DeWalt DW788 Scroll Saw
by John McAtee

DW788Introduction & Caveat: I am generally suspicious of tool reviews because they are usually a sample of only one unit which is not statistically representative of the quality, usability and durability of the overall population. For that reason, this review attempts to clearly identify facts from impressions and the reader is encouraged to treat this information as a single instance of evidence.

Unpacking & Assembly: The DW788 came very well packed in a carton measuring 12 x 22 x30 inches. and weighing about 65 lbs. My impression of the packing was based on the fact that there was an abundance of cardboard spacers and absolutely no room for any parts to move or shift. There were only three pieces in the box: the saw body, the cast iron table and a ziplock bag containing several blades, two mounting screws and a hex wrench. Assembly was simple and consisted of sliding the rear of the table onto a cylindrical pin on the lower arm of the saw and then attaching the table to bevel scale assembly with two hex bolts. Put in the saw blade and you are ready to run. Total assembly time was less than 5 minutes and the instruction manual adequately explained and illustrated the process.

Setup: The base of the scroll saw has a footprint of 25 x 10.5 inches. The teardrop-shaped table is 16” wide by 24” deep and will add another 8 “ to the front of the saw and 3” to each side of the saw bringing the total footprint to 33 x 16 inches. The base has three mounting holes. Two are in the front foot and one in the rear. Subsequent operation of the unit showed that its weight and low center of gravity, coupled with a relative absence of vibration, made bolting the unit down unnecessary. A stand for the scroll saw is an optional accessory. A work light, which attaches to the rear left side of the arm assembly with two screws, is a second optional accessory.

Blade mounting is easily accomplished in three steps. The first step is to insure the blade tension lever, which is mounted on the front of the top arm, is moved to its fully-relaxed position. The blade can then be mounted in the upper and lower arms by tightening a thumbscrew in each. The final step is to reset the blade tensioning lever to its proper position. My impression of the tensioning lever was very favorable in that it is conveniently-located, readily transmits blade tension “feel” to the hand and locks well into place. Both the upper and lower blade mounting assemblies have a hex screw opposite the tightening thumbscrew that allow you to set the blade to the side (versus front-to-back) perpendicular.

Operation: The off/on switch is located at the front of the upper arm and controls a 1.3 amp motor. People who do a lot of scroll sawing may want foot controls, which are not available as DeWalt accessories at this time of writing. A variable speed control knob, located immediately behind the on/off switch , allows you to adjust the cutting speed from 400 to 1750 strokes per minute. The unit has parallel upper and lower arms that eliminate the slight over/under cut typical of conventional “C-arm” units.

Operating Impressions: There are a number of factors you may want to consider when selecting a scroll saw. Some of these are summarized below with accompanying impressions.

  1. Noise: The unit seemed only slightly noisier than the average sewing machine.
  2. Vibration: Vibration was negligible. The unit passed my “penny test” - I was able to balance a penny on the table top and turn the machine on and off without the penny falling over.
  3. Cut: As previously stated, parallel arm units eliminate the slight over/under cut of c-arm units; however they cut less aggressively as a result. The DeWalt provides a very clean, almost polished, cut but your feed rate has to be slower. The throat depth of 20” gives you a lot of working room.
  4. Table Size: The 16” x 24” teardrop table is pleasingly large and should handle about anything.
  5. Bevel Adjustment: The bevel adjustment has a large tightening knob and an adjustable indexing marker. When loosened, there is sufficient “slop” in the movement of the table to warrant taking care not to hit the blade when you tilt the table. This is to say that table movement is not precise.
  6. Weight & Mass: This is a substantial unit that gives the impression of being “industrial” in nature.
  7. Fit And Finish: I would rate this as very good to excellent.
  8. Dust Blower: The adjustable dust blower had sufficient flexibility and nozzle pressure to blow sawdust away from your face.
  9. Hold-Down: The hold down is relatively flimsy and close to the blade. Although the hold-down also acts as a blade guard, I suspect many people would opt not to use it.
  10. Work Light: The optional work light is relatively dim at 25 watts. This light’s only advantage may be that it attaches neatly to the body of the saw.
  11. Blade Tensioning: The blade tensioning lever is convenient and does a good job of transmitting the “feel” of the tension and holding its setting.
  12. Upper Arm Lift: Being able to lift up the upper arm up makes it much easier to thread blades through holes in the work piece and the DW788’s upper arm lifts easily. You should note, however that people who do a lot of intense work generally end up building, buying or wanting an arm lift mechanism that allows them to use both hands threading and mounting the blade.
  13. EVS: The electronic variable speed control is continuously variable and holds its speed well It does not have any indicators or marks that tell you what the speed is, however.
  14. Off/On Switch: A foot-operated, off/on variable speed control would be a desirable accessory.

Overall Impression: The DW788 is a lower to mid-range priced unit of high-quality and value whose characteristics approach those of the higher-end units, such as Excalibur and Hegner.