wheeled with one wheel above the cutting table and one below. The blade cuts in a continual downward motion as it loops repeatedly around the wheels. There are numerous blade options including smaller blades for more detailed work and bigger, stronger blades for thicker projects. And although band saws are generally used for woodworking, with the right blade, they can even cut through metal.

Scroll Saws Versus Band Saws

Scroll Saw VS Band Saw

Blade Speed

A scroll saw’s blade speed is measured in strokes per minute and ranges from 400 to 1800 SPM. The speed is controlled by a foot pedal or a variable-speed knob. The saw’s ability to make tight turns and intricate designs are based on the TPI or teeth per inch of the blades themselves. The higher the TPI, the faster and tighter the blade can turn.

A band saw’s speed is measured in feet per minute and is typically around 3000 FPM. Some models offer the ability to run at a secondary, lower speed that is usually between 1000 to 1500 FPM. The slower speed is better suited for cutting non-ferrous metals and other denser materials.

Blade Length

Scroll saw blades come in five and six-inch lengths and either plain-end or pin-end styles.

The band saw blades come in various lengths ranging from fifty-two to 261-inches and the length listed in the owner’s manual is typically an average between the shortest and longest blades the machine can handle. Most models can accommodate a range of blade lengths.

Blade Size/Width

Scroll saw blades are generally sized from #2 to #12 and are based on TPI. Higher numbered blades have fewer TPI and are better for a thicker and harder material. They are not able to cut tight, intricate corners. Lower numbered blades have a higher TPI and are the ones you want when increased precision is needed.

Band saw blades range in widths from 1/8 of an inch to one inch and can cut radiuses from 3/16 of an inch to 7-inches depending on size. Wider blades can withstand cutting strain but are not good for tighter diameters. Narrower blades are better suited for lighter more delicate work.

Weight

Scroll saws generally range from five to sixty pounds making them relatively portable.

Band saws on the other hand can be upwards of 250 pounds and are better for stationary placement.

When to Use Each

Scroll saws are ideal tools for small projects with thin material. Some examples include intricate wood ornaments, DIY jigsaw puzzles, or cutting letters and numbers from wood or plastic.

Band saws can handle larger projects and thicker materials. They are great for projects including tabletops, hanging shelves, and wooden patio furniture.

The WEN 3959T 2.5-Amp, 9-inch Benchtop Band Saw

The WEN 3959T 2.5-Amp, 9-inch Benchtop Band Saw

The WEN 3959T Band Saw uses 59 ½-inch blades ranging in widths from 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch, allowing this machine to make intricate or heavier-duty cuts. The saw has a 2.5-amp electric motor that rotates the blade at up to 2500 FPM and the ball-bearing design makes for the smooth operation of the blade.

This model can cut up to 3 ½-inches deep and up to nine inches wide. The spacious worktable can be angled up to 45°, allowing you to cut precise bevels safely and accurately.

The kit includes a miter gauge, a 2 ½-inch integrated dust port, a rip fence for aligning straight cuts, an adjustable blade guard, a ¼-inch blade, and a two-year limited manufacturer’s warranty.

Product specifications:

Manufacturer WEN
Manufacturer’s Model Number 3959T
Weight 40 Pounds
Dimensions 19 x 14.1 x 29 Inches
Colour Black
Style 2021 Model
Power Source Corded Electric
Motor 2.5 Amp
Warranty 2-Year

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Able to accommodate intricate turns.
  • Able to cut material up to 3 ½-inches thick.
  • Access to skilled service technicians.

Cons:

  • Light duty applications only.

WEN 3921 – 120 Volt, 16-Inch, Two-Direction Variable Speed Scroll Saw

WEN 3921 – 120 Volt, 16-Inch, Two-Direction Variable Speed Scroll Saw

The WEN 3921 Scroll Saw accommodates both pinned and pin-less blades and its unique design lets you set the blade in one of two directions – standard or at 90°. With just the turn of the blade, you are no longer restricted to the saw’s sixteen-inch throat and can accommodate pieces at any width. And with the removable pin-less blade holder you can be sure the blade will stay securely in place while working. When it’s time for a blade change, the thumbscrew adapter makes the tool-free process simple and quick.

When the pin is in the standard position, this model’s 9/16-inch stroke can cut wood up to two inches thick with a throat depth of sixteen inches. And with a simple turn of a knob, the stroke speed can be adjusted from 550 to 1600 strokes per minute (SPM).

The worktable has a sixteen-inch cutting depth and can be angled up to 45° for crisp, accurate bevels. The hold-down foot ensures your project is always securely in place and the integrated worm work light gives you the flexibility to illuminate your work area from any angle or position.

An adjustable air pump continually clears debris as you cut, and the 1 ½-inch dust port keeps your work surface clean. A cast iron base holds the saw firmly in place and built-in storage keeps everything in one convenient place.

Product specifications:

Manufacturer WEN
Manufacturer’s Model Number 3921
Weight 27.5 Pounds
Dimensions 26.38 x 13 x 14.75 Inches
Colour Black
Style Scroll Style
Power Source Corded Electric
Motor 120 Volts, 144 Watts
Warranty 2-Year

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Two-direction cutting.
  • Able to cut material up to two inches thick.
  • Flexible work light.
  • Access to skilled service technicians.

Cons:

  • Light duty applications only.

Conclusion

Scroll saws and band saws may look similar but they have quite different functions making it important to understand their features and what each does before purchasing one for your project. Remember, a scroll saw is what you’ll need when you want to create smaller, more delicate items. For bigger items with a thicker and harder material, a band saw’s power and speed will deliver the cuts you’re after.

We’d love to hear from you! Let us know if this article was helpful and if you have any questions related to the items we’ve discussed.

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