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Though scroll saws and jigsaws are both great for curved lines and plunge cuts, there are a lot of differences between the two. In order to figure out which tool you need for your workshop, let’s take a closer look at these two saws to find out how they differ.
What’s the difference between a scroll saw vs jigsaw?
A scroll saw is a table saw with a small, thin blade that’s designed to make detailed, intricate cuts into thin pieces of material. It provides a smooth finish that often doesn’t even require sanding and gives the user a lot of control.
Jigsaws are also capable of doing round, detailed cuts and, because they’re handheld and often cordless, they can be used just about anywhere. Different blades make them useful with thicker materials but they leave behind ragged edges and aren’t quite as precise as a scroll saw.
Want to know more? Let’s take a closer look at each for more specific details about their similarities and differences.
What is a Scroll Saw?
A scroll saw is a saw that requires either a space on your worktable or a stand of its own. It consists of a work surface with a blade running through the center. This blade is attached to the saw both below the work table into the arm extended out above it.
One of the best things about scrolls saws is that they can do inside, or plunge, cuts. Here’s how it works. Simply drill a hole into the middle of the area that needs to be cut out and insert the blade through it. Reconnect the blade to the saw, readjust the tension, and you’re ready to go.
If you need help visualizing how a plunge cut works, here’s a great way to think about it. Imagine a donut. A plunge cut lets you cut out the center hole of the donut without having to cut through the donut itself. That’s one of the biggest benefits of a plunge or inside cut when you’re doing intricate designs. The outer part stays intact which means it’s stronger and less likely to break.
One thing to keep in mind about a scroll saw is there’s a limit to the size of material it can cut. Something that you always have to consider is throat size. That’s the measurement of the space between the blade and the back column of the saw. This distance is actually half of the total width that the saw can handle. Why only half? Because to reach the other half, all you have to do it simply turn the piece around and approach from the other side.
Because the cutting surface of the blade faces away from the rear column, the material moves toward it as you cut. This limits the length of material the same as it does the width.
You have to keep in mind the thickness of the material as well. While you can get different blades for a scroll saw, they’re usually most effective on materials under 1-inch thick, especially if you’re planning a very intricate, detailed design.
What is a Jigsaw?
A jigsaw is also known as a saber saw. (Interestingly, it’s also sometimes mistakenly used as another term for scroll saw but, as you can see, they’re two very different things). The best jigsaws are considered a sort of jack-of-all-trades when it comes to handheld tools. It convenient and versatile. It’s good at everything but not necessarily the best for fine details.
You may have picked up on the use of the word “handheld.” Indeed, jigsaws are handheld tools which makes them infinitely more portable than a scroll saw. There are even some battery powered options available if you want to go completely cordless. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s a pain to bring the material to the tool. Jigsaws easily allow you to bring the tool to any kind of material.
Jigsaws have a narrow, straight blade that’s attached to the saw at the top of the blade and, just like a scroll saw blade, it moves up and down. There’s a wide foot that is used to guide the blade, which is suspended from the top of the saw through the center of the foot.
Like scroll saws, a jigsaw can also make inside or plunge cuts. The big difference is that they’re much easier with a jigsaw because you don’t have to remove the blade or do any adjusting. All you have to do is drill a hole in the material. Because the blade is only attached to the jigsaw at to top, just place the bottom part directly into the pre-drilled hole and you’re ready to go.
They’re pretty versatile, too. With the right blade, they can cut through metal, drywall, PVC, and foam. Plus, blades come in a lot of different lengths. You can actually find them as long as 10 inches but smaller 1- to 3-inch lengths are more standard.
It’s important to consider the thickness of the material you’re going to cut when choosing your blade. Not only because you want to get the right blade for the job but also because of the way the tool is designed. As we mentioned, the blade is only attached to the jigsaw at the top. That means the length of the blade goes through the foot and then extends out into the air. A blade that’s too long for the material at hand can be dangerous if too much of the length is sticking out from the bottom.
Another thing to keep in mind it this. Since a jigsaw is handheld and not bound by a worktable or limited throat size, there is no limit on the size of material that a jigsaw can cut. Wide material, long material – the only restriction is how far you can reach.
When to Use a Scroll Saw vs A Jigsaw
While there are a few instances in which the application for these tools overlaps, they’re designed to do very different things.
When to Use a Scroll Saw
When you need very intricate and precise cuts, a scroll saw is your best bet. It’s made for doing clean cuts in thin materials and creates lines that are so precise, you might not even have to sand the edges.
One of the best examples of a project that a scroll saw is perfect for is making a wooden jigsaw puzzle. Not only does it cut the lines clean, they’re so precise that they fit back together perfectly.
A scroll saw is best for craft and decorative projects because it gives the user a lot of control, making very detailed designs much easier to pull off.
When Shouldn’t You Use a Scroll Saw?
Anytime you work with a thick material, a scroll saw is not the best choice. Even though you can get bigger and tougher blades, the motor can only handle so much and the size restrictions make it an ineffective option when compared to a jigsaw. Plus, the point of a scroll saw is precision and having a blade that’s bogged down isn’t going to deliver the best results.
Scroll saws also have a limit to the width and length of the material you can use with them. This is just a result of the design of the saw and the somewhat limited throat size but it’s important to keep in mind. If you have a particularly long piece of material, you won’t be able to use a scroll saw unless you break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Scroll saws are also not great at making straight cuts. Because the blade is so thin and flexible, it’s much better suited for curves and more complicated shapes. Plus, the limited throat size prevents long rip cuts.
When to Use a Jigsaw
Jigsaws are so versatile, there are literally countless ways to use one. With the right blade, they can cut through just about any material and because they’re handheld, there’s no limit as to where they can go. There are also few limitations on the size of the material they can cut through as the width and length are only limited by how far you can reach.
Jigsaws can handle material that’s much thicker than a scroll saw can as long as you use the right length blade. Blades are available in a wide range of sizes. They can even be as long as 10 inches, though blades that are 1 to 3 inches long are more common.
This is a great tool to have around because you can really use it to cut just about anything. It’s a workhorse that will come in really handy during DIY projects. It’s one of those tools that you’ll find a million uses for that will make you wonder how you ever lived without it.
When Shouldn’t You Use a Jigsaw?
While jigsaws are versatile enough to cut just about anything, they’re not very refined. Part of this is just due to the fact that they are handheld tools and have a lot more play than something supported on a stand or table. They leave behind a lot of rough edges and will need a lot of sanding for a smooth, finished look.
If you need to make really exact cuts for a craft project or if you have a job that requires very exact, clean edges, a jigsaw is not the best choice. It will get the job done but a scroll saw is much better equipped to deliver these kind of results.
Two Very Different Tools
While both a scroll saw and jigsaw can be used to make curved lines and plunge cuts, the main difference is this: a scroll saw was designed to do them precisely while a jigsaw does an okay job while also being able to do a lot of other things well.
Which one of these tools is right for you really depends on the types of projects you’re planning. If you want something that’s an all-around convenient tool that can cut through just about anything, go for a jigsaw. You’ll find countless ways to use it around the house and it’s always a nice machine to have on hand for DIY projects. If you want something that delivers more precise, clean work even though it’s a bit limited in its application, go for a scroll saw.
Truly, these are two very different tools. We won’t judge you for having one of each in your workshop.