Follow me:

DeWalt vs. Harbor Freight Scroll Saw

I wanted to make some puzzles out of wood and looked into buying a scroll saw.  Because I didn’t know if it was something I would do a lot I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  I always look at what the local ‘big box’ stores offer and compare what they have to Harbor Freight.  Then I will look on Amazon, eBay and especially Craigslist to see what else is out there.  I will weigh the cost, quality and reviews between different brands of tools and even watch videos that I find on YouTube before I settle on anything.

I decided between getting the 16-inch saw from Harbor Freight for $69.99 or…

…the 20-inch DeWalt that costs $499.00 at Home Depot (but would try and find it used/cheaper)

I ended up getting the Harbor Freight (Central Machinery) saw because I have been very pleased with other tools I bought from them and it had good reviews.

I read people saying to change the blade to something nicer and that these machines work just as good as a $400 machine.  I did that and also made sure the blade was square with the table. I was very frustrated the whole time I used it.  The tension knob would loosen while sawing and I’d have to keep re-tightening.  The dust blower and wood “clamp” thing are a joke!  They’re connected and move up/down together and it would also loosen while sawing and twist so the blower wouldn’t be in the right position.  I ended up blowing the sawdust away myself every 5 seconds or so because it was pointless to re-tighten.

I ended up finding a used DeWalt DW788 on Craigslist. It’s about 7-years-old and was made in Canada.  I didn’t want to pay for a new one especially since they’re now made in Asia (people say bad things about them).  I went and tested it out and was impressed.  I noticed the larger size and quality right off. It was quiet and didn’t rattle. Just the thick cast iron table tells you it’s quality.



Here is an upper view of the DeWalt.  The ON/OFF switch, speed control and tension knob are all up in the front for easy access.

Here is an upper view of the Harbor Freight saw.

The DeWalt air blower is awesome!  You can move it anywhere you want!  You can only use pin-less (or flat) blades in this saw and they are extremely easy to put on.  Blade changes take just over 30 seconds and if you are just inserting the blade through your work that takes even less time.

The Harbor Freight blower is worthless and incredibly frustrating.  The saw takes pin-less AND pinned blades but there’s a catch: you can’t put the pinned blades through a tiny hole in your work so beware… also, if you’re working with pin-less (or flat) blades it is very cumbersome to put the adapters on the end (small metal pieces in photo).

Here’s looking underneath the DeWalt.  The bed tilts up to 45-degrees either way.  It doesn’t have a dust collection system which I don’t mind because I take it outside to work.

Here’s looking underneath the Harbor Freight saw.  It has a dust collector that you can hook your vacuum up to.  The on/off switch and speed control are a little awkward to get to because you have to bend down to see under the bed of the machine.

I would HIGHLY recommend the DeWalt DW788 over the Harbor Freight (Central Machinery) saw, even considering the cost difference.  You won’t regret it!

It’s like comparing a plastic $78 Wal-Mart Singer sewing machine to a 10-year-old German Made Pfaff 1473 that you can buy used for $400.  Even though it’s over $300 more AND used, it’s totally worth it!  You won’t be frustrated, you’ll ENJOY using it, you’ll get the job done faster and you can produce higher quality products.

EDIT:  I got the bed of my used DeWalt looking like new with hardly any effort.  Luckily I had all the products on-hand from cleaning sewing machines.

Here’s what I did:
-Take off bed from saw and lay paper towels over the top and soak paper with EVAPO-RUST.  Let sit for at least 4 hours (or over night).  Take off old towels and wipe clean with new paper towels.  (At this point there was still large dark splotches)
-Use cotton balls to wash with rubbing alcohol. (Still marks…)
-Use 220 grit paper on orbital sander and sand bed. (By this time it was clear of any spots or rust and the bed was so smooth… not only did the sander remove the spots it also smoothed out the original machining marks/grooves)
-Final step was to rub metal polish cream over the bed with cotton balls and it looked brand new!

Previous Post Next Post

- More Favorite Posts -


  • Reply Native Oregon Hiker

    Thanks for the very helpful comparison. I usually invest in quality but was thinking maybe cheap was the way to go since I don't expect to use this a lot. Your review reminded me why it is often best to hold out for better. Nothing more frustrating then a compromised tool.

    March 29, 2016 at 8:58 pm
  • Reply Tom Bradly

    I think this was also my "motto" when I was starting out with woodworking. But most of my important tools were borrowed or top-grade but secondhand tools. Maybe you can check your local listing for secondhand items?

    October 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm
  • Reply Donna Wiedeman

    I totally agree with everything you said. The Dewalt was certainly worth every penny. However, I dont think a person can really appreciate it unless they have used one of the cheap chinese saws and been through the aggravation.

    February 14, 2017 at 6:53 am
  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.