Scroll saws are seen as very specialized tools, and many woodworkers consider a small bandsaw to be a suitable or even superior alternative.
Nothing can be further from the truth!
A top-rated variable speed scroll saw can be a super versatile tool, from cutting dovetail pins, to some very intricate fret work, or a custom tool holder for your cabinet. A well-tuned scroll saw can cut rings around other saws.
A lot of woodworkers find that after a while a scroll saw is their go to tool for small cuts. Another great advantage of a scroll saw is that compared to most other types of saw it is a lot safer and easier to use.
Choosing the right saw for you in 2018 can transform your shop.
Our Top Pick- DeWalt DW 788
The DeWalt DW 788 has it all. The machine is robust, with plenty of features from a solid cast iron table that tilts both left and right, to simple and easy tool-less blade change, the DeWalt has every feature you would ever need.
When you compare price and quality the machine is not too expensive and delivers fantastic value for money—performing as good as or even better than many more expensively priced tools.
Simply put it is the kind of machine that your kids will be telling their kids dad taught them to use.
Buyers’ Guide: Choosing the Right Scroll Saw for You!
The throat size is the first thing you will look out when purchasing a scroll saw, since it determines the maximum size of a piece of wood you can cut. The throat size is the distance from the back of the blade to the back of the saw arm.
You can cut a piece of wood that is double this distance. Throat capacity varies from 16” to 30”. For most beginners and people who work with smaller pieces, 16” to 20” is perfect for your needs.
If you work with bigger pieces, then 20” to 24” inches will do the job. 30” scroll saws are pretty much a professional realm where you are making specialist cuts. Remember with big pieces unless they are internal you can always USE your band saw to make some of the cut.
Tooled or Tool-less Blade Change
Choosing a scroll saw capable of tooled or tool-less blade change is very important and will be the difference between it being a joy to use or a total pain. Having to constantly reach for one or two tools to change your blade can become very frustrating, especially if you are doing the kind of work that requires a large number of blade changes.
Most professional woodworkers prefer a saw that has tool-less blade change, since it is much more convenient to take out the blade, make and adjustment, and then attach the blade again.
One word of WARNING about tool-less blade changing, is that the mechanism used to attach the blade will often wear out after repeated use. Despite this drawback most professionals still prefer them, since changing the mechanism every few years is much better than the hassle of using tools all the time to change the blade.
The Work Table: Size and Title
The size of the work table is important; think about the size of the pieces you would be typically working with, whether the table can support them, and whether you can spin the piece 360° and still have it supported.
You need a table large enough to be able to support your piece fully. Then you need to check out how durable your table is. Your best option is to go with a cast iron table that will last a lifetime. If you opt for an aluminum table, make sure that it is relatively thick and strong. It is best to avoid scroll saw tables made from wood.
Next you have to look at table tilt. Some saws have a table that only tilts in one direction—either left or right. More high-end saws tilt in both directions, making it easier to make beveled cuts in both directions. Bear in mind that on some models the table itself does not move, but the saw arm with the blade will tilt.
The million-dollar question with any tilting table is the ACCURACY and holding of the angle. The best way to check this is to head down and actually get your hands on a model you are thinking of buying. Take with you a digital angle gauge, and you can easily determine the accuracy of the mechanism and how easy it is to adjust and dial in that perfect angle.
Raiseable Top Arm
Some scroll saws have a raiseable top arm; while it is a nice feature to have its interest really depends on the type of work you are doing. If you do a lot of fret work (cutting a shape out of the inside of a piece of wood) then a scroll saw with a raising arm is invaluable and makes life very easy.
Blade Types- Pinned or Unpinned
Scroll saw blades come in two flavors: pinned and unpinned.
Pinned blades have a small pin sticking out of the side of the blade at the top and bottom, used to securely fix the saw to the blade. As a rule, pinned blades are THICKER, which means they can be used to cut much thicker stock accurately. On the other hand, they DO NOT ALLOW for tighter detail cuts to be made.
Pin-less or unpinned blades are an improvement on pinned blades. There is a much wider selection of unpinned blades, from some designed to cut thick stock to those designed for intricate cuts and fine detail work.
Blade tensioning is similar to tool-less blade change: select a saw that is awkward or difficult to tension and it will make using the saw a chore, since you have to tension your blade every time you change it. Some saws have a cam or a lever located at the head of the saw, while smaller saws tend to only have a knob located at the back of the arm.
The main DRAWBACK with a knob at the back of the arm is that it can be awkward to get to and difficult to use as you try and make minor adjustments to blade tension. What’s more, if you like to use your scroll saw in a seated position for comfort, you will have to keep getting up to reach the knob.
The Hold Down Foot
The hold down foot is an arm that comes down from the main saw arm and has a U-shaped tip which slides around the blade. Its main function is to securely hold down your piece of work.
The hold down foot is important especially for beginners and when you are working with thin stock and veneers. Professional woodworkers tend to remove the foot, since their skill level can compensate for its absence, and more importantly the foot can damage more intricate and delicate pieces.
Blade Rocker Arm
The blade rocker arm is the mechanism that controls the up and down movement of the saw blade. The most common type is the single arm, which is long and reaches from the front to the back of the saw, and pivots around a point at the back. Due to the distance from the pivot point to the tip of the arm, an UNWANTED amount of side to side movement can be generated, especially when the blade is running at a high speed.
This side to side motion translates into vibration in the blade which makes fine detail cutting difficult. This type of mechanism is more common in cheaper saws since it is less expensive to produce.
Higher quality saws have a series of small levers that work like cams to move the blade up and down. Since each arm is much smaller the range of up and down motion is smaller. This reduction in range results in almost no side to side motion being created. This eliminates most vibration and means you can make very accurate and precise cuts.
If you want a spotless table after using a scroll saw, then a scroll saw is not for you!
There is no machine available that features stellar dust extraction, since it is very difficult to extract dust efficiently from under and above the table without interfering with the mechanisms inside, or the operator’s vision from above.
Most saws have a small blow tube that is used to blow the dust off the table and workpiece. Make sure the one you SELECT has a tube that can be moved and will easily hold its position. That way you can direct the dust off the table and ensure that you don’t end up covered in sawdust. Fortunately, scroll saws do not produce a significant amount of saw dust.
If you do a lot of detail work, then a work light can come in very handy. Even in the most well-lit workshop, nothing beats a light directly above your work. Know that if you have good lighting and you are not planning on doing fine detail, then the absence of a work light is not a deal breaker, and plenty of woodworkers manage quite well without one. A work light tops the nice-to-have but not-essential list.
Other Factors to Consider
Scroll saws can come with a host of other little features, of which NONE are essential, but many nice to have.
With the large number of different types and style of blades you can use on a scroll saw, it is convenient to have inbuilt blade storage. What is more the blades can be delicate, so storing them in a purpose-built drawer in the saw is ideal.
Quite a few models of scroll saws come with their own stand, whether you use it or not will depend greatly on your shop layout and your preference; for example, will you build a mobile cart to place it on, or do you have space already for your scroll saw? Either way a tool stand should not be at the top of your priority list, but is nice to have.
Finally, one thing to be aware of is if the saw needs lubrication. While most modern saws have bushings and bearings that do not need lubrication, there are still some models on the market that require lubrication after several hours of cutting.
Best Models on the Market
|1||DW 788 By DeWalt||9.8||Buy on Amazon|
|2||22" Variable Speed By Hegner||9.5||Buy on Amazon|
|3||3920 By WEN||9.3||Buy on Amazon|
|4||727200K By Jet||8.9||Buy on Amazon|
|5||Power Tools 40-694 By Delta||8.5||Buy on Amazon|
|6||16" Variable Speed By Craftman||8.2||Buy on Amazon|
|7||W1713 Variable Speed By Shop Fox||8.1||Buy on Amazon|
|8||PCB375SS Variable Speed By Shop Fox||8.0||Buy on Amazon|
Top Scroll Saws
DeWalt DW 788 - Top pick
When you first pick up the 20” Dewalt DW788 scroll saw, it screams quality, which reflects its price at around the $500 mark. The machine comes in at over 65 pounds which makes it sturdy yet manageable, and with a stand and a cast iron table with two spare blades. The table is solid and can be tilted both left and right to 45 degrees.
The scroll arm can be lifted all the way by loosening a knob on the top, which makes changing blades a breeze. Once a new pin-less blade is in place, the top of the blade is easily fixed in position using a wingnut, and the blade is tensioned with the conveniently placed front mounted tension lever.
The dust blower that comes with the saw is also excellent. It is long enough to be easy to position at any angle and is capable of producing a clear area of work approximately 2 inches around the blade. When it comes to precision the saw is top notch mainly due to its blade rocker arms, which produce minimal vibration, and precise cuts.
What really stands out with the Dewalt DW788 scroll saw is the ease of use. The machine is pretty much ready to go straight out of the box and requires minimal fettling to produce quality work.
With variable speed, easy adjustments, and a scroll arm that lifts up, the machine can handle almost every imaginable task, from Fret work and Intasia work, to general cutting of small work pieces–the Dewalt DW788 can handle everything you throw at it.
Sadly, nothing is ever perfect in life, and even though the saw is a pleasure to watch and work with, it does have a minor issue. The only drawback of the saw is the 2 blades that come with it. They are somewhat lacking in quality, and you are better off purchasing some aftermarket quality blades to get the best results.
Hegner 22" Variable Speed Scroll Saw
Basically, the Hegner 22” is a beast of a scroll saw, with a price to match costing nearly $2000. It is the ultimate saw and costs nearly double the other most expensive saw on the list. With that much throat capacity (22”) it can handle almost anything you throw at it.
This is a professional grade saw that comes with a powerful motor that runs quietly and can cut just about anything. The variable speed has a SQM of 400 to 1700. The build quality means that even at the highest speeds there is no detectable vibration in the blade.
Hegner has its own unique dust management system that gives you three choices. You can opt to use the included blower to eliminate the dust from around the cutting area. You also have below table dust extraction. Alternatively, you can use both at the same time which will eliminate almost all the dust produced by the machine.
Overall the Hegner ticks almost every box; it is a quality machine that can slice through a variety of materials—even steel with the right blade. The saw has a super solid table that and can be tilted both left and right giving you great versatility.
The only issue with the Hegner is the price; the machine has few drawbacks. Watching the Hegner do “its thing” might fill you with the desire to have one, but the price is hard to justify, unless you are making some serious money from your scroll sawing.
WEN 3920 Scroll Saw- Best Budget option
At 28lbs the WEN 3920 Saw is one of the lighter models on our list, but at under $100 it is one of the cheapest. However, the weight and price do not detract from the quality of the build. The machine feels high quality and performs likewise. Seeing the saw at work you can’t believe the price and weight of this machine. In Addition with a 16” throat and a 2” depth of cut it is capable of handling most tasks.
Despite the lightweight the saw is equipped with a cast iron table that creates a solid base to work on. Coupled with the blade rocker arms and a variable speed from 400 to 1600 Stokes per Minute SPM, the end result is a fantastic low vibration machine leading to high ACCURACY of cutting.
Changing blades is simple, and both pinned and pin-less blades can be used. Changing the blades can be done without tools, and blade tensioning is relatively straight forward. The blower produces a clean area around the blade, giving a clear field of vision to your work area.
The included work light provides adequate lighting although it could be brighter. The saw comes with inbuilt blade storage which is convenient if you have a lot of blades for all your cutting tasks.
With features including a generous 2” cut capacity, variable speed, a large cast iron table, and a budget friendly price the WEN 3920 Saw is an ideal purchase for beginners, or those after a great budget option.
The main drawback of the saw is the motor which is rated at 1.2 amps. At this level of power, it is slightly underpowered to cut through harder materials like metal even when fitted with a quality metal cutting blade. The saw performs well with most wood cuts, although the motor can struggle a little when faced with thick hardwoods.
Jet 727200K Scroll Saw
The Jet 727200K Scroll Saw is one of the larger ones on our list at 22” and comes in at close to $1000. The saw comes with a stand and is equally at home in a professional shop or a garage shop.
Like most quality machines, it comes with a large solid cast iron table, giving you a sturdy top to work on. One of the unique features of the table is the SLOT from the front of the table to the blade, as can found in band saw tables. You can tilt the table in both directions up to 45 degrees.
The saw has an innovative and integrated blade clamp and tensioning system. The upper portion of the blade is easily inserted into its holder, and then a cam lever is used to both secure the blade and tension it at once. The lower blade is also easily removed and changed.
The machine comes with an inbuilt tool that lets you fully secure the blade in its lower mount. Changing blades is made even easier by the top arm, which can be lifted up to 10” to give you ample space.
The above table blade tightening tool is integrated in the blade storage rack, that can be mounted to either side of the saw—making it easy to use whether you are left or right handed.
When it comes to dust collection the Jet 727200K is equally innovative and comes with both an above table dust blower, and below the table dust extraction. The blower makes easy work of dust particles and leaves the area around the blade clean and visible. The under-table extraction is good but like with all scroll saws, it is not exceptional.
This saw is professional grade with plenty of cutting power, versatility and a generous depth of throat. The footprint of the saw and stand is small so if you need to tuck it away in the corner of your garage shop it won’t take up too much precious space, leaving you ample room for the rest of your tools. A 5-year warranty gives you peace of mind and shows that Jet are really standing behind their product.
Unfortunately, the saw is not ready to use out of the box and needs a little tune up, and maybe some YouTube video research before first use. You may find that the blade holder screws need tightening before first use.
Delta Power Tools 40-694 Scroll Saw
The Delta Power Tools 40-694 Scroll Saw will put a near $700 dent in your pocket, but it is a great variable speed saw, with a range of strokes per minute going from 400 to 1750 SPM. The saw features a 1.3 Amp motor which delivers plenty of power for most cutting tasks, although with harder wood you will have to back the SPM down to ensure a smooth clean cut.
The saw has parallel link arms which eliminate vibrations, resulting in accurate and stable cuts. At 20” throat capacity and a cutting depth of 2 1/8” the saw can handle most tasks. The table is made of cast iron and is large enough to support most pieces of work. The table tilts to 45 degrees both left and right, although at that angle the depth of cut is REDUCED to 1 5/8”.
The saw uses pin-less blades, and changing blades is tool-less. It only takes a few seconds to change blades, which is made even easier by the front blade clamp, and the lifting saw arm which can be moved up and locked into position. Seeing the saw at work, the included dust blower is seen to work reasonably well and leaves a nice clean area around the blade.
This is a great entry level saw with plenty of features and enough punch for most tasks. The ease of blade change combined with low vibrations makes this saw a great piece of kit, especially if you do a lot of fret work.
The tool does not come with its own stand, which can be a pain if you don’t have some dedicated space for it in your shop. You will either have to reorganise or build something for it to stand on. Opting to purchase the saw with a stand and integrated light significantly pushes the price up.
Craftsman 16" Variable Speed Scroll Saw
With a Budget friendly price close to $150, the Craftsman 16" Variable Speed Scroll Saw comes with a 2” depth of cut, making it suitable for most simple scroll sawing tasks. The machine is powered by a 1.6 Amp induction motor which provides plenty of power. The saw has a wide range of strokes per minute, from 400 to 1600 SPM.
Like a lot of craftsman products, the build quality is great with most of the saw made of metal, and the table made of cast iron. The table is only capable of tilting left, up to an angle of 45 degrees. The table is relatively large 17 1/8" by 10 1/4" which offers plenty of support for most work pieces.
The saw comes with a dust blower, which although short is quite ingenious in design allowing you to accurately direct the dust both away from the blade and the operator. Under table dust extraction is also included, and you can hook up a shop vac to eliminate dust from under the table.
Both pinned and pin-less blades can be used with the Craftsman Saw. Although unlike most saws on this list changing blades is not tool-less, and you need to use the supplied tool to loosen a set screw to release the blade.
The saw comes with integrated blade storage, four pinned blades and 1 pin-less blade. The inbuilt storage is convenient and makes storing a multitude of blades very straightforward.
For a budget saw this craftsman’s motor is batting above its average and packs a lot of power. Combine this with a solid cast iron table, and the versatility of using pinned and unpinned blades, and the saw provides a good balance across the board.
Not surprisingly with its budget price when you see this saw in action, it becomes apparent that the saw is suspect to a little vibration at higher speeds, although this is relatively minor and can be coped with by dialling the cutting speed back a little, which is a happy compromise between speed and vibration.
Shop Fox W1713 Variable Speed Scroll Saw
The Shop Fox W1713 variable speed scroll saw is a good entry level saw with a host of features and comes will only cost you nearly $170. It comes with a solid cast iron table that can be tilted left up to 45 degrees. At 16” throat capacity the saw is ample for most jobs and the table provides a strong base to work on.
The saw accepts both pinned and pin-less blades. Changing blades is NOT tool-less and will require you to use a tool to loosen and tighten a set screw that holds the blade.
The saw has dust extraction both above and below the table. Underneath the table is a port to attach a shop vac, while on top there is a goose neck blower. The blower does a good job clearing the area of the cut from dust, although it does tend to blow it forward into the operator’s lap.
The saw provides a good balance of performance and price. It is versatile with a wide range of capabilities, that overall make it a good choice. One of its best features is the included goose neck light which is bright and adequately illuminates the work area, especially if you don’t have perfect vision and need a little help.
The main drawback with this machine is the tooled blade change. While it seems easy at first glance, it does take some getting used, you might even have to check out some videos of the saw in operation to perfect your technique, before you can do it seamlessly. Even then it is not as quick or as easy as blade changes on other saws on our list.
Porter Cable PCB375SS Variable Speed Scroll Saw
The Porter-Cable PCB 375SS is a decent scroll saw that is mid-priced at around $300. It comes with a host of features including 18” depth of throat, which lets you handle slightly larger pieces of wood. The saw has a solid aluminium table and comes with an aluminium framed stand.
With a 1.6 Amp motor and a variable speed of 500 to 1500 SPM, the machine has enough power and versatility to cut through various materials.
The saw tilts both left and right, enabling cuts up to 15 degrees on the right and 45 degrees on the left. There is no dust collection below the table, however there is a goose neck blower that keeps the cutting area around the blade clear.
The saw takes both pinned and pin-less blades and includes tool-less blade change. This is achieved in a second or two with two thumb screws, one at the top blade mount and one at the bottom. While easy to change, getting new blades in place can be a little awkward until you get used to it.
Porter Cable has incorporated a host of clever features in the scroll saw. The small LED light is on a flexible arm and can be positioned just where you need it. Although small it provides ample lighting for the work. Another great piece of forward thinking by Porter Cable, is that most of the features like blade tensioning and such are at the front of the saw, making them easy to reach and use.
Checking out the saw you can see where this saw fails to deliver, and it is on its overall build quality and the aluminium table. Together they give the saw a less than stable feel, making intricate and detailed cuts difficult and a hassle.
Best Budget Option- WEN 3920 Scroll Saw
For those on a budget, you can’t do any better than the WEN 3920; the saw is very budget-friendly and offers a host of premium features normally found in saws costing several times as much.
The blade rocker arms ensure there is minimal to NO vibration, and the cast iron table provides a solid and stable base for your cuts. The ease of changing blades combined with the overall quality features, and robustness is top notch. At this price, it is an unbeatable budget option.
Scroll saws have a place in every workshop, even if you don’t do loads of fine fret work. They are incredibly versatile, and relatively much safer than a band saw, or a table saw. Our Top pick The DeWalt DW 788 has it all and delivers fantastic value for money. The saw performs as good as or even better than many more expensively priced tools on our list, and is robust and high quality that it will last for generations.