What’s the best scroll Saw?
If you’re interested in finding the best scroll saw, this article is what you’re looking for. We’ve narrowed your search down to three fantastic scroll saws, each with its own merits. We’ll be reviewing the following three scroll saws:
- WEN 3920 | Best economy scroll saw
- DEWALT DW788 | Best 20” scroll saw. Many feel that it’s the best all-around.
- Shop Fox W1713, | Best 16” scroll saw.
Many of you might have questions about these tools. So after reviewing the best scroll saws, I’ll set out to answer some common questions. One these being the very commonly asked question: “Why do I need a scroll saw?” If you’re wondering why you might need a scroll saw when a jigsaw costs less and does very much the same thing, you’ll get the answer here – so keep reading. There’s a whole lot of other stuff too that will give you valuable information about scroll saws in general.
There was once a time when the scroll saw was the on cutting edge of technology for the detailed woodworking craftsman. Of course, technology has changed and many commercial shops have turned toward CNC cutting because of the speed and accuracy with which these machines work when repeating the same task continuously. Though for the home workshop, this is not an option – CNC machines are simply too expensive. Besides, for most of us doing woodwork as a hobby, there’s a sense of pride in doing the detailing by hand.
There’s also a movement among professionals to produce handcrafted furniture and other objects using human skill and not computerized technology. Interior designers who decorate homes for the rich and famous, eagerly seek out those few craftsman who still manufacture individual pieces by hand. Preferring these bespoke pieces over mass produced items and they are prepared to pay a premium for one of a kind decorative items. A scroll saw is not just used for cutting wood but also metal and plastics, as well as many other materials. So it’s a valuable tool for anyone who’s into doing detailed crafting, be it woodworking or metal art.
I’ll go into more detail about all of this later. First, let’s get to our review of the products as that’s probably the most important for most readers.
What’s the Best Scroll Saw?
Whenever we talk about any tool that’s the best for its purpose, we immediately think expensive. Now there’s no denying that the best scroll saws are usually going to be the most expensive. Even then, some scroll saws that cost a fortune may not be much better than a less expensive machine. So we’ve taken this into account and done a lot of research to find out which is truly the best scroll saw, in the opinion of the woodworkers who are using these machines on a regular basis. If popular opinion is anything to go by, the DeWalt DW788 has to be the best scroll saw and I tend to agree with this.
The DeWalt DW788 is the most expensive scroll saw in this review, but not the most expensive machine that you can get. As most people buying a scroll saw are likely to be hobbyist woodworkers, many may feel that the DeWalt DW788 is too expensive for a machine that’s only going to be used occasionally. For these guys, we’ve included the WEN 3920. The price of the WEN scroll saw may well see it being the most popular. With the DeWalt being reserved for the more serious woodworker. The Shop Fox W1713, makes for a good alternative. Shop Fox tools are the preferred choice for many professional and home shops. The Shop Fox W1713 is limited, when compared to DeWalt, mostly because this is a smaller scroll saw. Though if size is not that important to you, the Shop Fox W1713 may be just the tool for you.
To find out more and decide which of these tools will really be the best for your needs, here’s a detailed and comprehensive review of each product. This should give you the information that you need to make an informed decision.
Best variable speed scroll saw.
- Variable speed goes from 400 to 1600 strokes per minute
- Cuts wood up to 1.9 inches thick with a 16-inch throat depth
- Spacious 16 by 10 inch table bevels up to 45 degrees to the left for angled cuts
- Cast iron Base provides a stable base with limited vibration
- Includes air pump, flex light, dust port, foot lock clamp, and two blades
Buying cheap need not mean that you’re buying junk. This is where the WEN brand truly shines, it’s one of the few brands that offer a high level of quality at an affordable price. One look at the WEN 3920 with its low-vibration cast iron base tells you that this relatively cheap scroll saw can stand proudly among the best machines that cost much more.
A 1.2A motor gives it enough power to handle any material using whichever blade you choose. It has a variable speed of between 400 and 1600 strokes per minute, this is controlled by a large dial at the front of the saw. The solid table is 16” X 10” (16” throat). This may not be the biggest but affords you the ability to work with fairly large pieces very easily. The table can be tilted up to 45° to the left using a large hand tightening knob with angle measurements to make it really simple to use.
With a ⁹⁄16-inch stroke and the choice of either pinned or pinless blades, you’re able to cut through material up to 1.9” in thickness. A pinless blade adapter and an onboard pinless adapter mount come with the saw, as well as a hex wrench. Despite the sturdy cast iron base, the WEN 3920 isn’t particularly heavy (27.5 LBS) and it has bolt holes so you can secure it to your workbench. Dimensions for the WEN 3920 are 26⅜” X 13” X 14⅜”.
VIDEO | How to Make A Wooden Cup with the WEN 3920
There’s nothing too complicated about this scroll saw and it’s incredibly easy and convenient to use. It has a tension release switch for quick and easy blade changes and a 1.5” dust extraction port so you can work clean. Well, as clean as one can with a scroll saw. It also has an adjustable air pump that blows the sawdust away from your work surface so you can see what you’re doing at all times. Though I must say, the fixed position of the blower nozzle which blows the dust toward you is not my favorite. I suppose that’s one of the things with a cheap scroll saw, it seems that flexible air nozzles that can be adjusted are reserved for the more expensive machines. It does have a flexible work light positioned for perfect illumination of your cutting line. It also has a foot lock clamp to hold the piece that you’re cutting securely for greater accuracy.
You’re getting everything that you need with the WEN 39120. It may not be the most sophisticated scroll saw but it’s built to last and costs a fraction of the high-end machines. WEN takes great pride in their technical support and customer service which should give you peace of mind when buying the WEN 39120 and it comes with a 2-year warranty.
Best scroll saw for professionals who demand a lot from their tools.
- Double parallel-link arm design dramatically reduces vibration and noise for extremely accurate cuts
- Tool-free blade clamps allow blade changes in seconds
- On-off switch, electronic variable speed, flexible dust blower, and blade-tensioning lever are all located on the front upper arm
- Arm lifts so that blade can be easily threaded through the material for inside cuts
- Arm design keeps the blade perpendicular to the work, dramatically reducing over or under cutting
- Oversized, cast-iron table provides excellent material support and bevels 45 degrees (left and right)
The DeWalt DW788 takes center stage as the best scroll saw. It’s expensive, but then again, there are many that cost a whole lot more. I was surprised to see that there have been a few complaints about excessive vibration and lousy tech support service. This seems contrary to everything that I’ve experienced with DeWalt. On the other hand, the majority of people have commented about how incredible this scroll saw is and specifically noted that low vibration is one of the reasons why they love this machine. Perhaps there were a few units that slipped passed DeWalt quality control and were sent to the customer with defects. I’m prepared to look past the few negative reviews because the overwhelming opinion is that this is one of the best scroll saws available and when it comes to DeWalt tools, I’ve found them to be reliable and so is their technical support.
I just thought I would mention the negative before reviewing the product because I personally agree with the popular view that this is a fantastic product. There are those who are quick to write about their negative experiences and won’t bother to write a customer review when they’re happy with the product. If I take all the customer reviews that I went through in order to give you an objective review, I’d say that well over 90% (out of thousands of customers) feel that the DeWalt DW788 is, in fact, the best scroll saw. That says a lot.
So let’s get to why we (along with so many others) have voted the DeWalt DW788 as the best scroll saw. I’ll start with the larger than average cast iron table which has a 20” throat. This gives you a great deal of versatility and ease when working with large pieces. Then there’s the fantastic design of the double parallel-link arm that pivots from the back of the saw to the front. This gives you an incredibly high level of accuracy by reducing vibration and the blade remains perpendicular to the workpiece at all times, reducing the chance of over-cutting or undercutting. This is why I find those negative reviews so surprising, the DeWalt DW788 is one of the smoothest and most accurate scroll saws that you’ll find – even among tools that cost a lot more.
The on-off switch, variable speed control and the blade tensioning lever are situated at the front of the upper arm. This is the most accessible position for your controls, just about at eye level. So there’s no bending down to see what you’re doing. The DeWalt DW788 has great power, using a 1.3A motor that gives you a blade speed of between 400 and 1750 SPM (Strokes per Minute). It provides a 2” depth of cut with a ¾” stroke. The arm lifts, making it much easier to position the blade when making inside cuts. You’re able to use pinless and pinned blades with this scroll saw – something that’s not mentioned on the DeWalt website.
The table of the DeWalt DW788 is able to tilt to both the left and right up to45°. Many will find this very convenient when compared to those that only allow for angled cuts in one direction. The large knob for loosening and tightening the table for angle adjustment is at the front of the machine, directly beneath the table. This is, as to be expected from DeWalt, the best position for the adjustment knob. It has a very accurate and easy to use angle guide with clear markings. Though I’m surprised to see no positive stops, most DeWalt tools do.
The telescopic dust blower is fantastically versatile, enabling you to position it exactly where you want it. DeWalt make a really great flexible work light for this scroll saw (DW7881). The bad news is that this light is available as an optional extra, so you’ll have to fork out some extra cash for this. You also have an option of a sturdy work stand (DW7880).
The DeWalt DW788 is not a lightweight machine, 56 LBS. If you take a look at the really large cast iron table, this weight is understandable. Another factor that adds to the weight is thre heavy bearings that DeWalt has used to reduce vibrations, so this extra weight is a really good thing and it’s not too heavy for most people to carry. It’s a great scroll saw and is made for complete ease of use, this includes tool-free blade changing. The DeWalt DW788 has one of the better designs for their foot lock, it’s not too bulky and won’t get in the way as much most other designs.
This scroll saw has been around for quite a while and is rated by many woodworkers as being the best. So even though it’s far from cheap, the DeWalt DW788 is actually excellent value for money when compared to the really expensive machines. DeWalt offers one of the best warranty and service agreements: a 3-year warranty, 1-year free service plan, and a 90-day money back guarantee.
Best scroll saw for your home projects.
- 1/8HP, 1.2-Amps, 110-Volt, 60Hz motor
- 16-Inch maximum cutting width
- Includes a gooseneck work light, dust blower and dust port
- Plain or pin blades
- No load speed: 550-1700 SPM
Considering that this scroll saw bares the prestigious Shop Fox name, it really isn’t that expensive. It’s a fantastic little machine and offers you everything that you’d want from an entry level 16” scroll saw.
The cast iron table with a 16” throat is exceptionally smooth with a glossy coating that will prevent your wood from sticking as you move it. It has a 1.2A motor, which is really great for a scroll saw of this size. The blade speed can be adjusted between 550 and 1650 SPM, this is done by means of a control knob under the table at the front of the machine. The on-off switch is directly next to the variable speed control. Then there’s a vacuum port for dust extraction also at the front and the knob for adjusting the table angle is just next to this. So all your controls are at the front, which is handy. Although having them underneath the table does mean some bending down to use them, you can’t just reach over and adjust the speed or switch the machine off as easily as you can with the DeWalt DW788.
The table tilts to the left and has clear angle markings (0°-45°). The blade changing mechanism is quite easy to use and very accessible but you’ll need to use an Allan key to do this – so it’s not tool-free. Blade tensioning is done by means of a knob at the back of the arm. This does mean that it’s a bit of stretch to reach over and tension the blade every time but fortunately, this is a 16” machine so the arm isn’t all that long. The maximum cutting thickness is 2” and it has a ¾” blade stroke. There’s a large adjustable light that shines from above the arm and it has a dust blower nozzle at the blade. Like most other small scroll saws, the blower is in a fixed position, blowing the dust toward you. This isn’t the greatest, but I suppose it’s better than having no dust blower at all. It has a sturdy press foot that’s really easy to adjust, remove or replace.
So the Shop Fox W1713 is a fairly basic scroll saw. What certainly plays in favor of this machine is its exceptional build quality – what else would expect from Shop Fox? This also means that you have great technical support and a 2-year warranty.
More about Scroll Saws ǀ A Comprehensive Buyers Guide
If you’re new to scroll saws, there’s a lot you might want to know about these tools before you buy one. Even if you’ve been using a scroll saw for a while, you might find some useful tips in this section of the article. I’m going to look at all the details that go into choosing the best scroll saw and why their features may be important to you. As we go through these features, it should become clear why a scroll saw is much better than a jigsaw. A scroll saw is designed for low vibration and greater accuracy.
Scroll saws are all rated by their throat size. Basically, this is the usable size of the table. The throat is the distance between the back of the blade and inside of the upright section that holds the arm. This distance determines what size piece you are able to move around on the table. Scroll saw sizes range from 16” – 30”. While a 16” scroll saw can be a bit limiting, 30” is more than most people will ever need and may just end up wasting valuable shop floor space. A 20”-21” throat is probably a preferable size.
Apart from the throat size, you should also look at the width of the table. This is not usually mentioned as part of the specs because it is not vital to the use of the machine. However, having a good width either side of the blade will help when working with larger pieces.
The material that the table is made of and it the smoothness is important. Cast iron makes for a great table. Aluminum is also great but is more expensive and the only real benefit is that aluminum reduces the weight of the scroll saw.
Your scroll saw will come with a perfectly smooth, polished table – just like a table saw. It’s important to keep your table in this condition as a smooth work surface reduces friction and makes it easier to maneuver your wood as you cut. There are saw table products available to polish the table surface and keep it smooth. Though automotive wax, like the type you use to polish your car, works just as well.
Another consideration is table tilt to make angled cuts. There are a few scroll saws that tilt the arm instead of the table. A tilting arm is probably better because you’re always working on a horizontal surface but not many have a tilting arm and these tend to be the most expensive. Chances are, you’ll be using a scroll saw with a tilting table. Some will tilt to the left, others to the right and then there are those that tilt to both the left and right. Obviously tilting in both directions is the best, especially if you intend doing a lot of angled cuts.
There’s a lot to say about scroll saw blades and they are an important part of using the machine. Like jigsaw blades, they come in a variety of tooth types for different types of cuts and materials. The actual blade type is not important when choosing the best scroll saw, with one exception.
Some scroll saws can only use pinned blades. These blades have two pins at the top of the blade to secure it and are much thicker than pinless blades. A scroll saw that uses both pinned and pinless blades is preferable. When you’re doing detailed work, using a thinner pinless blade is going work much better.
Having tool-free blade changing is a great help. You may find that you’re removing and replacing the blade many times whilst working. This is especially true if you’re making inside cuts. In other words, cuts where you first have to drill a hole and then position the blade inside the hole. Another thing that makes inside cuts easier is an arm that tilts. This makes it much easier to thread the blade through the hole.
You’ll be releasing the tension on the blade every time you remove it and then re-tensioning the blade once fitted. This makes the blade tensioning mechanism an important part of the machine’s operation. The blade can be tensioned by means of a cam at the blade, a tension knob or a slider. A cam at the blade is very convenient and often more robust. Tensioning knobs are very common and are easy to use, allowing you to see very easily where the tension setting is. Sliders are less common.
One of the things with a slider or tensioning knob is to check where this is placed on the machine. Ideally, you want the tensioning knob at the front of the arm – right in front of you. Some tensioning knobs (or sliders) are at the back of the arm and this means that you need reach across to the back of the machine every time you tension the blade. Many (if not most) scroll saws have the tensioning knob along with the on-off switch at the front of the machine under the table. While this is better than having it the back of the arm, it still means bending down to see what you’re doing. Having all your controls at the front of the arm is always the best.
Having a motor that’s powerful enough to cut through hard materials is important. Though I’d say that most of the better-known scroll saws have motors that give you all the power that you’ll need. This will be anything from 1.1A up to 1.5A depending on the size of the machine.
What’s most important is having variable speed control. Most scroll saws have a variable scroll speed of between 250 and 1800 scrolls per minute (SPM). The greater your scroll speed variation, the better. When working on intricate pieces with delicate cuts and many corners, you’ll want to work slower. Gentle curves and ripping will become frustrating at a slow speed and then you’ll want to speed the machine up. When you cut metal you’ll want to slow the blade down to prevent it from overheating.
As with the tension control knob, the position of your speed dial can make a quite a difference. Often these are placed under the table, requiring you bend down. A variable speed dial on the front of the arm is going to be the most convenient.
Most people who have used a scroll saw laugh out loud when you mention dust extraction. This is because it’s nearly impossible to control the dust when working with these machines. A dust extraction port can help but I wouldn’t place too much importance on this. What is important is having a blower nozzle that blows the dust away from the blade. This makes sure that you can always see the line along which you need to cut. I prefer a telescopic blower nozzle because you can position it where it’s going to be most effective. Unfortunately, most scroll saws have a fixed nozzle and these blow from the back of the blade toward you. This isn’t really the best way to do things but I suppose it’s simpler and cheaper than using a telescopic nozzle.
Extras and Accessories
While some of the items I’ll be discussing here are standard on a lot of scroll saws, I consider them to be extras because they don’t directly affect the operation of the machine.
A press down foot is probably one of the least used accessories on a scroll saw. These devices clamp down on the piece that you’re cutting to reduce the vibration, helping you work more accurately. While this might be helpful for beginners as it offers some degree of safety, they are always in the way and actually make things more difficult. Because injuries are rare with these tools, most people prefer to use their fingers to hold down the piece.
Work lights are very handy because you’re usually doing very detailed work and want to see clearly what you’re doing. Even if a work light is not a standard feature on your scroll saw, these are easy to come by. Many woodworkers prefer an illuminated magnifying class to help improve their working abilities even further.
Foot pedals are, in my opinion, a bit overrated. They are helpful in that you can secure the piece with both hands whilst switching the blade motor on. This really means that you don’t have to lift one hand off the piece to switch it on or off or adjust the speed. I really can’t see why this is such a big deal. Though, there those who prefer a pedal.