The Best Scroll Saws for the Workshop
For elaborate projects, it’s tough to beat the precise cutting action of a scroll saw—particularly one of high quality. Learn how your workshop can benefit from this powerful tool, then shop one of our top-rated recommendations for the best scroll saw.
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- BEST OVERALLDEWALT 20-Inch Variable Speed Scroll SawCheck Latest Price
- BEST FOR PROSDelta Power Tools 20 Inch Variable Speed Scroll SawCheck Latest Price
- BEST FOR INTERMEDIATESGeneral International EXCALIBUR 16″ Scroll SawCheck Latest Price
If your projects require intricate cuts, such as those needed when you craft gingerbread trim or fashion elaborate jewelry boxes, wood signs, or birdhouses, your go-to carpentry tool may be out of its league. For a more equipped option, consider the scroll saw. These specialty saws are considered essential tools for woodworking, particularly indispensable for craftsmen and artisan woodworkers looking to add finer details. (If you’ve ever seen complex wooden puzzles, you’ve probably seen the work of scroll saws.) Not only is this type of saw equipped for detail, but it also leaves nearly smooth edges, so minimal sanding is necessary to achieve smooth finishes.
Before investing in a specialty tool, you should feel confident that it suits your needs and skill level and will serve you reliably. Ahead, this guide covers key tips for choosing the best scroll saw for your needs, and also includes details on our favorite options for everyone from beginners to pros.
- BEST OVERALL: DEWALT 20-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw
- BEST FOR PROS: Delta Power Tools 20-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw
- BEST FOR INTERMEDIATES: General International EXCALIBUR 16″ Scroll Saw
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Rockwell ShopSeries 16-Inch Scroll Saw
- BEST VALUE: WEN 16-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw
Key Shopping Considerations
Scroll saw prices start at around $125 but may cost more than $1,000, depending on quality and features. Most home woodworkers can purchase decent scroll saws for less than $500. The more expensive models are better suited to professional fabricators. Consider the following tool features when shopping.
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 you can 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 woodworking tasks, a throat capacity of around 16 to 18 inches is sufficient. If you plan to cut larger designs, opt for a saw with a deeper throat capacity.
Keep in mind that you can rotate the material you’re cutting, so the maximum width of the material you can cut is about twice the saw’s throat capacity. For example, if the saw’s throat capacity is 16 inches, you can cut the center of a 32-inch wide board.
A scroll saw comes with a control that allows you to increase or decrease tension on the blade while you work. With too much tension, the thin blade could snap. On the other hand, if the tension is too loose, the blade may twist while you’re cutting and create a jagged edge on your material.
On some saws, you move a lever to set the blade tension. Other saws feature tension control knobs. Usually, a tension control that’s located on the front of the saw is preferable. If your saw has one on the back, you must move to the back of the saw every time you want to tweak the tension on a blade.
Blades and Blade Changing
Scroll saws will accept one of two common types of very thin blades: “plain-end blades,” or “pin-end blades.”
- Plain-end 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 in 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 your cut. For example, if you need to make a narrow cut, the cross pin at the end of the blade may be too wide to fit through the slit in the material.
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. Soft woods. 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.
Many scroll saws offer tilting tables that allow you to cut material at an angle. This is handy for those times when you want to create 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—you can always turn the material you’re cutting 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.
As a safety precaution, all scroll saws in the U.S. feature a hold-down foot that keeps the material you’re cutting pressed firmly against the saw’s table as you cut. Not everyone appreciates this safety feature because a bulky hold-down foot can block your vision where you’re cutting. Some woodworkers even remove the foot. A better (and safer) option is to choose a saw with a hold-down foot that’s made from strong yet thin metal. A bulky one can obscure more of the cutting area.
When you look at scroll saws, you may notice a small tube that snakes around to the edge of the blade. That’s an LED designed to illuminate the exact spot on the material where you’re cutting. Bright lighting is necessary to make the best cuts. Most scroll saws now offer flexible tube task lighting.
Dust Blower and Collection
A dust blower removes accumulated dust from the surface of your material, so it doesn’t build up around the blade and block your 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 woodworking shop (and, more importantly, out of a drying wood finish).
Our Top Picks
It’s never been simpler to make complex cuts! The best scroll saw options below feature variable speed options, quality construction, and designs to make your projects a snap.
1. BEST OVERALL: DEWALT 20-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw
With a hearty 20-inch throat capacity and adjustable speed, the DEWALT 20-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw is an excellent choice for serious wood artisans. It is designed with a double parallel arm that minimizes noise and vibration. Plus, the saw features a thin yet strong metal hold-down foot designed not to block your 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. The saw accepts plain-end blades. Stroke speed is adjustable from 400 to 1,750 spm, making this scroll saw perfect for cutting both soft and hard woods, as well as plastic and sheet metal. The saw table tilts up to 45 degrees to the left and the right for cutting bevels. It’s available with an LED light and an air blower but no dust collection port.
2. BEST FOR PROS: Delta Power Tools 20 Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw
If you want a scroll saw with enough power and versatility to tackle daily cutting jobs, check out the Delta Power Tools 20 Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw. It features 20-inch throat capacity, adjustable speed, a table that tilts 45 degrees to either the left or the right and comes with both an LED light and an air blower. Stroke speed adjusts from 400 to 1,750 spm, so that you can cut a variety of materials with ease. The dual-arm assembly reduces vibration, and the upper arm lifts and locks out of the way during blade changes. The Delta saw accepts plain-end blades and features a thin metal hold-down foot that won’t block your line of sight. The speed adjustment, tension control, and power switch are all located on the front of the tool. The only downside is the lack of a dust collection port.
3. BEST FOR INTERMEDIATES: General International EXCALIBUR 16″ Scroll Saw
Cutting bevels is a snap with the Excalibur 16″ 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 will remove up to 90 percent of the dust generated by cutting. The Excalibur’s hold-down foot is thin and designed to give you an unobstructed view when you cut. The design includes a front-facing power switch and 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) so you can cut the material in a secure horizontal position. You can adjust the speed from 400 to 1400 spm, which allows you to saw a variety of wood types and other materials.
4. BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Rockwell ShopSeries 16-Inch Scroll Saw
The entry-level Rockwell ShopSeries offers the capabilities a beginner needs to create intricate projects. It comes with a table that tilts up to 45 degrees to the left. The saw features 16-inch throat capacity and offers ample variable power, 500 to 1,700 spm so you’ll be able to cut a wide variety of materials. The Rockwell scroll saw accepts plain-end blades and comes with handy built-in blade storage. It also features a dust blower and a lift-up plastic safety shield that lowers to cover the blade and the hold-down foot for additional safety when learning to make scroll cuts.
5. BEST VALUE: WEN 16-Inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw
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 16-inch throat capacity; and 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 you to change blades quickly. You can adjust this scroll saw to cut from 400 to 1600 spm, so it’s lower price doesn’t equal limited versatility.