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I know what they do, cutting the wood and can be used for fancy cutting and stuff. But I do not know which one to get for starters. Which would get the most use out of? Do I need to get both? What are the big differences for each.

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    They're two different tools, get the one that helps you with what you want to do, since that's what tools are for. It generally doesn't make sense to say "which tool is best for [skill level]". The appropriate question is "which tool is best for [job]". – Jason C Sep 10 '16 at 14:05
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Obviously both of these saws can cut curves but past that they have little in common. For general cutting of wood no question you'd get more from a bandsaw.

Bandsaw
The bandsaw is, in the opinion of quite a few owners, the single most useful power saw to own. It's a good contender for the only power saw to own if you had to pick just one.

It may not be the ideal starter saw (power saw) but I don't know what I'd vote for instead. Certainly not the table saw, even if only because it's the most dangerous power tool.

Scroll saw
A scroll saw is basically good for scrollwork, it excels at it because it's a specialist tool but it's of little use for anything else. All the joint-forming cuts that can be done on a scroll saw are better cut using something else for the required accuracy and smoothness.

If you only need to cut intricate curves periodically it is hard to justify the cost of a scroll saw (both monetary and the cost in space it takes up). Although there are some inexpensive models available buying a coping saw and a fret saw, along with packs of blades for both, should cost less and they are perfectly capable of doing the same work, just much more slowly obviously. And in addition they can do a few tasks that you couldn't do on the scroll saw so they're more versatile.


The diameter of the cuts achievable with each saw are not generally comparable. With a scroll saw you can do small, intricate in-and-out curves, as fine as anything required in woodwork. A bandsaw can generally only do relatively large-diameter curves, the width of the blade determining the radius of cut:

How bandsaw blade affects cut radius

Note that the narrower the blade fitted to a bandsaw the less useful it is for general-purpose cutting because that blade is one specialised for curves. And the wider the blade fitted the better the bandsaw becomes for doing straight cuts (very wide blades being particularly good for deep resawing work).

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  • Table saw the most dangerous power tool? I'd have named the jointer. Kind of hard to make a clean comparison, though, because I'd wager the table saw is used a lot more, so just from that I'd expect there to be more table saw accidents than jointer accidents. Still, it's an interesting side question. (The practical answer, of course, is to respect every power tool you use, and be safe when using any of them.) – Katie Kilian Sep 10 '16 at 8:23
  • @CharlieKilian The table saw is regularly given as the most dangerous power tool when people express an opinion, and I think it does actually account for the greatest number of serious injuries. Although frequency of use must be a factor that there are two modes of injury, cutting and kickback, increases the potential + can't ignore that a large proportion of table saws in the US (whole of North America?) are used with one or both safety features permanently removed, massively increasing the risk to the user. It's not the same in other parts of the world where guards are designed differently. – Graphus Sep 11 '16 at 6:48
  • Fwiw, Popular Mechanics puts table saws as #1 (nail guns #2), Forbes puts nail guns and chainsaws ahead of them. I was surprised to see nailers so high on the lists. – Jason C Sep 11 '16 at 15:05
  • Thanks for the great answer. And I do think the table-saw is the most dangerous. I have not had a accident yet. I do have the guard removed but it was designed so bad it was just dangerous with it on. I feel safer with it off. I have seen kickbacks happen. Last year when I was a freshman I had helped a girl out (she did the work I just had to catch on the other side, school rules) and as she was finishing she turned it off and twisted the wood taking it back out towards her. The teeth grabbed it and it hit her, a guy and slide across the room. – Ljk2000 Sep 14 '16 at 22:41
  • My dad was a general carpenter foreman for what was once the second largest construction company in the US. One of his men once fed a radial arm saw the wrong direction and sent a 2 x 4 through a 5/8" ply wall. On a "per capita" basis, he rated that most dangerous. – bpedit Sep 30 '16 at 21:21

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