I know this Forum doesn't spend a lot of time with scroll saws but this thread has produced over 2,500 views so there seems to be much interest in the subject. That being the case, I decided to summarize what I went through to where I finally selected a saw...so here goes...
Process Duration...while I spent a month of calendar time, I only spent a couple of hours a day researching and asking questions.
Sources...This Forum, Scroll Saw Village, Steve Goode, Manufacturers web sites, Youtube, Google searches by brand, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace.
Selection of Saws...All the research I did led me to narrow the field to just a few. I eliminated new saws that were made in China (no offense intended). I budgeted between $300 and $400 based on classifieds on Marketplace, Craigslist and eBay. While searching through the various sites I narrowed my search to Pegas, Excalibur, RBI Hawk, Hegner, Dewalt and Delta. I eliminated those exceeding $400 which took out the new Dewalt and Delta and Pegas. That is not to say that one wouldn't come along in my budget. I figured I had the time to add or delete as the deals came up. I also initially eliminated the Hegner primarily because most saws selling were under 20" (18's). I also wanted one saw that would provide me the most flexibility without having to buy another saw to do other work (scroll vs fretting). In this mix of saws, some were described as "aggressive cutting" while others were described as "more suitable for fret work". I want to make box tops so that involved fret work (like Dave and Charley posted earlier). Since I'm completely new at scrolling I wanted a saw that I could not blame for my mistakes.
Excalibur...this was a tricky one. The brand switched from owner to owner and both improvements and problems happened with the switches. I found it difficult to determine which years were good, which models, which color (green/black/purple), some had motor issues, while in other cases they became more desirable with the owner switch. Parts are readily available while some chose to make their own. These were parts like clamps, knobs, holders, etc... I saw a purple 30" machine for sale...looked great. Not sure about the purple color though...YMMV...
Hegner...no doubt a top leader like the Excalibur. This machine is highly desirable but also a bit above the high side of my budget. Little vibration, accurate and aggressive and quiet. This machine has the largest table area which many like. I did decide that if the right deal jumped on me I would buy one even if I had already bought another. There went the one-saw thinking. As luck would have it, while I was anxiously awaiting to travel to see the RBI, a Hegner went up for $100...I about soiled my pants...! Reached out to the seller but alas, it has sold a few hours after listing it. People can't say enough about the Hegners. Most were above my budget but I was close to waiting for one even if it cost a bit more.
Dewalt... This saw apparently has an aggressive cut but it is accomplished by the blade being slightly tilted towards the user. This gives an action like "orbital" on a jig saw. Some reported that it makes it difficult to do stacked cutting. However, many also reported they had no problems doing such. Dewalt has three different types. The Type 1 (original) was make in Canada (most desirable), the Type 2 was made in Taiwan, and the current Type 3 made in China. This is the one currently being sold in stores. The Dewalt and the current Delta 40-694 are basically the same machine with interchangeable parts (bearings and other parts). If you look at the two machines and they weren't painted different colors it would be hard to tell which is which (at least for me).
Delta... The model I went after is the 40-690. This is the early model and liked by many as the 1st choice if buying a Delta in the size I was looking for. That is not to say the newer 694 is not a good saw. It is made in China like the newer Dewalt (same factory) if that means anything to you. Parts are available for both the Delta and the Dewalt (bearings, etc).
RBI...this quickly became my choice. The brand is currently owned by Bushton Manufacturing. Customer service is reported as lacking as are parts and newly manufactured models. Apparently it is not known what Bushton will do with the brand. But parts are available and can be found. This saw has a lower blade holder that can be mounted in one of two positions. One position will lean the saw forward while the other position will position the blade straight up and down. This became a big feature for me wanting only one saw. In my feeble mind this would give me the best of both worlds...aggressive and easy for fret work. I'm sure the more experienced would say this doesn't really matter once you get used to the saw...I would agree but I wanted a quicker learning curve. At least, that was my thinking, right/wrong/indifferent. Some earlier RBI's had some motor issues with the FASCO motors that were installed in the earlier models. Here we go again...how to determine which years or asking the seller to peek under the table to see which motor was installed. Serial number doesn't really help unless you call the company...and success depends on who answers the phone. The one I bought does not have the FASCO...it has the Dayton motor which I understand is a good motor. My saw is about 12 yrs old...a youngster. The RBI I have has aluminum arms, rear brackets and table. Good size table that allows for support deep into the throat. Like many of the other saws, it has a forward tension release for changing blades or for inserting the blade for an interior cut.
So how easy was this process...NOT. It became so overwhelming at times I started to create a table with descriptions and notes in the intersections of columns and rows. This didn't make it any easier as it made less and less sense the more I filled in. And all of a sudden it became more clear...if I didn't do any of this and didn't limit myself on the budget, I would, like most other people, go to the store and buy one and be happy. So what was wrong with me...! When I finally narrowed it down to the five I listed, it became easier to compare. It also helped that I was patient enough to read and ask and talk with others that own saws. Eventually, the more I learned the easier it became. It's a learning process...spending the time to learn about the different models, techniques and problems helps a lot. I also downloaded many manuals and went through the instructions and parts diagrams. If you're any good at all at looking at parts and understanding how they function, it will make it easier to understand the saw. If you're worried about parts availability, parts web sites and manufacturer contact will either ease your mind or drive you nuts. I decided the quality of the RBI and its history with those who have it relieved me of the pressure of immediate parts availability. Besides, the forums available for information are filled with dedicated scrollers that are all willing to help.
Now that it's over, it's time to completely disassemble my saw, clean the heck out of it, lube it accordingly, reassemble, align and adjust and make some dust. It is my method of learning what I have and it sets a zero base for my regular maintenance schedule. It's time for two fingers of Makers Mark...!
Comments are more than welcomed, especially if I've reported any wrong information...would hate to have influenced anybody interested in the hobby with bad info. Questions are equally welcomed...I probably left some info out or just don't know any better...
You may now ask..."what's your next saw"...don't know...like any tool, it's easy to see its flaws after purchase...I say "so what", I'll have fun in the meantime..."my next one will be the right one" (BTDT)
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GIVE A MAN A FISH and you feed him for a day.
TEACH HIM HOW TO FISH and you feed him for his life time.
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