Scroll Saw vs. CNC – Best Ever Guide

Scroll Saw vs. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Routing are two distinct methods used in woodworking and other crafts for cutting, shaping, and engraving materials. Let’s introduce both methods to help you understand their key differences:

Scroll Saw:

1.     Mechanical Operation: A scroll saw is a hand-operated or electrically powered tool that uses a thin, fine blade to make intricate cuts in various materials, including wood, plastic, and metal.

2.     Precision and Detail: Scroll saws are known for their precision and ability to create intricate, detailed cuts and curves. They excel at making fine, delicate patterns and designs.

3.     Skill Requirement: Using a scroll saw requires a steady hand and reasonable control, making it suitable for craftspeople and woodworkers with some level of experience.

4.     Versatility: While primarily used for cutting, scroll saws can also make jigsaw puzzles, intarsia, and fretwork.

5.     Manual Operation: It’s essential to manually guide the material through the blade, which can be time-consuming for complex designs.

6.     Cost: Scroll saws are generally more affordable than CNC machines, making them accessible to hobbyists and small-scale woodworkers.

CNC Routing:

1.     Computerized Precision: CNC routers are computer-controlled machines using various cutting bits to cut, carve, and engrave materials precisely. They can work on various materials, including wood, plastic, metal, and composites.

2.     Automation: CNC routers offer automation and repeatability, allowing you to produce identical pieces quickly. You design your project on a computer and let the CNC machine execute the cuts.

3.     Complexity and Scale: CNC machines can handle complex and large-scale projects, making them ideal for production runs and industrial applications.

4.     Learning Curve: Operating a CNC machine can have a steeper learning curve, as it involves programming and operating software, understanding toolpaths, and setting up the machine correctly.

5.     Speed: CNC routers are generally faster than scroll saws, especially for larger or more intricate projects.

6.     Cost: CNC machines, including the machine itself and the necessary software, can be significantly more expensive than scroll saws, making them a better choice for severe woodworkers or businesses.


Both scroll saws and CNC routers have limitations, which are essential when choosing between them for a specific project. Here are some of the limitations associated with each:

Scroll Saw Limitations:

1.     Manual Operation: Using a scroll saw requires a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination. It can be challenging to maintain consistent precision, especially for beginners.

2.     Limited Automation: Scroll saws are entirely manual tools, so they don’t offer the automation and repeatability of CNC routers. Each cut needs to be guided by hand.

3.     Speed: Scroll saws are generally slower than CNC routers, particularly for complex or intricate designs. This can be a limitation when time is a critical factor.

4.     Material Thickness: Scroll saws are best suited for cutting thinner materials. They may need help with thicker stock, resulting in slower cutting speeds and more blade wear.

5.     Limited Material Compatibility: While scroll saws can cut various materials, CNC routers may be less versatile than they are, which can handle a broader range of materials and thicknesses.

CNC Routing Limitations:

1.     Complex Setup: CNC routers require more complex setup and initial programming. Operating the software and hardware effectively can have a steep learning curve.

2.     Cost: CNC routers, including the machine and the necessary software, can be considerably more expensive than scroll saws. This cost can be a barrier for hobbyists and small-scale woodworkers.

3.     Maintenance: CNC machines require regular maintenance to ensure accuracy and performance. This includes cleaning, calibrating, and occasionally replacing parts like cutting bits.

4.     Space Requirements: CNC routers are typically larger machines that require a dedicated workspace. They may not be suitable for small workshops or hobbyists with limited space.

5.     Software Dependency: CNC routers use computer software for design and control. Technical issues with the software or computer can disrupt workflow.

6.     Noise and Dust: CNC routers can generate significant noise and produce dust and debris. Proper ventilation and dust collection systems are often needed.

7.     Not Ideal for Small, Intricate Work: While CNC routers excel at precision and automation, there may be better choices for very small or delicate projects that require the finesse of a scroll saw.

Intricate Parts with a Scroll Saw:

1.     Precision Cutting: Scroll saws are renowned for their ability to make precise, intricate cuts. The thin blade allows for intricate curves and tight corners.

2.     Fine Detail Work: If your project requires fine details, delicate fretwork, or ornate patterns, a scroll saw is an excellent choice. It’s capable of creating artistic designs with ease.

3.     Hands-On Control: The manual operation of a scroll saw gives you direct control over the cutting process, allowing you to make real-time adjustments as needed.

4.     Small to Medium-Sized Parts: Scroll saws are well-suited for creating small to medium-scale intricate parts. They excel at crafting items like wooden puzzles, ornamental pieces, and inlays.

5.     Lower Initial Cost: Scroll saws are generally more affordable than CNC routers, making them a more accessible option for hobbyists and smaller-scale projects.

Intricate Parts with a CNC Router

1.     Automated Precision: CNC routers offer automated precision, making them capable of consistently replicating intricate designs with high accuracy.

2.     Complex Geometries: If your project involves intricate 3D shapes complex engravings, or requires consistent repeatability, a CNC router is an excellent choice.

3.     Large-Scale Projects: CNC routers can handle more extensive and complex projects, which may not be feasible with a scroll saw due to its manual operation and size limitations.

4.     Material Versatility: CNC routers can work with various materials, including wood, plastic, metal, and composites, making them versatile for various projects.

5.     Production Efficiency: CNC routers can significantly speed up the production process for larger quantities of intricate parts compared to manual scroll saw work.

6.     Learning Curve: Operating a CNC router, including programming and setting up toolpaths, has a steeper learning curve than a scroll saw.


As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, there wasn’twasn’t a widely recognized tool referred to as a “CNC scroll saw.” However, new tools and technologies have emerged since then, and someone has created a unique hybrid tool by combining CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technology with a traditional scroll saw.

A CNC machine typically uses computer-controlled automation to perform precise cutting, carving, and engraving tasks. At the same time, a scroll saw is a manually operated or electrically powered tool used for intricate, fine-detail cutting.

Combining these two technologies could offer the precision of CNC control with the versatility of a scroll saw for intricate woodworking projects.

If you’ve found information about a “CNC scroll saw”making promising first cuts, it would be best to investigate the specific tool or project, as it may represent a unique innovation or a custom modification of existing equipment.

Remember that any such development beyond my last knowledge update may not be widely recognized or documented in detail, so it’s essential to verify the specifics of this tool and its capabilities through credible sources or the manufacturer’s information.


The cost of a “CNC scroll saw,” or any other specialized tool can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the tool’s brand, model, features, and capabilities.

However, as of my last knowledge update in September 2021, there wasn’twasn’t a widely recognized tool known as a “CNC scroll saw” in the market. Therefore, I need help to provide specific cost information for such a tool.

To determine the cost of a CNC machine or a traditional scroll saw, you’ll need to consider the following:

1.     Type of Machine: Are you looking for a CNC router, a computer-controlled cutting machine, or a traditional scroll saw? These are distinct types of machines with different price ranges.

2.     Brand and Model: Prices vary significantly between brands and models. Well-known brands with established reputations may have higher price tags.

3.     Size and Capacity: The size and capacity of the machine will affect its cost. Larger CNC routers or scroll saws designed for industrial use will generally be more expensive than smaller, hobbyist-oriented models.

4.     Features and Accessories: Including advanced features, such as automated tool changes or enhanced software capabilities, can increase the cost. Additionally, accessories like specialized cutting bits or blades may add to the overall expense.

5.     New vs. Used: You can often find used CNC machines and scroll saws cheaper than new ones. However, the condition and maintenance history of used equipment should be carefully assessed.

6.     Additional Costs: Consider any additional costs, such as software, tooling, dust collection systems, and safety equipment, which may be necessary for the safe and effective operation of the machine.

7.     Local Pricing: Prices can also vary depending on your location and the availability of these tools in your area.

CNC Advantages and Disadvantages

Here are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of CNC technology:


1.     Precision and Accuracy: CNC machines can produce exact and accurate operations, producing high-quality, consistent, and repeatable products. This precision is precious in industries like aerospace and medical device manufacturing.

2.     Increased Productivity: CNC machines can operate 24/7 with minimal human intervention, increasing production efficiency and reducing labor costs. They can also perform complex operations at high speeds, further enhancing productivity.

3.     Complex Geometries:  This is especially beneficial in industries where custom or unique parts are required.

4.     Reduced Human Error: This leads to better product quality and consistency.

5.     Flexibility and Versatility: CNC machines can be reprogrammed quickly to switch between tasks or produce various components. This versatility is essential in industries with changing production requirements.

6.     Cost Savings: Over the long term, CNC machines can be cost-effective due to reduced labor costs, increased efficiency, and lower material wastage.

7.     Safety: CNC machines are designed with safety features to protect operators from potential hazards, making them safer to work with than manual machines.

8.     Data Recording and Analysis: CNC machines can record data about each production run, allowing for analysis and optimization of processes to improve efficiency and quality.


1.     High Initial Cost: CNC machines can be expensive to purchase and set up. Smaller businesses or startups may find the initial investment prohibitive.

2.     Skilled Operators Required: While CNC machines automate many processes, skilled operators are still needed to program, set up, and maintain these machines. Finding and training qualified personnel can be a challenge.

3.     Maintenance Costs: CNC machines require regular maintenance to operate at peak efficiency. Maintenance can be costly and time-consuming.

4.     Programming Complexity: CNC machines can be complex, especially for intricate tasks. Skilled programmers are needed to create efficient and error-free programs.

5.     Limited Flexibility for Small Batches: CNC machines are most cost-effective for high-volume production. Setting up and programming for small production runs can be less efficient and more time-consuming.

6.     Vulnerability to Software Issues: CNC machines rely heavily on software. Any software glitches or bugs can disrupt production and require troubleshooting and fixes.

7.     Initial Setup Time: Setting up a CNC machine for a new job can take time, particularly if the design or specifications change frequently. This can lead to downtime and reduced productivity.

Clean Edges

When it comes to achieving clean edges, there are distinct differences between using a CNC machine and a scroll saw:

CNC Machine:

1.     Clean Edges: CNC machines are known for producing immaculate and precise edges. They can make cuts with minimal tear-out or splintering, especially when using the appropriate tooling and cutting parameters.

2.     Consistency: CNC machines offer consistent results, ensuring that each piece cut from melamine will have identical, clean edges. This consistency is crucial for professional and production-level work.

3.     Customizable Tooling: CNC machines allow you to select the most suitable cutting tools and strategies for melamine, optimizing edge quality.

Scroll Saw:

1.     Clean Edges: Scroll saws can produce clean edges, but the quality of the edges depends mainly on the operator’s skill. Experienced users can achieve clean edges, but beginners may experience more tear-out or irregularities.

2.     Intricate Cuts: Scroll saws excel at making intricate and detailed cuts, which can result in clean edges for fine details and curves. However, they may need help with straight cuts on thicker melamine sheets.

3.     Operator Skill: Achieving clean edges with a scroll saw often requires practice and a steady hand. Operators must carefully guide the saw to maintain clean cuts, especially in thick melamine.

4.     Blade Selection: The choice of the scroll saw blade plays a significant role in edge quality. Using a blade with fine teeth and the right TPI for the material thickness can help improve edge cleanliness.

CNC Machine:

  • End Mills: CNC machines typically use end mills for cutting various materials, including wood, plastics like melamine, metals, and composites. The end mill choice depends on material type, thickness, and the desired finish.
  • Straight Flute End Mills: These are suitable for cutting melamine, providing a clean finish with minimal chip-out. They are effective for both roughing and finishing cuts.
  • Upcut Spiral End Mills: Upcut spiral end mills are ideal for ejecting chips away from the workpiece, reducing the risk of chip accumulation, and producing cleaner edges in melamine.
  • Compression Spiral End Mills: These end mills combine upcut and downcut flutes in a single tool. They are excellent for reducing chip-out on melamine’s top and bottom surfaces, resulting in clean edges.
  • Router Bits: You can also use router bits using a CNC router designed explicitly for woodworking applications. Choose router bits with sharp edges and appropriate geometry for melamine cutting to minimize chip-out and achieve clean edges.
  • Tool Diameter: The diameter of the end mill or router bit should be chosen based on the desired cut depth, material thickness, and the complexity of the design. Smaller diameters are suitable for fine detail work, while larger ones are more efficient for roughing cuts.

Scroll Saw:

  • Scroll Saw Blades: Scroll saws use various types of blades, and the choice depends on the material and the intricacy of the cuts:
  • Skip Tooth Blades: These blades have gaps between the teeth, which help prevent the blade from getting clogged with sawdust. They are suitable for general-purpose cutting, including melamine, and can produce relatively clean edges.
  • Double Skip Tooth Blades: These blades have more significant gaps between the teeth, further reducing the chances of blade clogging. They are often used for thicker materials like melamine and can result in cleaner edges.
  • Crown Tooth Blades: These blades have small teeth arranged in a crown shape, making them suitable for intricate and fine-detail work in melamine. They can produce clean edges in tight curves and corners.
  • Blade TPI (Teeth Per Inch): The TPI of the scroll saw blade should be selected based on the thickness of the melamine material. Higher TPI blades are suitable for thinner materials, while lower TPI blades are better for thicker materials.
  • Blade Tension: Proper blade tension is essential for clean cuts with a scroll saw. Ensure the blade is tensioned correctly to minimize deflection and achieve cleaner edges.


In conclusion, both CNC machines and scroll saws have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to cutting melamine and achieving clean edges:

CNC Machines:

  • · Offer precision, accuracy, and consistency in cutting melamine, resulting in clean edges.
  • · Can be customized with various types of end mills or router bits to optimize blade selection.
  • · Are well-suited for production-level work and complex designs.
  • · Require less operator skill to achieve clean edges.

Scroll Saws:

  • · Can produce clean edges, especially in intricate and detailed cuts.
  • · Are more affordable and accessible for hobbyists and small woodworking projects.
  • · Offer versatility for artistic and decorative work.
  • · Require operator skill and proper blade selection to consistently achieve clean edges, especially in straight cuts on thicker melamine.

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