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

A blue jigsaw is laid down with saw dust all over

At first hear, you might think that the jigsaw and scroll saw have a lot in common. And, while they 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 saw 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 woodwoorkers tool kits.

You would likely recognize a jigsaw if you saw one. Much less, you might even own one. For many, they are the first power saw that you buy, mainly because of how versatile they are.

A jigsaw works by using its thin blade up and down at a very fast rate to make its cuts. The blade of jigsaw is only attached to the top of the saw, and the motor on the saw moves it up and down to make is cuts.

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.

Another wonderful feature about the jigsaw is its ability to cut a variety of materials. If you have the correct 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 blade to make its cuts, similar to the jigsaw. The scroll saw is not a handheld saw, though - it is a stationary saw that you use.

The scroll saw is used to make highly specialized cuts, usually involving intricate designs and tight curves. Scroll saws are 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 saw that a DIYer picks up. In other words, you’ll know when you need this type of saw. And, if you don’t know you need one… you probably don’t.

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

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

Just like the jigsaw, the scroll saw can cut through a variety of materials by using different blades.

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.

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.

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

​Jigsaw vs Scroll Saw

​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 they are interchangeable.

In truth, it couldn’t be more opposite. While in principle they 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 saws. In other words, the both use a blade that “reciprocates” back and forth (up and down) to make its cut.

A reciprocating blade is only attached to the saw on one side. This makes the blade really versatile, and really easy to change in and out. That 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.

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 cordless, you can take this saw anywhere you need it. It will fit into tight spots to make a variety of cuts for you.

Scroll saws are not handheld, 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 generalists saw - 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 tool used for only a handful of 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 saws can cut a variety of materials, jigsaws can cut material that is a little thicker than a scroll saw can.

Scroll saws cap out at about 2” 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 cut depth.

​Curved Cuts

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

Both saws can make really tight, curved cuts. However, what type of curved cut you want to make dictates which saw is the best option.

A jigsaw’s best use for curved cuts comes as you tear through plywood or other materials for a building project. They are easy and simple to use, and make short work of any cut that requires a turn.

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

You wouldn’t use a scroll saw for these types of curved cuts. Instead, a scroll saw is used to make tight, weaving turns that are found in intricate, precise woodworking.

In general, to sum it up, both saws can cut curves really well. The jigsaw is great for curved rough cuts while the scroll saw is great for precise curved cuts.

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 them 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 jigsaw vs scroll saw, its worth mentioning.

No matter what you choose, it's best to use a dust mask to guard yourself when using these two saws. ​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 saw 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 cuts for projects, such as cutting 2x4’s down to size, or ripping through a sheet of drywall.
  • Cuts 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 saw for these types of cuts.

​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 saw 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:

  • Intricate, curved cuts where the curves must be cut in a very short space. Think 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 the jigsaw vs scroll saw, 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 isn’t very precise in its cuts.

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

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