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When to scroll saw versus band saw - What thickness of wood can a scroll saw handle?

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  • When to scroll saw versus band saw - What thickness of wood can a scroll saw handle?

    I am a fledgling woodworker, and have never used either a band saw OR a scroll saw. But I'm at the crossroads where straight cuts and rough jigsaw cuts are no longer enough. For my next project I want to tackle that U.S. Quarter Collection/State map. I assume that a scroll saw is the instrument of choice, but can anyone please explain to me the role of the scroll saw versus that of the band saw, and how or when you choose one over the other? In particular, I am curious about the depth of wood that a scroll saw will comfortably cut.

    Thanks very much in advance ...

  • #2
    A scroll saw will allow you to make inside cuts without cutting from an outside line.
    It is the only saw that allows this.
    A band saw on the other hand can handle much thicker wood with ease.
    A scrollsaw will let you cut and turn on the spot.
    A band saw needs more room for the thicker blade so the turns are not as tight.

    I have cut 2" maple with a scroll saw with not too much problem. I would not use it for long cuts, the blades would heat up too much.
    The band saw blade is always moving and only a small portion of it is in contact with the wood at any particular time. This allows the heat to dissipate.
    A band saw can use a fence and allow you to re saw thicker boards to thinner stock. This is not possible with a scroll saw.
    There is a huge debate whether or not a fence can be used on a scroll saw.
    Some companies offer them and at least two books that I have recently read offer simple designs for fences.

    The problem that needs to be overcome with a fence is the fact that a scroll saw blade has a bias,,,, that is a tendency for it to cut more aggressively on one side than the other, This makes the tracking of a straight line slightly skew. Once you correct for the bias of the blade you can cut straight lines with no problem.

    Band saws have much greater power demands than the fractional HP of scroll saw motors.
    Blades for scroll saws are much cheaper than band saws blades.

    I guess I would call the scroll saw the precision tool and the band saw more of the work horse.

    I am sure others will jump in and offer more advice.
    "proud member of the best scroll sawing forum on the net."
    Ryobi SC180VS scroll saw EX21


    • #3
      Thank you CanadianScroller! Exactly the information I was looking for.

      Is it fair to say that you would use the scroll saw exclusively for small pieces?

      I was surprised (and impressed) that you have cut 2" maple with a scroll saw --> When you say "I wouldn't use it for long cuts", how long is long? Are there any worries of kickback or grabbing with lighter pieces or different types of wood?

      Thanks again!


      • #4
        I wouldn't cut more than 6" (and that would be pushing it). For the most part, a scroll saw is one of the safer power tools in a shop. I've managed to cut my finger on a scroll saw, but you really have to work at that! I've done more damage to myself by not holding the wood down firmly, and allowing it to "Chatter" against the table...with a bit of my finger beneath it.

        Kickback does not exist on a scroll saw; the blades don't generate that kind of force. But, depending on the blades you use, chatter is a concern.

        Chatter, by the way, is caused when the blade grabs the wood and bounces it up and down on the saw table (since the blade moves up and down).

        Bob Duncan
        Technical Editor


        • #5

          The hand tool equivalent of a band saw is the frame saw or bow saw:

          The hand tool equivalent of a scroll saw is the coping saw, or fretsaw:

          hand fret saws can be purchased with throat depth up to 30 inches.
          Also, a fret saw is usually used the a wood support table for the project, sometimes called a "bird's mouth" or just fretsaw table:

          I hope this sheds some light on the history of the band saw and scroll saw and why they are really different motorized tools.

          (aside: the links above were selected because of the clarity of the images. These products are available at a lot of other places, be sure to Google or use for other links.)



          • #6
            The head of this rocking horse is 2 inch maple... that is true 2" not 1 3/4

            I cut it on a Delta 16" vs 40-540... I think it goes by the number SS250 in the States... with a #9 blade. there was no sanding to do but the inside of the neck close to the jawline did get some burning. so I had to sand there.

            It took about an hour to cut the head out.
            I am not sure how long the cuts were but the head just barely fit on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.
            CAЯL HIRD-RUTTEЯ
            "proud member of the best scroll sawing forum on the net."
            Ryobi SC180VS scroll saw EX21


            • #7
              Originally posted by CanadianScroller
              The head of this rocking horse is 2 inch maple... that is true 2" not 1 3/4

              I cut it on a Delta 16" vs
              Curious here, Carl. Were the legs cut on the same saw?

              Scrolling with a Dewalt 788


              • #8
                Yes everything but the rockers. I cut the rockers with a jigsaw.
                The legs are 1/2 curly maple. as is the body.
                The slats on the rockers are alder that I got from an old pallet
                The rockers are just pine.
                I made this for the daughter of a friend. My son who is 6'^" and at the time weighed in the neighborhood of 300 pounds had no troubles using the rocker.
                I finished it with waterbased varathane...I think it was 7 coats
                CAЯL HIRD-RUTTEЯ
                "proud member of the best scroll sawing forum on the net."
                Ryobi SC180VS scroll saw EX21


                • #9
                  That sounds like a pretty substantial beast, Carl - and well varathaned Nice job ...

                  Scrolling with a Dewalt 788


                  • #10
                    I'll add my "two horses worth". I cut both heads out at once on the scroll saw which made the total thickness 1-1/2 inch. No sanding was required after cutting. The rockers and legs were cut all at once with a bandsaw, and sanding was required to finish them up. These were made out of poplar. I will show one of the finished horses later in the week.
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                    • #11
                      Just did a 32 Coup the body was a true 2" It cut like butter on my G4.
                      I will post a picture of the car soon,
                      I only use my band saw for resawing.
                      RBI G4 26 Hawk, EX 16 with Pegas clamps, Nova 1624 DVR XP
                      Philosophy "I don't know that I can't, therefore I can"
                      Proud Member of the Long Island Woodworkers Club
                      And the Long Island Scrollsaw Association


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