Jigsaw vs Scroll Saw: Which is Best and When to Use Each

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At first hear, you might think that the jigsaw and scroll saw have a lot in common. And, while these tools are both reciprocating saws that are relatively easy to use, they don’t actually have a whole lot of commonalities.

In the jigsaw vs scroll saw debate, we’ll dive into each one and highlight its strengths and weaknesses, along with when you would want to use each saw.

What is a Jigsaw?

​A jigsaw is a handheld saw that makes its cuts through the use of a reciprocating blade. It is an incredibly handy tool that is in the vast majority of woodworkers tool kits.

You would likely recognize a jigsaw, also known as a saber saw, if you see one. Much less, you might even have one around the house. For many, these tools are the first power saw that you buy, mainly because of how versatile these power tools are.

A jigsaw is used to cut using its thin blade up and down at a very fast rate. The thin blade of the jigsaw is only attached to the top in one end, and the motor moves it up and down while cutting.

Close up of a blue makita jigsaw being used in a workshop

Using a jigsaw is really simple, which is another advantage for this saw. While practicing certainly makes you a lot more accurate, you can literally pick up a jigsaw and start using it right out of the gate.

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Another wonderful feature about the jigsaw’s blade is its ability to cut a variety of materials. If you have the correct thin blade, you can cut wood and metal, along with more specialized cuts in plexiglass and plastic.

What is a Scroll Saw?

​A scroll saw also uses a reciprocating saw blade, similar to the blade the jigsaw uses. It is not a handheld power tool, though – it is a stationary tool that you use.

The variable speed scroll saw is used to make highly specialized cuts, usually involving intricate designs and tight curves. It is aptly named for the scroll work they are able to do on a variety of surfaces, wood being the most common.

A scroll saw is a highly specialized tool, and not typically the first one that a DIYer picks up. In other words, you’ll know when you need this. And, if you don’t know you need one… you probably don’t.

With that being said, a lot of people gloss over the variable speed scroll saw because they don’t understand all of the different things they can do with these tools. If you follow a printable scroll saw pattern, you can learn how to use your it pretty quickly.

Adding scrollwork to your projects will up the look and feel of these power tools, and expand the types of things you can do. With a variable speed scroll saw, you can do marquetry, intarsia, and 3-D fractals.

Just like the jigsaw, it can cut through a variety of materials by using a different blade.

It’s worth mentioning that the bandsaw is also a good consideration, especially as it relates to the scroll saw. Unlike the jigsaw, the bandsaw is very accurate, but can handle a wide range of cuts, unlike the scroll saw.

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Two hansd hold down a piece of wood as it is carved on by a scroll saw

A bandsaw is much more expensive than a scroll saw, but much more versatile and expansive.

​good quality bandsaw can (in theory) do much of the work that both a jigsaw and scroll saw combined can do.

Scroll Saw vs Jigsaw

​Now that you know what makes up each saw, and the characteristics that it possesses, it’s time to talk about the similarities and differences.

When it comes to the scroll saw vs jigsaw debate, there is often a lot of confusion. For starters, many think that these are the same saw, or assume these tools are interchangeable.

In truth, it couldn’t be more opposite. While in principle these tools have a few similarities, in application they are used for dramatically different purposes.

Similarities

​The most notable similarity that scroll saws and jigsaws have is that they are both reciprocating saw blade types. In other words, jigsaws and scroll saws both use a reciprocating saw blade that “reciprocates” back and forth (up and down) to make its cut.

A reciprocating saw blade is only attached on one side. This makes the blade really versatile. As you can easily change the blade in and out. This blade feature is why both jigsaws and scroll saws are able to cut such a wide variety of materials – it is super simple to change their blade out quickly depending on what you want to cut.

Side view of an orange and black scroll saw

Capability aside, most people use scroll saws for cutting shapes out of various wood materials. Jigsaws, on the other hand, are typically seen cutting a variety of different materials, depending on the situation.

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That is the extent of the similarities. In reality, these two saws are very different.

​Differences

​Jigsaws and scroll saws have a lot of differences, which isn’t hard to see once you get your eyes on each saw.

Portability

​The jigsaw is a handheld saw, and you can find some great cordless options as well. Whether you go corded or go cordless jigsaws, you can take this anywhere you need it. It will fit into tight spots to work for you.

Scroll saws are not hand held, and don’t come in cordless options. In other words, they aren’t very portable. You’ll typically want your scroll saw set up in your garage or project area, where you’ll bring the material to it.

They do make scroll saws that are light enough in weight to carry to a jobsite. But, the lighter the scroll saw, the less accurate the cut tends to be. So, it’s a bit of a tradeoff, and no matter how you look at it, the scroll saw is not a very portable saw.

​Versatility

​The jigsaw is the ultimate generalist tool – it can be used in a whole host of situations. As we said before, the jigsaw is typically the home improvement DIYer’s first power saw, which we think is a great move.

On the other hand, the scroll saw is a precise and specialized power tool used for only a handful of projects. For example, the blade is not great at making straight cuts. It’s pretty rare to need a scroll saw unless you are specifically working on trim work or fancy finishing projects.

A blue jigsaw is laid down with saw dust all over

Cut Depth

While both tools can cut a variety of materials, jigsaws can cut material that is a little thicker.

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Scroll saws cap out at about 2 inches deep in cut depth, whereas jigsaws can cut closer to 3” in depth with the right blade.

Part of the challenge for the scroll saw cutting more than 2” has to do with its throat, which restricts the depth.

​Curved Cuts

​In many ways, this is both a similarity and difference in the scroll saw vs the jigsaw.

Both tools can make really tight, curved, plunge cuts and pierce cuts. However, what type of curved cut or plunge cuts you want to make dictates which power tool is the best option.

jigsaw’s best use for curved cuts comes as the blade tears through plywood or other materials for a building project. They are easy and simple to use, and the blade makes short work of anything that requires a turn.

Often times, a convenient circular saw or ​cheaper table saw is turned to for increased accuracy. But, these tools can’t cut curves, and that is one area the jigsaw stands apart.

You wouldn’t use a DeWalt DW788 for these. Unlike a table saw, a scroll saw blade is used to make tight, weaving turns that are found in intricate cuts and precise woodworking.

In general, both saws can cut curves really well. The jig saw is great for curved rough cuts while the other is great for precise curved cuts.

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A man using a ascroll saw to cut intricate desigs on a piece of wood

Cost

​Generally speaking, jigsaws are cheaper than scroll saws, all things being equal. You can find both types of saws for under $100. But, when comparing, you’ll typically spend more on a scroll saw than you would on a equally-classed jigsaw.

On our list of jigsaw reviews, we’ve found several jigsaws in the $100-$200 range that are fantastic. However, on our scroll saw reviews, you’ll need to spend more than $200-$300 to get an equally amazing saw.

Noise

​Scroll saws are incredibly quiet, especially when you compare these power tools to other power saws. It can actually be a little dangerous, given that you can get used to the light hum of the motor and almost forget it is on.

A jigsaw, on the other hand, does not come with that concern. Loud and noisy, the jigsaw announces its presence each and every time you turn it on.

​Dust Creation

No doubt, the jigsaw produces a lot more sawdust than the scroll saw. While this probably isn’t a huge consideration as you weigh you the differences in the scroll saw vs jigsaw, it’s worth mentioning.

No matter what you choose between a scroll saw and jigsaw, it’s best to use a dust mask to guard yourself when using these two saws. You can also use a dust blower. ​You don’t want to inhale any probable toxic substances or particles from the material you’re cutting.

A man holding a red Milwaukee cordless jigsaw to slice a piece of wood
Source: lifehacker.com

Situations for a Jigsaw over a Scroll Saw

​A jigsaw is the tool you need to have for all of your general projects and woodworking needs. If you need to make a cut, and precision is not essential, chances are you can use a jigsaw. Here are some situations you’ll want a jigsaw over a scroll saw:

  • General cutting for projects, such as cutting 2×4’s down to size, or ripping through a sheet of drywall.
  • Cutting that require a curve or notch, such as a curved cut in wood.
  • Cutting something that is in a fixed, pre-existing place, such as a hole in your drywall. You’ll need a portable tool for these.

Situations for a Scroll Saw over a Jigsaw

It won’t be often you’ll find a need for a scroll saw over a jigsaw. That isn’t to say this tool isn’t valuable. It’s just that the number of situations you’ll use it is a lot lower. Here are some situations where you’ll prefer a scroll saw over a jigsaw:

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  • Intricate, curved cuts where the curves must be cut in a very short space.
  • 90 degree, cut on a dime.
  • Cuts where precision and accuracy is paramount.

Final Verdict

The vast majority of the time, when you’re considering between the scroll saw and jigsaw, you probably want to grab the former. A jigsaw is a highly versatile and easy-to-use power saw – its only real drawback is that the blade isn’t very precise in its cuts. Other than that, you can pretty much use it in any project, and the Makita JV0600k is a good example.

A scroll saw, while being very precise and accurate, is not very versatile. It can really only be used for a few things such as holiday decor and home accent pieces… If you have those types of cuts needed, then it is exactly the saw you want. Otherwise, opt for a great jigsaw.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.