Last Updated on July 4, 2020
Your creative juices are flowing and you need a little saw to bring your visions to life. You assumed you’d get a jigsaw – everyone seems to have one – but then you heard about a scroll saw and are intrigued.
The scroll saw has been around for hundreds of years, but the jigsaw was only invented in the 20th century. Although the scroll saw looks like a sewing machine, the jigsaw was actually invented by a man who replaced the needle on his wife’s sewing machine with a saw blade. To further confuse you, scroll saw and jigsaw are frequently used interchangeably to describe today’s scroll saw!
Which tool is best for your needs?
Before you run out and buy a jigsaw, though, take a minute to read a bit about the scroll saw.
What is it?
A scroll saw is like a cross between a jigsaw and a sewing machine. It’s a stationary device with a small and narrow vertically mounted reciprocating blade which is anchored at both top and bottom. Instead of moving the machine through the material, you drive the wood into and around the blade (much like a seamstress feeds fabric into and under the needle).
Why would you want a scroll saw?
You can make an astounding array of highly detailed and decorated wood pieces with a scroll saw. What might have been painstakingly carved by hand many hundreds of years ago can now be done much more quickly and precisely with a scroll saw. You simply can’t do this with a jigsaw – it’s too rough and imprecise.
With a scroll saw, you can carve along the lines of a pattern that you’ve adhered to the wood. It can even make pierce cuts – these allow you to carve out from the middle of the wood, just like if you were to cut out the middle of the letter “O” without breaking its circumference.
A scroll saw, once set up, is quiet and easy to use, and a common first power tool for children. All they have to do is drive the wood along the lines you’ve drawn or taped on and within minutes they have a finished project.
A scroll saw takes care of the sanding for you. It makes exceptionally smooth cuts, in the blink of an eye, and leaves behind very little dust. The jigsaw will leave behind splintery edges that you’ll need to sand.
A cursory search of the internet will show you the amazing creativity that can be expressed through a scroll saw. As long as you are using a relatively small and thin piece of wood, the only limit is your imagination.
What is it?
A jigsaw is a handheld saw that can be corded or cordless. It has a small, reciprocating saw blade, anchored only at the top, that extends downward into the target material and can cut both straight and curved lines. Jigsaws are immensely popular with homeowners because of their versatility (and relative safety).
Why would you want a jigsaw?
Jigsaws can cut a wide variety of materials in addition to wood – particleboard, plywood, plastic, PVC pipe, metal, and even ceramic tile. Blades come in a vast array of configurations of width, length, and teeth type, so there truly is a blade for every job.
Jigsaws can cut straight lines, curved lines, and even perfect circles, if properly set up. As you probably know, jigsaw puzzles are named as such because jigsaws were originally used to cut all the little shapes found in puzzles. Whatever custom shape you want cut, if it’s not too tiny, the jigsaw can probably do it.
Jigsaws are easy and inexpensive. Even a child could unbox a jigsaw and get it up and running without too much trouble. If you get a cordless model, they are even easier because you don’t have to worry about accidentally cutting your own cord. And although you could spend a lot, you’ll have plenty of jigsaws to choose from under $100.
Where a jigsaw really shines, though, is in its versatility. Not just for woodworking projects, jigsaws can also be pressed into service for demolition and remodeling projects. It can cut through old Formica countertops, rough out the frame for the new sink, and cut through pipes. It can act as a mini reciprocating saw and tackle almost as many tasks.
Here, a jigsaw is being used to install a new kitchen sink.
The key to its versatility is portability. Corded or cordless, you can be on the move through the house and garage. You can go to where the work is instead of bringing the work to your shop.
A scroll saw is a pricier, stationary, specialized woodworker’s tool that makes you look like a woodcarving guru. If you know you want to make delicate wooden tree ornaments for everyone on your Christmas list, you’ll want to invest in a scroll saw.
A jigsaw is an inexpensive, portable, jack-of-all-trades kind of tool that can be used for rough woodworking projects in addition to a huge list of other around-the-house jobs. If you want to do some woodworking but also want some versatility in your next tool purchase, go with the jigsaw.
One isn’t better than the other – it’s just a question of what you want to do with it!
Kyle comes from a long line of woodworkers, craftsmen, and carpenters. When he’s not managing SawingPros, Kyle can be found in his workshop, testing and using every type of saw and power tool he can get his hands on. His favorite tool is a horizontal band saw and his favorite wood is maple.