If your projects require intricate cuts for projects like jewelry boxes, wood signs, or birdhouses, a go-to carpentry tool may be a scroll saw. These specialty saws are considered essential tools for woodworking, particularly indispensable for craftspeople and artisan woodworkers who want to add finer details to their work. These tools also typically leave smooth edges, so minimal sanding is necessary to achieve smooth finishes.
Before investing in this type of tool, feel confident that the chosen model suits your needs and skill level. This guide covers the must-know shopping guidance and some of the best scroll saw options for woodworkers of any skill level, from beginners to pros.
- BEST OVERALL: DEWALT 20-Inch Variable-Speed Scroll Saw
- BEST BUDGET: WEN 16-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw
- BEST FOR INTERMEDIATES: Excalibur 16-in. Tilting Scroll Saw
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Rockwell Shop Series 16 In. Scroll Saw
- BEST FOR FINE DETAILS: Jet 22 in. 120-Volt Scroll Saw JWSS-22B
- BEST COMPACT: Dremel Moto-Saw Variable Speed Compact Scroll Saw Kit
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Scroll Saw
Scroll saw prices usually start at around $125 but may cost more than $1,000, depending on quality and features. Decent scroll saws for home woodworkers can be found for less than $500. The more expensive models are better suited to professional fabricators. Consider the following tool features when shopping and comparing various models.
Blade Type and Size
Scroll saws will accept one of two common types of very thin blades: “plain-end blades” or “pin-end blades.”
- Plain-end blades (also known as pinless blades) are held in place between jaws that clamp tightly at the top and the bottom of the blade (below the table of the saw). This is the most common type of blade acceptance, and a wide variety of plain-end blades are readily available for cutting different types of material (wood, plastic, metal). Usually, scroll saws that accept plain-end blades require the use of a tool (included with the saw) to tighten and loosen the clamps.
- Pin-end blades feature small cross pins at each end that fit into hooks. Pin-end blades are the simpler of the two types of blades to change because no additional tool is necessary. However, fewer varieties are available, which may impact the size of possible cuts. For example, if a narrow cut is needed, the cross pin at the end of the blade may be too wide to fit through the slit in the material.
By far, the most common nominal scroll saw blade length is 5 inches, though in actual measurement, they can be as long as 5½ inches. This 5-inch standard length fits most saws, and they’re available in both end types. There are also 4-inch and 3-inch scroll saw blades, but they’re far less common and provide less cutting capacity for most cutting needs.
A scroll saw comes with a control that allows a user to increase or decrease tension on the blade while working. With too much tension, the thin blade could snap. On the other hand, if the tension is too loose, the blade may twist while cutting and create a jagged edge on the material.
On some saws, users adjust a lever to set the blade tension. Other saws feature tension control knobs. Usually, a tension control that’s located on the front of a saw is preferable. If a saw has one on the back, users must move to the back of the saw to tweak the tension on a blade.
On a scroll saw, the throat capacity is the distance from the saw blade to the back frame of the saw. The deeper the throat capacity, the wider the material that can be cut. Some saws come with throat capacities as shallow as 12 inches, while larger commercial saws may have throat capacity as deep as 30 inches. For most home woodworking tasks, a throat capacity of around 16 to 18 inches is usually sufficient. If the plan is to cut larger designs, opt for a saw with a deeper throat capacity.
Keep in mind that material can be rotated while cutting, so the maximum width of any material that a scroll saw can cut is about twice the saw’s throat capacity. For example, if the saw’s throat capacity is 16 inches, a 32-inch-wide board can be cut.
A scroll saw’s arm holds the blade. There are three main types of scroll saw arm designs: C-type, parallel, and parallel-linked.
- C-type scroll saws have one continuous C-shaped arm that moves up and down as one unit. There is one pivot point toward the rear of the C and a motor in the middle of the bottom of the C. As the motor turns, it cranks the entire C up and down. These saws are low maintenance, aggressive, and fast, but they aren’t the most accurate style.
- Parallel arm scroll saws have an upper arm and a lower arm that run parallel to each other, and each has its own pivot point toward the front. The back of each arm is attached to a tension rod or spring. These saws have shorter blade strokes than C-type saws, and although they’re slower to cut, they’re far more accurate.
- A parallel-linked arm operates similarly to a parallel arm, but there are multiple pivot points. They’re a bit more aggressive than parallel arm scroll saws, but they’re also more detailed than a C-type saw, which makes them a nice meet-in-the-middle of the other two types.
As a safety precaution, all scroll saws in the U.S. feature a hold-down foot that keeps the material being cut pressed firmly against the saw’s table while cutting. Not everyone appreciates this safety feature because a bulky hold-down foot can block a user’s vision while cutting.
To avoid any interference, some woodworkers remove the foot altogether. A safer option is to choose a saw with a hold-down foot made from strong yet thin metal. A bulky one can obscure more of the cutting area.
Dust Blower and Collection
A dust blower removes accumulated dust from the surface of material so it doesn’t build up around the blade and block the view of the cutline. Some models also feature dust collection, typically in the form of a port on the cutting table underside that attaches to a standard wet/dry shop-type vacuum.
Starting the shop vac before making cuts will suck up the dust as you go. A dust collection port helps keep dust out of the air in the workshop (and, more importantly, off of a drying finish).
There can be more to a scroll saw than just its design and capacity. The following are some additional features that might make working with a particular saw a bit more convenient or accurate.
- Bevel cutting: Many scroll saws offer tilting tables that allow cutting material to be positioned at an angle. This is handy for creating a beveled edge. Most saw tables tilt up to 45 degrees, usually to the left, but some tilt in both directions. Tilting both ways is a handy feature, but not essential, the material can be turned over to cut a bevel on the other side. Additionally, a newer type of scroll saw offers a head that tilts rather than a table that tilts.
- Variable speed: A scroll saw is rated by the maximum number of up-and-down blade strokes the tool can complete in a single minute. That can range from a low of 400 strokes per minute (spm) to as high as 1,800 spm. Softwoods such as cedar can be easily cut at 400 spm, while hardwoods, such as walnut, are easier to cut at higher speeds. Scroll saws with variable speed adjustments offer the best of both worlds.
- Work light: When looking at scroll saws, you may notice a small tube that snakes around to the edge of the blade. That’s an LED light designed to illuminate the exact spot on the material to be cut. Bright lighting is helpful to make the most accurate cuts. Most scroll saws now offer flexible tube task lighting.
- Stand: Most scroll saws sit on a benchtop, but there are models that affix to a stand. These stands allow the user to be closer to the workpiece while also maintaining a more comfortable standing position.
Our Top Picks
With one of the best scroll saws in your tool arsenal, it can be simple to make complex cuts. We’ve reviewed the most popular scroll saws on the market to create this list of some of the best scroll saw picks below. They feature variable speed options, quality construction, and designs to make an elaborate cutting project a snap.
With a hearty 20-inch throat capacity and adjustable speed, the DeWalt 20-Inch Variable-Speed Scroll Saw is an attractive choice for serious wood artisans. It is designed with a parallel-linked arm that minimizes noise and vibration. Plus, the saw features a thin yet strong metal hold-down foot designed not to block the line of sight. The on-off switch, the tension lever, and the speed adjustment are all located on the front of the tool for easy access.
This saw has a large 20-inch capacity for cutting large workpieces. Also, it accepts plain-end blades, and blade changes are easy thanks to the toolless blade clamp. Stroke speed is adjustable from 400 to 1,750 spm, making this scroll saw suitable for cutting both softwoods and hardwoods as well as plastic and sheet metal.
The saw table tilts up to 45 degrees to the left and to the right for cutting bevels. This all-purpose scroll saw is available with a stand and an LED light as well, which might be a good idea considering this saw weighs almost 60 pounds.
- Type: Parallel-link
- Throat Capacity: 20 inches
- Features: Variable speed, bevel, dust blower
- Speed adjusts for softwoods or hardwoods
- Tool-free blade changes
- Large cutting capacity
- Could be an armful to move around a shop
Get the DeWalt 20-Inch Variable-Speed Scroll Saw on Amazon or at Grainger.
The WEN 16-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw features a table that tilts up to 45 degrees to the left and offers variable speed cutting, all at an affordable price point. The WEN comes with a 16-inch throat depth, a bright LED light to illuminate the cutting area, an air blower, and a dust collection port.
It accepts pin-head blades, comes with onboard blade storage, and includes a thin hold-down foot. A thumbscrew adapter allows for quick blade changes. Also, users can adjust this scroll saw to cut from 400 to 1,600 spm, allowing for cutting a range of materials like hardwood and softwood, metals, plastics, and more. If there’s room for improvement, it would be the addition of a stand (which WEN does not currently offer).
- Type: Parallel arm
- Throat Capacity: 16 inches
- Features: Adjustable speeds, work light, dust blower, beveling table
- Affordable price point
- Onboard work light and dust blower
- Adjustable speeds
Get the WEN 16-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
Cutting bevels is a snap with the Excalibur 16-Inch Tilting Scroll Saw that features a precision tilting head and a revolutionary quick-screw blade changing system that allows for quick swapping of the plain-head blades. It features a built-in light, an air blower, and a dust collection port that can remove up to 90 percent of the dust generated by cutting.
The Excalibur’s hold-down foot is thin and designed for an unobstructed view when cutting. The design includes a front-facing power switch, variable speed control, and a tension control knob on the top rear of the arm. The head, not the table, tilts 30 degrees to the left and 45 degrees to the right. This tilting allows the user to cut the material in a secure horizontal position.
The speed adjusts from 400 to 1,400 spm, which makes it possible to saw a variety of wood types and other materials. Just beware that this model is a bit expensive, and it doesn’t come with a stand. The Excalibur scroll saw is also available as a 21-inch model for those who need a larger-capacity tool.
- Type: Parallel
- Throat Capacity: 16 inches
- Features: Bevel, dust blower, work light, dust collection
- Head bevels instead of the work table for improved stability
- Speed adjustability
- Effective dust collection
Get the Excalibur 16-Inch Tilting Scroll Saw on Amazon.
The entry-level Rockwell Shop Series 16-Inch Scroll Saw offers most things the beginner needs to create intricate projects. The saw features a 16-inch throat capacity and offers ample variable power from 500 to 1,700 spm, so users will be able to cut a wide variety of materials. It also comes with a table that tilts up to 45 degrees to the left (though it doesn’t bevel to the right) and can handle pinned and pinless blades.
The Rockwell scroll saw features a simple design for beginners, accepts plain-end blades, and comes with handy built-in blade storage. It also features a dust blower and a hold-down foot for additional safety when learning to make scroll cuts. This saw even has a lift-up plastic safety shield that lowers to cover the blade—a smart move for beginners learning their way around a scroll saw.
- Type: Parallel
- Throat Capacity: 16 inches
- Features: Bevel, dust blower, speed adjustability
- Simple design for beginners
- Additional safety shield
- Built-in blade storage
Get the Rockwell Shop Series 16-Inch Scroll Saw at The Home Depot and on Amazon.
When it comes to getting the most accuracy and capacity out of a scroll saw, serious woodworkers may want to check out the Jet 22-inch 120-volt scroll saw. This parallel-link arm scroll saw has a 22-inch capacity and a cast-iron work surface measuring more than 12 inches by 24 inches. That kind of space allows for plenty of room for intarsia, crafting, or even woodworking joinery and detailed cuts.
This scroll saw from Jet features a beveling table that adjusts to 40 degrees on the left and 45 degrees on the right, giving the user plenty of flexibility. Also, this model has a built-in dust blower, dust collection, and onboard blade storage.
The Jet saw even features a foot-controlled switch for maximum control (even when working with two hands). The only real issue some woodworkers might have with this model is that it could be a bit too large for a small shop.
- Type: Parallel-link
- Throat Capacity: 22 inches
- Features: Dust blower, bevel, foot switch, blade storage, dust collection
- Extra-large throat
- Large cast-iron table
- Increased control and accuracy
- A bit large for small shops
Get the Jet 22-Inch 120-Volt Scroll Saw at The Home Depot and on Amazon.
Anyone who wants a little more from their scroll saw might want to give the Dremel Moto-Saw Variable Speed Compact Scroll Saw Kit a chance. This compact saw features a quick-clamp base that attaches to tables and benches, allowing users to scroll like a traditional saw. However, should they need to cope a molding or scroll on a larger workpiece, this saw detaches for handheld use.
This model features variable speeds so the user can adjust according to the material they’re cutting. It also features a system that automatically applies tension to the saw blade for quick blade changes. The base has a built-in dust collection port as well.
- Type: Scroll saw kit
- Throat Capacity: N/A
- Features: Dust collection port, detachable coping mode, adjustable speeds
- Detaches from base for coping
- Adjustable speeds
- Auto tensioning blade changes
- Not a traditional scroll saw (but that might not be a bad thing)
Get the Dremel Moto-Saw Variable Speed Compact Scroll Saw Kit on Amazon and at The Home Depot.
Anyone who wants a good all-around scroll saw with accuracy, speed control, and lots of additional features at a reasonable price may want to check out the DEWALT 20-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw. Enthusiastic woodworkers with more experience may want to check out Excalibur 16-in. Tilting Scroll Saw.
Putting together a list of the best scroll saws takes a lot of work. We want to be sure we’re suggesting only the best tools on the market so you’re able to get right to crafting or cutting with the best scroll saw for you.
First, we relied on our experience in working with scroll saws, as we know what to look for in these tools. Next, we conducted lengthy product research. We compared each model’s features, power, capability, and uses. We also compared materials to ensure you’ll be getting a high-quality tool that will last for years. By gathering this experience, doing the research, and making comparisons, we were able to put together this list of some of the best scroll saws available.
It’s better to “feed” the saw than to force a piece of material across it. This means gently guiding the material across the blade and allowing the saw to do the work. Forcing materials through the saw can jam the blade and break it, as well as cost valuable accuracy.
If you’re cutting several pieces that are the same shape, it helps to stack them on top of each other and make all the cuts at one time. Just be sure to go slowly, as the additional surface area will increase friction.
Scrolling often requires excellent attention to detail and small tolerances. Give yourself plenty of light so you can see your cut lines, the saw, and other details that might affect your result. If your saw comes with a work light, use it. If not, set up a small clamp light nearby.
- Feed the saw, don’t force it
- Stack workpieces to cut several pieces of the same shape at once
- Give yourself plenty of light
That’s a lot of information on the best scroll saws, and you might be concerned with all the details. The following section aims to help. It’s a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about the best scroll saws. Be sure to check for an answer to your question below.
Q: What is the difference between a scroll saw and a band saw?
Band saw blades are one continuous loop of steel and teeth, and they rotate in one direction. These thicker blades aren’t very good for detailed work. Scroll saws use small, straight, delicate blades with which it’s easier to cut small, intricate shapes. Also, scroll saw blades move up and down rather than in a loop.
Q: What should I look for when buying a scroll saw?
There are a few things to look for. First, make sure whichever model you choose has a large enough throat for your planned tasks. Larger pieces need larger throats. Second, decide if accuracy or speed are more important, and choose your saw type based on that information.
Q: Can you use a scroll saw indoors?
Yes, but some are very loud. It’s a good idea to use hearing protection.
Q: How thick can scroll saws cut?
Most scroll saws can handle workpieces up to 2 inches thick.
Q: What is the maximum speed of a scroll saw?
The average top speed of a scroll saw is between 1,500 and 1,800 spm.
Q: What is the best wood to use with a scroll saw?
The best woods to practice scroll sawing are plywood and cedar, as they’re relatively affordable and consistent in grain pattern.
Q: Can you make straight cuts with a scroll saw?
You can, but it’s a challenge. Straight cuts are easier with table saws or large band saws.