What is a Scroll Saw?

Scroll saws are bench-top, powered saws that are sometimes operated through a pedal to allow for adjustable, hands-free control. Almost every DIY enthusiast has seen a scroll saw, and almost every woodworker hobbyist has worked with one.

A scroll saw works much like a band saw in that you have to move your woodwork against the saw blade to form a cut. The difference, however, is that a scroll saw uses a reciprocating blade, while a band saw contains a continuous-loop blade.

What is a Scroll Saw?

Thanks to the internal blade, scroll saws make it quite easy to target woodwork internal profiles. Simply drill a hole and insert the scroll saw blade through that hole, and mount that blade on the saw’s arm.

What is a Scroll Saw

Types of Scroll Saws

Generally, a scroll saw’s throat will determine its price. The distance from the rear to the blade of the saw is referred to as the throat size. The throat size, in turn, determines the maximum size of the material that the scroll saw is capable of cutting.

Scroll saws are available in a wide range of throat sizes, ranging from 12-inch models used by beginners that cost just over $100, all the way up to 30-inch versions. The larger scroll saws are most often found in industrial and commercial shops, and can cost several thousand dollars.

Another factor that distinguishes scroll saws is the type of the arm. The parallel arm is the most common type, and is the one used in local hardware stores. A second type of scroll saw is available with two distinct arms, with one at the bottom and other at the top of the saw blade.

A third type of scroll saw arm is the C-arm. The C-arms are quite similar to parallel arms. The only difference is that the arms are not joined at the back but are rather positioned in the shape of the letter ‘C’. Finally, the parallel link arm type uses a pulley system.

Parallel link scroll saws are expensive and complex, but they limit the amount of vibration and, as a result, create more accurate cuts. For this reason, parallel link arms are extensively employed for commercial purposes.

Scroll Saw Uses

Scroll saw is quite a versatile tool, and has a number of woodwork uses:

  • Commonly, scroll saws are used by woodworkers, artisans, and craftsmen
  • Their primary purpose is cutting complex joints, patterns, and profiles on wood, metal, and plastic
  • Scroll saws are extensively used to create art work, wood carvings, ivory carvings, and scrolls
  • You can create lettered templates and signs, and intarsia
  • Scroll saws can also be used to make jigsaw puzzles or other wooden toys
  • Carpenters often use scroll saws for cutting dovetail joints during the manufacture of jewelry boxes or small pieces of furniture

Benefits of Scroll Saws

  • Scroll saws can cut complex and intricate contours
  • Although a band saw probably wins in the versatility department, scroll saws are a lot more accurate and precise
  • Scroll saws offer better finishing compared to other sawing methods. Generally, a scroll saw will require a very small amount of sanding to achieve the perfect finish
  • Foot pedals can be used to control the motion of a scroll saw blade. This means that both your hands will be free for accurately moving your work-piece, allowing you to create accurate and desired cuts
  • A scroll saw requires considerably less space compared to other types of power saws

Factors to Consider when Buying a Scroll Saw:

Throat Size

As we mentioned, the saw’s throat size will determine the size of the wood that you will be able to cut. As a rule of thumb, the maximum size of wood can be determined by doubling the throat size. For instance, if the throat size is 20 inches, then you will be able to cut a piece of wood that is around 40 inches large.

The ideal throat size will vary, depending upon the kind of projects that you need the saw for. So, if you work primarily on smaller pieces of wood, you can stick to a smaller throat size and do not need to waste money on a larger-sized saw.

Blade Type

Generally, scroll saws are available in flat-end and pin-end blade types. A plain end blade is, as the name suggests, plain, and requires clamps to keep the ends in place. Pin-end blades, on the other hand, have a pin at either end that helps keep the blade intact.

For actual scrolling, a pin-end blade will not work, as it is way too large and will therefore be unable to make interior, sharp, and delicate cuts. However, if you want to cut hardwood or thicker pieces, a pin-end blade might be the better choice for you.


The ideal speed for a scroll saw will depend upon the hardness and thickness of the wood that you are working on. Softer materials – such as plastic or softwood, can be cut at higher speeds. However, if you plan to cut metal or hardwood, you should opt for a scroll saw with lower speed options.

Thankfully, most contemporary scroll saws have multiple options for speed. If you are a rookie and do not have a lot of experience with scroll saws, it is best to go for a lower speed, as it is a lot safer and more forgiving.

Table Tilt

Some people need to be able to cut their work-pieces at specific angles. Some scroll saws are only capable of tilting a certain way (generally the left) to a maximum of 45 degrees. Unless you want to work on special tasks that will require you to tilt both ways or at greater angles, this factor should not be a deal-breaker for you.

Our Final Thoughts

To sum up, a scroll saw is tremendously efficient at performing a number of DIY uses, and is an excellent tool to have for experimental woodworkers or tool junkies. To learn more about DIY tools, please feel free to check out some of the other blogs on our website.

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