Scroll Saw vs. Jigsaw – Choose The Right Tool For Your Job

For cutting curved lines, people get into the scroll saw vs jigsaw debate. Which one of these tools is best for you, your projects, and your shop? While both are incredibly useful tools, there are some key differences you can think through when you want to make a choice.

For example, don’t ever let anyone tell you that a scroll saw and a jigsaw are the same thing – they might be pretty similar and have related functions, but they’re two totally different tools. Jigsaws (sometimes called saber saws) are portable saws seen all over the place. Scroll saws make precise cuts but never really make it out of a dedicated woodworking shop.

In this article, we’ll go over exactly what these differences are between the scroll saw and the jigsaw – next time you hear someone try and say that they’re the same thing, don’t hesitate to school them on the matter.

Projects for a Jig Saw and a Scroll Saw

Like we said, scroll saws and jigsaws share a similar function; they’re both used for cutting ‘scrolls’ (non-straight lines). (Band saws can also cut scrolls, but that’s a whole other thing altogether. Check out our article here on scroll saws vs. band saws).

Scroll saws are big, stationary tools where you lie the material on the table and feed it into the delicate little blade. Jigsaws on the other hand, are handheld – you bring the saw to the work, rather than bringing the work to the saw.

Let’s take a look at what you can do with these tools.

The size of the saw blade

The difference is really all down to the size of the blade. Both tools have a narrow and straight blade. They also use a reciprocating blade that goes up and down, unlike a band saw where the blade travels in a loop.

Jig saws have a thicker blade than can cut wood faster than a scroll saw. The blade is usually about 1/4″ wide and 4-6″ long. Jig saw blades come in different varieties for making smoother cuts in thing materials, ripping blades for cutting through thick materials, and even metal cutting blades. With the right blade, there are few cuts a jigsaw can’t make.

Scroll saws have a very thin blade that is also not very wide. It’s long and is the absolute best tool for cutting curved lines in thin materials. The workpiece is turned and pushed into the scroll saw’s blade in whatever shape or pattern is desired.

Straight cuts and curved cuts with jigsaw blades

Jigsaw blades are great for working with normal wood and woodworking tasks. They are very common in demolition and remodeling projects because of how versatile they are. With a fence, they can rip lumber and make long, straight cuts easily. Or, use a contour gauge to mark out the shape of any object and the jigsaw is the best handheld power tool for cutting curved shapes.

Delicate and intricate cuts with scroll saw blades

A scroll saw is used most often in creative work, like wood art, intarsia, marquetry, and pierce cuts. Scroll saws can cut intricate shapes in all kinds of wood and they can cut tighter curves than any other tool. Their thinner blades cut very cleanly, often leaving the surface with no need for sanding.

Interestingly, a jigsaw puzzle is far easier to make with a scroll saw vs jigsaw!

Overall, jigsaws are much more common, practical, and efficient than scroll saws – you can do a heck of a lot more things with a jigsaw than you can with a scroll saw. However, scroll saws absolutely have their place in any respectable woodworking shop; they have their advantages and they can do things that no other tool can do.

What are the Key Differences?

These tools have massive differences, starting with their size and portability. These differences make them suitable for completely different tasks. Let’s take a look at three key things to keep in mind.


A scroll saw is not portable, it’s a stationary tool. It’s not as big as a band saw, but a scroll saw never really leaves the shop. A jigsaw is completely portable and is often found all over the place at every job site and in every wood shop.

Cutting depth

A jigsaw, with the right tool and blade, can cut lumber thicker than two inches. With a sturdy, coarse cut wood blade, you can cut through a 4×4. Of course, this isn’t a brilliant idea due to blade drift on such deep cuts. But it can be done and done well with a bit of care.

A scroll saw’s cutting depth is pretty much limited to a maximum of two inches. The blade extends downward from the mechanism but won’t cut much more than two inches. The wood is held in under the cutting foot, which usually looks a little like a giant sewing machine. It’s great for intricate cutting, but you’d never use it to process any serious lumber.

Ease of use

While a jigsaw is pretty basic for a power tool, I’m not giving it to one of my kids any time soon. That goes for other saws, too, like a circular saw or table saw. I use those and don’t really give my kids much of a chance because they are dangerous.

A scroll saw is a lot safer. Its blade is smaller, the workpiece is held securely on the work surface, and the variable speed makes the whole operation seem safer. Also, a scroll saw is quiet and can be used without ear protection.

Which one should you get?

If you’re a typical DIY’er looking to add one or the other to your tool collection, by all means go with the jigsaw – it’s an infinitely more practical tool, and 99 times out of 100 you’ll use it over the scroll saw.

If you’re an artistic/creative person though, and you think you could really get into the crafts/hobbyist side of things and make cool gifts or artwork, you might really enjoy working with a scroll saw. They are nowhere near as big as they used to be, so don’t worry about not having enough space.

Another thing I mentioned is children. A scroll saw can make delicate cuts, internal cuts, and detailed cuts to create complex shapes. And it does so safely. If you’ve got kids who want a wood working project, a scroll saw can be a great choice. Print some patterns onto paper, glue the paper onto a piece of scrap wood, and let them go to town.

Looking to buy?

Here’s a quick run-down of several of our favorite jigsaws and scroll saws – not the most expensive or prestigious tools on the planet, but good, quality, value buys that are great choices for the average DIY’er.


Read our guide to the best jigsaws you can buy. Or, stay here and we’ll recommend our top three models.

BOSCH JS260 120-Volt Top-Handle Jigsaw

This is a great opton that balances quality and tool usefulness with price. It’s a little pricier than our next option, but you get great features such as a speed control dial, 6 amp motor, tool-less blade changing system, and a precision system ideal for variable speed operation and plunge cuts. Bosch is a quality brand and their tools are incredibly reliable.


A super-budget option, this no-frills jigsaw has a variable speed you can control with trigger pressure. There is a quick blade changing system and different blades will be available almost everywhere. There’s not much to say about this other than it’s a workhorse and very inexpensive.

DeWalt DCS334B 20V MAX Cordless Jigsaw

This sucker is expensive compared to the other ones, but man is it a great tool. Also, jigsaws are all about convenience and portability, so it only makes sense to have a cordless one. The 20V MAX battery platform is great, and you’ll be left with hours of use on a single charge. Three bevel degree options (15, 30, 45), 4 speeds, and a dust blower that keeps your line of sight clear while cutting.

Scroll Saws

We’ve picked out some great scroll saws here. Our team over at Artisan Born have used many of these tools, or the models from past years, and we know they are top-quality tools.

DeWalt DW788 20” Variable Speed

Our top pick. It’s got a beefy price tag, but if you’re going to invest in one quality thing, it oughta be your power tools. Incredibly clean and simple lines, elegant design, rock-solid construction, and a second-to-none cut quality.

WEN 3922 16” Variable Speed w/ LED Light

A great value buy – one of the cheapest scroll saws you’ll find that’s worth anything at all. It’s 16” throat depth will allow you to cut up to 2” thick wood, and its variable speed motor from 400 to 1600 strokes per minute will be suitable for any material you’re working on. Comes with two blades.

Delta Power Tools 40-694 20” Scroll Saw

This Delta Power Tools scroll saw is the business. It’s variable speed cutting, dual clamp from above and beneath the work surface, and flexible air blower are great features that set this saw apart from the cheaper competition. This isn’t one to buy for your kids, but is definitely the right choice for a serious wood craft shop.

Bottom Line

To quickly summarize, jigsaws and scroll saws are similar in that they’re both primarily used to cut curves. However, the jigsaw is the much more practical option of the two – if you’ve been considering between one or the other for your newest workshop addition, go with the jigsaw, hands down. It has a lot more general uses than the scroll saw.

If you want to get super intricate, though, and see yourself getting into the arts/design side of things, you may really enjoy the ease and relaxation of working with a quality scroll saw.

About Jake Roberts

I have been working on wood projects since I was a young boy. My dad made rocking chairs and other furniture to sell all over the mid west. I alway enjoy the next challenge to build to keep sharpening my working skills.

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