Scroll Saw VS Jigsaw: Which for Intricate Cutting?

Are you wondering whether the next saw you buy should be a scroll saw or a jigsaw? 

Usually, this happens when someone knows they need a saw that cuts curves but don’t know whether a scroll saw or a jigsaw is the best one to get. 

The key difference here is that jigsaws are versatile all-round saws that can do a variety of cuts in woodwork, including curved cuts. However, while jigsaws can cut curves, they can’t do them quite as well as scroll saws. Scroll saws are specialized saws for doing the most detailed and complicated curved cuts. 

While scroll saws are good at their specialist purpose, most people will actually get by with a jigsaw. 

Scroll Saw VS Jigsaw Overview

  • Scroll saws are specialist saws for making very fine, accurate and intricate curved cuts in wood 
  • Scroll saws have little use except in arts and crafts style projects 
  • Jigsaws are very versatile saws, which can ultimately handle most woodwork jobs
  • One job they’re good at (and the one that they’re primarily designed for) is performing curved cuts. However, while it’s possible to do fairly tight and exact cuts with a jigsaw, they’re not as good for this as scroll saws 

What is a Scroll Saw Used For?

Credit: MTSOFAN

Scroll saws are workbench saws that consist of a plate on which timber is rested and a small, thin blade that moves up and down to perform a cut. When you use one, you can work with a high level of control by holding the piece that you’re cutting with both hands and controlling the speed of the blade with a foot pedal. 

Scroll saws are quiet and this helps to make scroll sawing a relaxing and fun thing to do. You can trace the blade through virtually any design that you have made on a piece of timber. The cuts are thin and smooth, with sanding usually unnecessary. It’s possible to turn the blade sharply mid-cut, with it even being possible to turn almost 90 degrees mid-cut. 

Scroll saws are specifically designed for making fine, accurate curved cuts in timber. The kind of jobs that scroll saws are used for are cutting out puzzles, cutting out drawings made on plywood and cutting out letters and other shapes in timber. They’re designed for arts and crafts style woodwork jobs. 

While they’re great for this and are some people’s favorite saw, sadly, they aren’t particularly good at much else. Besides being slow to use and lacking in power, it’s often difficult to cut in a perfectly straight line with a scroll saw and it’s impossible to cut anything over a certain size. 

Check out our Best Scroll Saw buying guide.

Benefits of a Scroll Saw

  • Scroll saws are great for artistic and detailed cuts in woodwork. Nothing comes close in terms of their ability to make fine, smooth, and well-controlled curved cuts. 
  • Fun to use!
  • Cuts usually don’t need sanding
  • Plunge cuts (in the center of a piece of timber) are possible

Downsides of a Scroll Saw

  • They’re bench-mounted saws that take up space and aren’t easily transported
  • Fewer uses other than for intricate and artistic styles of woodwork
  • More expensive than jigsaws
  • Poor at straight cuts and can only cut up to a certain thickness and length of material

What is a Jigsaw Used For?

Credit: Wikipedia

Jigsaws are versatile saws that, while they might not be able to do every job in woodwork, can do most of them. 

The primary job that jigsaws are actually designed for is making curved cuts in relatively thin pieces of timber. 

They’re handheld saws, which feature a handle, a speed control, a base plate, and a blade that sticks out from the bottom of the saw. The blades are quickly interchangeable with different blades being designed for different types of cut. Timber can be held with one hand while the saw is held in the other to perform a cut. 

With the right blade in, it’s possible to turn the saw at relatively sharp angles mid-cut. As such, it is possible to perform curved cuts in the same basic way as with a scroll saw. However, the cuts are rougher (usually requiring sanding), it’s not possible to turn the blade at such tight angles and the blade makes a wider cut. 

The kind of curved cuts that a jigsaw is best at are cutting slightly larger letters and shapes in plywood (such as for use in a sign), rounding off the corners of a square piece of timber or cutting curves into the cross rails of a chair. A paddle serving board is a typical shape that could easily be cut out of a piece of timber with a jigsaw. 

It should be pointed out that while it isn’t possible to do quite as tight and detailed cuts with a jigsaw as it is with a scroll saw, some people do still manage to cut neat and accurate cuts with them.  

As well as it being possible to do curved cuts with a jigsaw, they can be used for other cuts as well. 

With bigger blades, large pieces of timber can be cut. Whether this be as a cross cut or a rip cut, with blades available that are up to 10 inches long it’s possible to cut big pieces of timber. It’s also easier to cut straight lines with a jigsaw than it is with a scroll saw and the baseplate can be tilted to make beveled cuts. As with scroll saws, it’s possible to plunge cut with a jigsaw. 

Jigsaws are much more commonly used than scroll saws and most woodwork enthusiasts own a jigsaw. Unless you specifically need to do very fine and detailed cuts, a jigsaw will be all that you need. 

Looking to purchase a jigsaw? Check out our best jigsaw buying guide.

Benefits of a Jigsaw

  • Handheld and easily transported
  • Much more versatile than scroll saws 
  • Cheaper. 
  • They can be used on a wide variety of materials, with blades being available for metal, plastic, insulation, and various other materials

Downsides of a Jigsaw

  • Not as good for detailed, curved, and intricate cuts
  • Not as relaxing and fun to use as a scroll saw
  • Cuts may need sanding afterwards
  • Not as good as circular saws and table saws for straight cuts in tough materials

When to Use a Scroll Saw over a Jigsaw

You’ll need to get a scroll saw if you’re planning on doing artistic-style woodwork that requires very fine and highly accurate cuts. 

If you’re planning on doing arts and crafts style work and want a saw that will cut the most accurate and neat angles, then a scroll saw will be ideal. However, they won’t be much use beyond this. It will be impossible to do any kind of heavy-duty work with one and they will be slow when it comes to doing repetitive work.  

When to Use a Jigsaw over a Scroll Saw

If you want to be able to make all but the most highly accurate and detailed curved cuts in timber and also have a saw that can do a bunch of other jobs, then a jigsaw is the saw to get. 

While they’re not usually as fun as scroll saws, jigsaws are generally much more useful. Most people will find that, with a jigsaw, they are able to do all the curved cuts that they need and that they also have a new multi-purpose saw in their supply. 

Final Thoughts

The important thing to take away is that scroll saws are a niche saw. They are specifically designed for doing the finest and most delicate cuts in woodwork. Unless you know that you will need a saw that can do this, then a jigsaw will be all that you need.

Looking for more informative saw guides? Find them all below.

Image Credit: Nick Sherman

About Roy Cohen

I'm Roy, founder of Hack My Garage. I started out like most not knowing how to hammer a nail, but now I know more than most people about home improvement and DIY. I want to spread my wealth of knowledge with the world and hope to make it a better place.