Best Scroll Saw

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Scroll saws are ideally adapted for cutting curves in wood. These saws can make the tightest cuts, even cutting 90 degree angles or five degree internal angles. The thin cutting blade is held firmly and stretched between two arms, ensuring it stays rigid and at the right angle to the wood.

If you’ve ever tried cutting anything complex with a hand-held jigsaw, you probably got as frustrated as I did. I used one of those for years, before finally breaking down to buy a scroll saw. What a difference! The quality of cuts that I’m able to make it much better, following the pattern line on the workpiece, and producing cuts exactly perpendicular to the face of the workpiece. That’s extremely hard to do with a handheld jigsaw.

Some may think that all scrolls saws are essentially created equal but in fact they’re not. The biggest difference is the drive system used which affects the accuracy of the cut, as well as the possibility of splitting the wood. Take a look at our buyer's guide below to learn the difference as well as other key pieces of information.

Best Parallel Arm Scroll Saw:

Ask any serious scroller and they’ll tell you that the best scroll saws are the parallel arm models. That’s because they have two separate arms, each of which has its own pivot point, ensuring the blade moves up and down vertically with much less front-to-back oscillation.

Why is that important? Well, if you’re going to use your saw to make intricate detailed cuts, you need it to avoid any front to back oscillation while maintaining a smooth up and down movement; it’s actually possible to make 90 degree cuts with these saws. Speaking of smooth, these saws have much less vibration making them much easier to work with, especially over a long period of time. The vibration that C-arm saws typically have makes them much harder to use for prolonged cutting.

In addition to having a superior arm design, these saws are generally larger than the C-arm saws with some having as much as a 30-inch throat. Maintaining accurate movement over those longer ranges is hard and requires a much more finely produced mechanism. Overall you can count on these scroll saws being better built than their c-arm cousins.

Part of the reduction in vibration these saws have is due to the design of the mechanism but part of it can be attributed to the fact that these are heavier saws with cast-iron bases and tables. The added weight helps reduce the tendency of the tool to “walk” on the bench top. Many come with stands or have optional stands, which help reduce vibration even further.

There are some things all scroll saws seem to have in common, such as variable speed, the ability to accept dual blade types, and built-in blowers. However, there can be a considerable difference in how these features are designed for specific saws.

A couple of these saws have quick releases for blade tension, a feature I particularly like. With the quick release, you don’t have to fully readjust the tension every time you remove the blade and this is extremely handy if you’re doing a project with a lot of inside cuts. Instead of loosening and retightening the tension knob each time you need to move the blade to a new hole, you can simply release the tension with the quick release. Then, simply move the blade and retighten it to the same setting with the flick of a lever.

The best saws will also have an adjustable stroke length, or at least two different stroke lengths to choose from. This allows the stroke to be matched to the blade and material being cut. A longer stroke is very appropriate for thicker materials, while a short stroke will work better with thin ones.

All of these picks offer bevel cutting, generally through allowing the table to tilt 45 degrees. However, the Excalibur has a different system for that, one which I think is far superior. They also all have on-board blade storage which is a nice added convenience.

General International, Excalibur EX-30 Tilting Head Scroll Saw

This unique saw has lots of features you won't find on other scroll saws. Miter cutting is handled by tilting the saw head, instead of tilting the table. That makes it easier to work, as the workpiece is always on a flat table. Read Full Review

General International, Excalibur EX-30 Tilting Head Scroll Saw

Henger Polycut 3 Scroll Saw

This is Henger's largest saw and a very popular model. This brand comes out of England, where a scroll saw is referred to as a fretsaw. It's high quality choice and comes with a seven-year warranty. Read Full Review

Henger Polycut 3 Scroll Saw

PS Wood Machines 21" Scroll Saw

This saw boasts the largest table of any scroll saw on the market. Blade changing is done with everything above the table for easy access. Read Full Review

See it at:
    PS Wood Machines 21" Scroll Saw

    Proxxon 37090 DSH/E Scroll Saw

    Proxxon specializes in tools for detail and precision work, making them an ideal match for building scroll saws. This one is known for being very quiet to work with, which is nice if you're doing a lot of work on your scroll saw. Read Full Review

    See it at:
      Proxxon 37090 DSH/E Scroll Saw

      Delta Power Tools 40-694 20" Variable Speed Scroll Saw

      Delta has packed a lot of features into this saw to make it easier to work with. All of the controls are mounted on the upper arm, where they are easy to get to. There's a work light as well which is great for workshops which aren’t well lit. Read Full Review

      See it at:
        Delta Power Tools 40-694 20" Variable Speed Scroll Saw

        Best C-Arm Scroll Saw:

        While a high dollar scroll saw might be necessary for a woodworker specializing in scrolling, the average woodworker probably doesn’t need that high-end of a saw. Unless you are doing marquetry (artistic inlay work with veneers) or some very intricate silhouettes, the added advantage of a top-end scroll saw is not going to be apparent.

        I personally have a budget scroll saw, which I’ve used extensively for cutting out pieces of scrollwork for various things that I make for the house. I’ve never found a project that it wouldn’t work for, nor have I ever had a project ruined because my saw wasn’t good enough.

        The real key to any scroll saw is how evenly it moves the blade up and down through the workpiece. If it wobbles or moves excessively from front to back, it will cause splintering in the edges of the cut. Parallel arm scroll saws are better for this than C-arm, but C-arm saws are less difficult and less expensive to make. For this reason, most of the saws on the market are C-arm.

        The blade tension is very important for maintaining a clean cut and for extending the life of the blade. The tighter it is, the less chance for wobble, extending the blade’s life and ensuring that there aren’t any problems with chipping. However, if the blade is held too tightly, there is a chance of it breaking, especially if it’s twisted.

        All of these saws have a 16-inch throat, meaning that the largest cut possible is 16 inches into the wood. This is a fairly common size for scroll saws, with very few on the market that are larger than this. Some only allow use of pin blades (blades with a pin through them for attaching to the saw), while others will accept pin or plain bladed ones. To accept lain blades, the saw must have a clamp to hold them.

        They are also all variable speed, providing the user with control over the actual cutting speed. More intricate work, especially in thin material, is typically done at lower speeds, in order to maintain better control over the cut.

        In addition to speed, the number of teeth per inch the blade has is important for controlling the cut. You want to have at enough teeth to have at least three teeth for the thickness of the material. Any less than this and it increases the chance of the blade catching on the workpiece, causing it to chip. With marquetry, jewelers blades are used, which will only work with a saw that can take unpinned blades.

        All of these units come with blowers, although some function better than others. The quality of the blower and the clamp for the hold-down foot is something that varies a lot in scroll saws. While any will work, the better they are, the easier the saw will be to work with.

        Since this is a “budget” list, I’ve tried to limit myself to units with a street price of around $150 or less. Even so, the first one goes a bit over that price.

        Eclipse Scroll Saw

        Shop Fox's saw is the only one in this price range with both a cast-iron base and table which adds a lot to its stability. There are a lot of details on this saw, making it very easy to work with. Read Full Review

        Eclipse Scroll Saw

        King Tools 1741 Variable Speed Scroll Saw

        As usual, Craftsman comes out with an excellent consumer product for everyone else to compare theirs to. This saw has a 1.6 amp motor, making it the most powerful one on this list. Read Full Review

        King Tools 1741 Variable Speed Scroll Saw

        Shop Fox W1713 16" Variable Speed Scroll Saw

        The Genesis scroll saw has a very nice foot for holding the workpiece down. It also has a flexible neck blower, allowing you to position it right where you want it. Read Full Review

        See it at:
          Shop Fox W1713 16" Variable Speed Scroll Saw

          Genesis GSS160, 16 Inch Scroll Saw

          The blower on the Ryobi unit is a bit different than the others, being mounted directly below the arm. Reportedly it works very well there. Read Full Review

          See it at:
            Genesis GSS160, 16 Inch Scroll Saw

            Craftsman 16" 21602 Variable Speed Scroll Saw

            This is the absolute cheapest scroll saw on the market. Even so, I can personally attest to it doing a great job seeing as I have one in my shop. Read Full Review

            See it at:
              Craftsman 16" 21602 Variable Speed Scroll Saw

              Best Budget Scroll Saw:

              While a high dollar scroll saw might be necessary for a woodworker specializing in scrolling, the average woodworker probably doesn’t need that high-end of a saw. Unless you are doing marquetry (artistic inlay work with veneers) or some very intricate silhouettes, the added advantage of a top-end scroll saw is not going to be apparent.

              I personally have a budget scroll saw, which I’ve used extensively for cutting out pieces of scrollwork for various things that I make for the house. I’ve never found a project that it wouldn’t work for, nor have I ever had a project ruined because my saw wasn’t good enough.

              The real key to any scroll saw is how evenly it moves the blade up and down through the workpiece. If it wobbles or moves excessively from front to back, it will cause splintering in the edges of the cut. Parallel arm scroll saws are better for this than C-arm, but C-arm saws are less difficult and less expensive to make. For this reason, most of the saws on the market are C-arm.

              The blade tension is very important for maintaining a clean cut and for extending the life of the blade. The tighter it is, the less chance for wobble, extending the blade’s life and ensuring that there aren’t any problems with chipping. However, if the blade is held too tightly, there is a chance of it breaking, especially if it’s twisted.

              All of these saws have a 16-inch throat, meaning that the largest cut possible is 16 inches into the wood. This is a fairly common size for scroll saws, with very few on the market that are larger than this. Some only allow use of pin blades (blades with a pin through them for attaching to the saw), while others will accept pin or plain bladed ones. To accept lain blades, the saw must have a clamp to hold them.

              They are also all variable speed, providing the user with control over the actual cutting speed. More intricate work, especially in thin material, is typically done at lower speeds, in order to maintain better control over the cut.

              In addition to speed, the number of teeth per inch the blade has is important for controlling the cut. You want to have at enough teeth to have at least three teeth for the thickness of the material. Any less than this and it increases the chance of the blade catching on the workpiece, causing it to chip. With marquetry, jewelers blades are used, which will only work with a saw that can take unpinned blades.

              All of these units come with blowers, although some function better than others. The quality of the blower and the clamp for the hold-down foot is something that varies a lot in scroll saws. While any will work, the better they function, the easier the saw will be to work with.

              Since this is a “budget” list, I’ve tried to limit myself to units with a street price of around $150 or less. Even so, the first one goes a bit over that price.

              Shop Fox W1713 16" Variable Speed Scroll Saw

              Shop Fox's saw is the only one in this price range with both a cast-iron base and table which adds a lot to its stability. There are a lot of details on this saw, making it very easy to work with. Read Full Review

              See it at:
                Shop Fox W1713 16" Variable Speed Scroll Saw

                Craftsman 16" 21602 Variable Speed Scroll Saw

                As usual, Craftsman comes out with an excellent consumer product for everyone else to compare theirs to. This saw has a 1.6 amp motor, making it the most powerful one on this list. Read Full Review

                See it at:
                  Craftsman 16" 21602 Variable Speed Scroll Saw

                  Genesis GSS160, 16 Inch Scroll Saw

                  The Genesis scroll saw has a very nice foot for holding the workpiece down. It also has a flexible neck blower, allowing you to position it right where you want it. Read Full Review

                  See it at:
                    Genesis GSS160, 16 Inch Scroll Saw

                    Ryobi ZRSC164VS 16-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw

                    The blower on the Ryobi unit is a bit different than the others, being mounted directly below the arm. Reportedly it works very well there. Read Full Review

                    See it at:
                      Ryobi ZRSC164VS 16-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw

                      Central Machinery 16 Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw

                      This is the absolute cheapest scroll saw on the market. However, seeing as I have one in my shop, I can personally attest to it doing a great job. Read Full Review

                      Central Machinery 16 Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw
                       

                      Scroll Saw Buyer's Guide

                      Some may think of scroll saws and band saws as two different types of saws intended to do the same thing. They’re both stationary saws capable of cutting curves in material with a narrow kerf but that's about as far as their similarity goes. Besides that, the two tools are quite different, both in purpose and in function.

                      Band saws are able to be used for much heavier work than scroll saws are. One of their prime uses is for re-sawing boards which is something no other saw can do correctly. Some band saws are big enough that they are used as sawmill, something you could never think of doing with a scroll saw.

                      The scroll saw is designed for detail work and it excels at that. There is no other power saw that can make the fine cuts that a scroll saw can, especially for marquetry, inlay, and lacework in wood.

                      Some people use their scroll saw for general woodworking, such as making scrollwork or gingerbread trim for bookshelves. Others use them for making what are essentially wood pictures, whether these are done as cutouts (lacework) or marquetry (inlaid wood pictures). These two branches of woodworking are specialized enough that their practitioners typically focus on those areas to the exclusion of other types of woodworking.

                      The more detailed a work you are going to do on your scroll saw, the better a saw you need. If you’re only cutting scrolling shelf supports once in a while, you can get by with a discount scroll saw with no problem. However, if you’re planning on using your scroll saw for the more artistic scrolling, then you want to be sure to buy a high dollar one.

                      It is important to mount the scroll saw properly, whether to a workbench or on a stand. The saw tends to create a lot of vibration which will cause it to walk across the surface of a workbench. It’s very hard to control when that’s happening which could cause some serious errors.

                      The grain of some woods may cause the blade to turn and follow the grain line, rather than your intended cut line. Woodworkers who do marquetry have a lot of problem with this as they use jeweler's blades in their scroll saw. To eliminate this twisting, it helps to make a special hardened steel insert for the table, which has a slot in it only as wide as the blade.

                      Types of Scroll Saws

                      Just looking at them, one could easily think that all scroll saws are basically the same, but they aren’t. The main difference between them is the type of drive that they use.
                      Scroll saws vary widely in price and quality. While they all do the same job, they don’t all do it to the same degree of perfection.

                      How good a scroll saw you need depends a lot on the type of work you are planning on using it for:

                      Parallel Arm Saws
                      Ideal for delicate or intricate work, such as the profile picture cutting that is so prevalent amongst scrollers. The blade stays more perpendicular to the workpiece, with considerably less undercut. This is also the type of saw to use for marquetry (wood veneer inlays).

                      C-arm Saws
                      These are less expensive and have a slight front to back oscillation in their cut stroke. While this is not much of a problem when the saw is used for cutting scrolled shelf brackets, it can be a problem for fine detail work.

                      Eclipse Scroll Saws
                      While I included it in the C-arm saw list, it really isn't a C-arm saw; nor is it a parallel arm saw. The Eclipse uses a belt, rather than any sort of arm. This allows true vertical cutting, without any forward or backwards movement. That means that the Eclipse is the best saw for detailed cutting, as it virtually eliminate splintering of the wood, as well as blade breakage.

                      Blade breakage is a real problem with scroll saws. Between heating from the friction of cutting and binding in tight cuts, blades are easily broken. The longer the blade stroke, the less likely the blade is to break, simply because the friction will be spread over a larger area, reducing heat.

                      Features to Look For in a Scroll Saw

                      Blowers and Dust Collection Ports
                      Like with most power tools, dust is a real problem when cutting with a scroll saw. However, the problem is multiplied by the need to for extremely accurate cuts. For this reason, scroll saws come with built-in blowers to keep the cut line cleaned of sawdust. They also have dust collection ports so you can hook up a shop-vac or dust collection system to them. This is highly recommended, so your cuts aren’t messed up by sawdust.

                      Work Lights
                      Some scroll saws come with flexible work lights to help with visibility. This is a great help as most overhead lights get shadowed by the woodworker’s head or body. Some people mount a flexible arm magnifying glass by their scroll saw, to help them see their workpiece better which is especially useful for intricate detail work.

                      Ease of Blade Change
                      Besides cutting in such a way as to avoid any undercut or splintering, another important thing to look for on a scroll saw is the ability to change blades quickly and easily. Much scroll saw work is done on internal cuts where the blade has to be put through a hole in the workpiece in order to begin the cut. A saw without a quick release for the blade tension will drive you nuts if you do a lot of this particular work.

                      The Table
                      The table is also necessary to ensure the workpiece is held perpendicular to the blade. Low cost saws may have stamped steel tables which will have a bit of a bow in them which will affect the quality of the cut. The best tables are cast-iron which is then ground to make it flat across the entire table.

                      Leave a Question or Comment
                      1 comments
                      • dbeal3827 dbeal3827

                      The dewalt 788 is an ok scroll saw. Certainly acceptable for the casual scroll saw artist. However, if you really want perfection, nothing comes close to the eclipse, pricey, yeah, but worth every penny. If I had to sell all my tools but one, it would be my eclipse that would not be for sale.

                      Posted on 4/20/2012 7:07 pm | Reply