What is a Scroll Saw?

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If you have a need to create intricate curves and patterns in your woodworking project, you may have considered investing in a scroll saw. This delicate saw offers you the ability to cut very detailed designs with no limit to your creative abilities.

While a scroll saw can certainly increase your cutting capabilities, you may have wondered what is a scroll saw and if it is right for you. To help you answer these questions and more, we have put together this article. 

What is a Scroll Saw?

A scroll saw is an electrically powered saw that typically uses a foot pedal for operation. It has a reciprocating blade that moves up and down to cut.

Unlike its distant cousin, the band saw, the scroll saw does not use a continuous blade loop for cutting, allowing it to be a lot more flexible and nimble as it cuts.


One of the main advantages of using a scroll saw is the ability to cut from the center of your material. You use the scroll saw to cut outward to create a design in the middle of your wood piece.

Because you are able to remove the blade of a scroll saw, you can easily insert it into a pre-drilled hole on your wood piece. This allows you to cut a masterful design using interior cuts, without having to cut from the edge.

You’ll appreciate the delicate hand that a scroll saw takes when cutting your wood project. Its cuts are fine and precise, relying on your handiwork to tell the blade exactly where to saw. You can easily create curves in your wood piece by moving it through the blade in a circular motion.

Man using a scroll saw to cut designs on wood what is a scroll saw
source: www.scheppachdirect.com

Set Up

Scroll saws are typically set up with a tilting table that allows you to pivot your material as necessary to make these detailed cuts. You also have a dust blower nozzle to keep your work area clean and to provide you a good line of sight as you cut.

Scroll saws are also variable speed cutting devices, allowing you to control the speed of the blade as you cut. This ensures that you are able to manage the precision of the cut and work as slow or as fast as is necessary to achieve a fine, intricate cuts or single straight edge pieces.

Scroll Saw Sizes

​When you are in the market to buy a scroll saw, you need to understand how these types of saws are defined and categorized.

Scrolls saws are sized by their throat. The throat size of a scroll saw is the length of the blade, measured from the table to the frame of the saw. It is important to know the throat size of your scroll saw when purchasing one for your workshop as this determines the total width of a piece of wood that you are able to cut with the saw.

Scroll saws are sold with a throat sizes from 12 inches on upward to 30 inches. Scroll saws with a small throat are typically used by hobby woodworkers while you’ll see larger 30” throat machines in commercial applications.

You can find scroll saw reviews across a variety of price points and features and select the right option for your situation.

Cutting with a Scroll Saw

​When selecting a scroll saw to purchase, you do have some decisions to make as there are a variety of styles available.

Parallel Arm

The most common scroll saw is a parallel arm saw. This saw uses a motor that is mounted to the back of the arms of the saw. These arms always remain parallel to each other when cutting.

C Arm

Another type of scroll saw is the C-arm scroll saw.  This rarer scroll saw has a C-shaped opening between the arms that mounts the blade between the two ends of the arms.

Parallel Link

A third option is a parallel link scroll saw. This saw type features rods in both the upper and lower arms, which are moved by a motor to control and hold the blade.


An older model scroll saw that used to be popular is the ridged scroll saw. These saws place the blade on the pitman’s arm. The arm pulled the blade downward while the upper arm was used to pull the blade back upward. This did create some tension on the blade, which has been rectified with newer scroll saw model types.

Scroll Saw Blades

​A typical scroll saw blade measures 5 inches long. These blades come in a variety of styles that can help you really match the blade to the type of detail work you are looking for.

You can choose from blade options such as skip tooth, double tooth, crown, and spiral blades. You can also cut metal using a blade that is made of steel that has been hardened for added durability. Detail work on glass can be achieved with a diamond blade, giving you even more flexibility with your scroll saw.

Using a rear tooth blade with your scroll saw is another option that can help reduce splintering on thinner or softer wood pieces. You will have to cut slower with this type of blade, which will cause it to heat up quickly and wear faster, but the detail is worth the investment.

Man measuring long pieces of wood for cutting

Scroll Saw Applications

​While a common application for a scroll saw is to use it to create hobby projects out of wood, they also have a number of other uses.

Thanks to the scroll saw’s ability to cut intricate curves, it can create fine joints with plenty of accuracy. They are also a good saw for cutting dovetail joints and detailed wood inlays such as intarsia, among other detailed projects that are used during Christmas, and other holidays.

You can also use your scroll saw, with the right blade, to cut metal for jewelry or metal art pieces and also in glass work designs. This can open the door for the range of projects you are able to complete with your scroll saw.


​By understanding exactly what is a scroll saw, it can help you determine if this is the saw you need for your workshop. With an investment in this multipurpose saw, you’ll be able to create intricate designs and patterns in your woodworking, metal, and glass projects.

You’ll have the freedom you have been looking for in a saw and be amazed at the capabilities that a scroll saw can offer.

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.