WHAT IS A SCROLL SAW?
Originally used for scrollwork, a scroll saw is a small saw used for making intricate cuts and curves in a range of materials.
If you’re looking to make highly precise cuts, you’ll have more control than using a jigsaw and make more progress than if you rely on a hand coping saw.
Although a scroll saw is not dissimilar to a band saw, in place of a continuous loop, scroll saws have reciprocating blades. You can easily remove this blade allowing you to make cut-outs with no need for an entry slot. It’s this kind of versatility that makes the best scroll saw invaluable. You’ll also get be able to cut far more delicately thanks to the ultra-fine blade.
Variable speed control further enhances the accuracy and detailing you’ll enjoy with your scroll saw. Also, since the cuts are so clean there’s minimal need for sanding afterward.
Today, we’ll bring you the results of our extensive testing which ended up with us choosing 5 of the best scroll saws currently for sale. We’ll also serve you up with plenty of information to simplify your buying decision from what to look out for in the best scroll saw through to some handy FAQs.
Before anything else, a glance at the main types of scroll saw at your disposal…
Far and away the most popular design, parallel arm scroll saws have a variable speed motor housed toward the back of the arms. A crank hooks this up to the lower arm.
The pair of arms remain parallel to each other at all times. These arms are slightly longer than the saw’s throat depth. They swing together like a see-saw.
The blade connects the arms at the front and there’s a link to the rear to balance out tensioning. Some parallel arm scroll saws have a separate blade tensioner while on other models the link itself performs this function.
Some scroll saws, those manufactured by DeWalt in particular, harness a tweaked version of this system known as a parallel link.
While the arms still hold the blade, those arms are much shorter than on parallel arm scroll saws. An elongated horizontal link connects the arms to a pivoting beam at the rear. The motor pushes rods in the arms to move them.
Even though there are more parts, the shorten arms on this variant of scroll saw leads to much less vibration.
Although rigid arm scroll saws were once extremely popular, they have fallen from favor. The cast-iron frame is made from a single piece of material. A pitman arm on the bottom of the blade pulls it down. The blade is pulled up again by a spring located in the upper arm.
The serious inbuilt flaw with rigid arm scroll saws is the blade changing tension with each stroke. This causes a serious issue with accuracy.
We only mention this type of saw so if you come across one, you should give it a very wide berth. Forewarned is forearmed.
Who Needs Scroll Saws?
Scroll saws are not tools for the job site but rather for the home woodworker or anyone with an enduring interest in DIY.
Regardless of your skill level, there’s a scroll saw for every ability and budget.
Whereas a band saw has more applications and is more of an all-purpose power tool, scroll saws could be termed a specialty saw.
From creating highly elaborate craft items like jigsaw puzzles through to various sculptures, scroll saws offer a delicacy and ability to make fine cuts not found in other saws.
For more run-of-the-mill woodworking and DIY projects, scroll saws let you make precise cuts with absolute accuracy. You’ll be able to create curves and dovetail joints, think cuts and very intricate designs. The kicker is that you won’t really need to sand afterwards since the cuts are so clean.
If you’re after a winning combination of speed and accuracy for highly detailed work, there’s no substitute for the best scroll saw.
The Complete Scroll Saw Buying Guide
We’ll now lead you through a concise buying guide focusing on 8 of the main things you should give due consideration if you want the best scroll saw for your money.
As well as thinking carefully about the below pointers, one thing you should be very firm on is budget. Do not under circumstances stretch yourself financially in order to afford any power tool. Building up tools in your workshop is an ongoing process that needn’t be rushed. Also, if you’re pressed for cash, we’ve included plenty of budget-friendly options above.
Look at some user reviews for honest feedback. It always pays to be aware of any reported flashbacks which is why we’re unfailingly frank in our product reviews.
Aside from that, here’s what else you need to double down on in your hunt for the very best scroll saw…
- Throat Length
The throat size is the measurement from the rear of the blade to the saw’s back throat. A 20-inch scroll saw refers to this measurement. The throat size is indicative of the size of material your scroll saw will handle so buy according to the projects you have in mind. 12 inches is about the smallest on offer, 16 to 20 inches is best for home use or small workshops with 30-inch scroll saws for industrial use.
- Thickness of Cut
The depth capacity or thickness of cut ranges from 1-¾ inches to over 2 ½ inches. This refers to the thickness of material you can work with. As with the throat length, you need to analyze your personal requirements and check before buying that you’ll be able to handle the projects you have in mind.
Speed of Scroll Saw
The cutting speed of the best scroll saw is a strong indicator of performance. Low speeds will not enable you to cut hard, rigid materials. As a rule of thumb, 400 strokes per minute is about the slowest workable speed and scroll saws cut at anything up to 1800SPM at the top end. Variable speed is also crucial if you want to make incremental changes depending on application.
Slow: Thin, brittle wood and veneers
Medium: Thicker woods and non-ferrous metals
Fast: Leather, cloth, paper
- Scroll Saw Blade
You’ve got a choice of pinned or pinless blades:
– Pinned Blades: Ideal for thicker wood but not great for detailed cuts
– Pinless Blades: Far more pinless blades are available, perfect for very fine and precise cuts
Aside from these categories, you can get a range of different scroll saw blades:
Standard: Use standard blades with bigger teeth for cutting wood or smaller teeth for metal
Skip Tooth: Wood and plastics
Spiral: Wood, waxes, metals
Two-Way: Softwood or hardwood and Plexiglas
Metal: All metals and rigid materials
Reverse Tooth: Hardwood or plywood
Think also about blade tensioning. This is key for optimum performance. Quick release blades, ideally tool-free, will make your life easier.
- Scroll Saw Drive
The majority of contemporary scroll saws feature a parallel arm drive. This means the motor will be rear-mounted and the arms remain parallel at all times. The other main variant is the parallel link drive which has rods in both arms. Although the parallel arm drive scroll saw is by far the most popular, the parallel link system gives out less noise and vibration so is in many ways the smart choice.
- User-Friendly Controls
Since a scroll saw is used for projects where the utmost accuracy is paramount, it pays to look for one with nicely grouped controls all within easy reach. Each of the scroll saw we review above excels in this regard. For the pinnacle of user-friendliness, consider adding a pedal control so you can use both hands to move your workpiece around.
- Dust Collection
Ensuring your workshop is free of dust and debris is a question of comfort and safety both. Our best scroll saw reviews all feature tools with inbuilt dust collection systems.
Tilting tables allow you to make the most precise of bevel cuts in either direction. The degree and range of tilting varies from model to model so think about your needs and pinpoint the saws that best gel with this. Adjustable arms further help you in this regard
Usage and Maintenance Tips
Where many power tools are something of a liability, scroll saws are generally very safe to use. This is not to say that you can work away without any kind of risk. All power tools are potentially dangerous.
Follow these guidelines and you’ll be good to go:
- Wear safety goggles, ear protectors, and a dust mask
- Keep your fingers away from the blade
- Always switch your scroll saw off when not in use, performing basic maintenance, changing the blade or tensioning
- Secure the scroll saw to the tabletop or workbench
- When inserting the blade, ensure the teeth point forward and downwards to the table
- Always maintain proper blade tension
- Lock all handles before firing up the scroll saw
- Properly illuminate your workshop
- Don’t use dull or damaged blades
Maintenance with a scroll saw is minimal. You should always keep it clean and free of dust. Wax the table a couple of times a year. Don’t leave the blades in tension.
Check out this in-depth video for all manner of handy hints for scroll saw maintenance and repair.