Canadian Woodworking

Who will speak for the humble scroll saw?

Blog by Rob Brown
Scroll saw work

Since getting one a few years ago, my scroll saw has bailed me out of many tight situations other machines would have failed at miserably.

A bandsaw has power to resaw thick hardwood and the flexibility to cut curves. A hand saw can give its user the ultimate in flexibility. A track saw can break down sheet goods with ease, speed and accuracy. A reciprocating saw can cut all sorts of material in a wide range of tight situations. A table saw, also called a variety saw, can amaze with the wide array of operations it can take care of.

What can a scroll saw do? Cut curves. That is, as long as the material isn’t very thick and you don’t try to cut too fast. Doesn’t sound so impressive, does it?

Years ago, I thought of a scroll saw as a “craft” machine, rather than a “woodworking” machine. Sure, it cut wood, but it mainly did things I rarely included in a piece of furniture. Stuff like very tight curves, intarsia, jigsaw work and those sorts of tasks. I guess I figured they were very similar machines, but a bandsaw was for woodworking and a scroll saw was for crafting.

Benefits of a scroll saw

Since getting one a few years ago, my scroll saw has bailed me out of many tight situations other machines would have failed at miserably. Having the ability to cut very tight curves is important for some of my work. The scalloped edge you see in the photo here is one example, but there are many other situations where tight cuts are needed.

Another benefit of a scroll saw is having the ability to cut out cavities from the centre of a workpiece. You can cut a circle on a bandsaw, but you can’t cut a shape out of that circle with a bandsaw. If you have a scroll saw you can drill a small hole in the workpiece, remove one end of the scroll saw blade, insert the end of the blade in the hole, re-fasten the blade and then cut the shape out. Among other things, this technique helps with pierced carving, which I’ve done a fair bit of recently. There are many other techniques and cuts a scroll saw can make.

A scroll also has a very thin kerf, which comes in handy once in a while. A few issues ago (Feb/Mar 2023) I ran an article on how I made “Curvy Doors”. The blank was cut into separate curves with a scroll saw because of its thin kerf. This allowed the separate pieces to fit back together, after they were further shaped, with virtually no sign they were cut apart in the first place.

Life before a scroll saw

I’m not saying life without a scroll saw was a harsh, painful slog, but it certainly would have made many projects easier. It also would have made a few projects possible. Owning a scroll saw opened my eyes to lot of the fine techniques that can be done.

It has also allowed both of my kids to use a machine to cut out shapes. The scroll saw isn’t overly dangerous to use, though one still must treat it with respect or they’ll get bitten. The guard tends to do a good job of keeping fingers out of the way of the blade, and the cutting action certainly isn’t as aggressive as a bandsaw or table saw. Kickback isn’t a worry with a scroll saw.

With all the machines we all have (and love) I just thought it was about time someone stood up for one of the least popular woodworking machines. And it truly is a great woodworking machine.

Tight Curves

These curves wouldn’t have been easy with a bandsaw or jigsaw. When complete, this workpiece was glued to a larger panel to form the back panel of a bathroom bench I made a few years ago.

Scroll saw work

Spice It Up

Here’s the bench I made in its final home. A scalloped top and bottom add a bit of flair to an otherwise simple bench.


Nice, Thin Kerf

A bandsaw can cut the curves, but it leaves a wide kerf, causing the curved joint in this specific project not to fit back together as well as it would with a narrower kerf. Instead, I used a scroll saw to separate the parts.

Scroll saw work

Finished Product

Here are the vanity doors I made with the help of my trusty scroll saw.

Vanity doors

Start Them Young

Here’s my daughter using the scroll saw to cut out a plywood snowflake she made a few years ago. The scroll saw is a great machine for kids to learn how to use.

Scroll saw work
Last modified: March 31, 2023

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches


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  2. I agree that the scroll saw is an extremely useful and valuable additional tool in the woodwork shop in many ways. However, as someone in their mid-seventies whose physical stamina is not what it once was the scroll for me has another important use; therapy. Just to sit at the saw and become total absorbed in the complicated cutting task in hand is a therapeutic masterclass. You might not be building a piece of heirloom furniture but the pleasure of being lost in the task and the joy of having made something interesting, if not useful, is not to be under estimated.

  3. Another great advantage of the scroll saw is that with the right blade, cuts are usually very clean and often require no sanding. And unlike a bandsaw, there’s no need to saw outside the line. My scroll saw was one of the first tools I bought. With many moves during my military career, I never worried whether my scroll saw would fit in the next house, even if it didn’t have a basement or garage.

  4. Don’t use my scroll saw often, but when you need one there are very few tools that can match the scroll saws capabilities…

  5. Hello Rob, the thing I use my scroll for the most is cutting templates for router pattern cutting and inlays. I have made a number of templates for keyholes, flower patterns for the side of outside planters, a bear shape for an outside table to cover a damaged area in a live edge slab and the list goes on. The ability to cut inside cavities is essential for this.

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