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Thread: Considering a router lift

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Lafayette, CA

    Considering a router lift

    I have a Porter Cable 690 in my router table now. I like it: it's variable speed, which seems hard to find with the 690 these days. It's on a 9" x 12" Rousseau phenolic plate, and I can make do with it –– have for a decade. There are times, however, when it's a royal pain to back off a precise fence setting just to take the router and plate out of the table and shimmy the plate around in a trial-and-error dance to make an ultra fine height adjustment. Can you see where this is headed?

    Looking at the available lifts, it's a bewildering array, and they all seem to have the same names: Rout-R-Lift, Mast-R-Lift II, etc. I can't tell them apart. Can anyone guide me through this?

    Here are the features I want:
    1) Both a) quick (coarse) adjustments for changing bits and b) fine adjustments for dialing in the exact setting. Does any lift have both? I only seem to see lifts that have one level of adjustment: one 360º turn for 1/8". I thought once upon a time there were lifts with two cranks for coarse and fine. Am I dreaming?
    2) Strong plate, preferably aluminum
    3) Smooth, fluid turning mechanism with no play, friction, jerkiness, or backlash
    4) Locking to prevent height changes after setting
    5) Only has to fit my 690. I do not envision getting the 3-1/4HP 7518.
    6) Height adjustable to 0.001". I see that one mark is about 0.002" (1/8 of 1/64", or 1/512"). That can work as long as it's adjustable to half a mark with no slop.
    7) Not the most expensive lift on the market.

    I'll have to rebuild my table to fit the lift's plate, but my router table –– on the table saw extension –– is not as flat as it used to be, so it will be a nice project to beef it up anyway.

    Any recommendations?

  2. #2
    INCRA has 10% off everything right now. Master lift-2 Should do what you want. If you feel the height adjustment isn’t fine enough, you will probably want to add a DRO. I’ve been ok without it so far with limited use and the lift seems rock solid.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Fort Worth, TX
    I had many of the same wants as you, then I decided to get the Incra lift - while waiting for a sale I found a used table on Craigslist that had the woodpeckers by incra lift - with mag lock rings and a 3 1/4 PC router to boot. I’ll never go back- it is an amazing combination and the precision (coupled with a $20 wixey height gauge) is truly satisfying.

    btw - When I got the lift home I soon realized that the fine adjustment knob was not working the way should. When I turned it to raise the router the lift would drop by 20 thousandths of an inch every full turn. I was crushed, but when I called woodpeckers to see if there was a fix they sent me the part I needed, with instructions on how to fix it, for free. Simply top notch company to deal with.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Stone Mountain, GA
    I have the Incra Master Lift 2. It's a rebranded Jessem Mast-R-Lift 2.

    From your criteria I think you want this lift (Jessem or Incra). If you don't ever plan on getting a bigger router then the Jessem Rout-R-Lift could also be a good choice (it won't take the larger 3-1/4 hp routers, whereas the Mast-R lift will take almost all sizes).

    But the Mast-R-Lift 2 has a hard anodized aluminum plate vs a phenolic plate on the Rout-R-Lift. It also has an anti-backlash adjustment on the lead screw. Both of these seem to have a similar lift mechanism, and I can vouch for the Mast-R-Lift being very smooth and precise. It's pricey but I felt like I got what I paid for.

    I don't know of any router lift that has fast and slow screws. The wrench that comes with the Jessem/Incra lifts can be spun pretty fast though. If you are doing a lot of router work you could keep a cordless drill with a hex driver in it for fast changes.

    You get continuous adjustment from the lead screw, so it's very possible to adjust in 0.001 increments. But the gauge on the lift is in fractions of an inch. Very fine graduations but not quite 0.001. You would need a DRO or set up a dial indicator to be completely confident you were making a 1 thou adjustment.

  5. #5
    The woodpeckers has a special "wrench" that you stick down into the table, and can do coarse adjustments to lift it all the way up/down for bit changes. Then there is a wheel on top of the table for fine positioning.

    Ideally, I would like to have a large hand crank on the side, as in a table saw, and it looks like woodpeckers made one in the past but discontinued it.

  6. #6
    I have the Jessem MastRLift II and have been extremely satisfied with it. It satisfies all the things you're asking about. I don't find the lack of a coarse adjustment an issue, as with the offset wrenches I don't have to raise the motor all the way up.

    Be sure to check compatibility. I think the Mast-R-Lift is for larger routers and the Rout-R-Lift is for the smaller like your 690. I would mention that if you think you may want a bigger router in the future, its a consideration before you buy the lift.

    I don't know what type of work you do or your work pattern, and as I'm sure you know with a lift its a dedicated machine so you lose a router (and gain a base). For me, having a couple hand held routers is often a nice advantage so I opted for the Jessem PowerTek motor with remote power/speed control. My router table is now a real pleasure to use. .

    I even went a step further and got a small power feeder, so now running stiles and rails, grooves and profiles is actually fun!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Lebanon, TN
    I have the Woodpeckers PRL2 in a standalone router table and a Jessum Master Lift II in the end of my tables saw.

    The Woodpeckers meets all your criteria except #7, but comes close. The quick raise and lower is not the smoothest of operations, mostly because it sits exposed to where most of the sawdust goes, but it works.

    The Jessum uses a Allen keyed handle to crank it up and down. If I used this more often, I would probably use a cordless drill with a long Allen bit to do this operation.

    On the Jessem, I have the Incra top plate with their Cleansweep inserts. These are wonderful at extracting the sawdust, be it from a Dado cut where the sawdust usually fires out the end of the cut or a profile where some fence extraction can take place.

    I bought a PC7518 at the same time when I bought the Woodpeckers, so I didn't have to check the sizing of the lift to the router unit.

    When I bought the Jessem, their website lists all the router models that the lift will fit and it seemed they probably had 95% of the common models covered.

    I don't think you could go wrong with either one.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    One thing to be very aware of is that many, if not most/all of the lift systems that clamp the router motor are very much designed for the larger PC7518/Milwaukee equivalent type heavy 15 amp motors. Some have an available adapter sleeve to accommodate some of the smaller router motors like you have. Some do not. Some lift systems leverage a plunge router mechanism but they are not necessarily universal relative to models supported. IE, shop carefully...

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
    Good point Jim. I went over to the incra site out of curiosity and the mastRlift will accommodate both the 690 series and the larger 7518s without having to buy anything extra. No affiliation with any prodcts here, just a satisfied customer. As with anything, YMMV. Hopefully you’re happy with whichever model you purchase Bob.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Waterford, PA
    I have a Jessum MastRLift II. It was easy to alter my table (built into the right side of my table saw) to accept the lift and it allows me to very precisely set the bit height. The quarter turn clearance plates preclude making your own, but the set has quite a large range anyway.

  11. #11
    I have the Excalibur 40-125 (, but not sure they still offer it? It has the big PC (#75182) mounted. Height adjustments are a breeze. The lift is a 4-post design that gives me warm-fuzzies about swinging big panel raising bits. The 2-post designs with big routers just seem too light to me - YMMV. And of course, not pertinent if you're not using a big router...

    I see a SawStop 4-post version is now offered (not so when I shopped).
    Last edited by Malcolm McLeod; 12-04-2019 at 1:20 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Northern Illinois
    The Incra lift is great and, with the crank height adjustment will allow you dial in anything to at least 1/64 (maybe closer) of an inch to start with as long as it is zeroed out to the top of the table and all that without the digital height attachment. Once I get it to that point, I usually run a test piece through and then am able to fine tune it with the crank using the dial on the insert plate. I have always gotten as close as required with this lift. I have no use for the digital height gauge with that kind of adjustment capability. My only regret was that I didn't buy the table/lift a long time before I did.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Modesto, CA, USA
    For the same 300-400 dollars I would buy a used 1+1/2 Horsepower shaper with router spindle and probably a few cutters. Better fence, better dust collection, reversable. Already assembled etc.
    Bill D

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Northern Michigan
    I had the original Woodpecker PRL chain drive model. Super heavy duty but kept having problems with it getting hard to operate as gummed up with dust and chips. Kept cleaning it but got worse. They repaired it and I sold it.

    Got the Woodpecker PRL-V2 with the quick lift. Found it very frustrating to use. It has a very limited adjustment range - about 3/4”. You really can’t see where you are in that range and I kept bumping in to the limits and having to get out the quick lift wrench and start adjusting all over. Also the gear box didn’t last very long at all. Just a bunch of tiny plastic gears inside. Woodpeckers replaced the gear box and repaired it for free but I quickly sold it.

    Have the Incra JessEm now. Wow it is so smooth to operate. Easily a better product. Yes I lost the quick lift function but it is so much more enjoyable to use. No frustrations at all.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Cache Valley, Utah
    I have the Jess-Em with a PC 7518. I went from hating (and seldom using) my router table to using it all the time. This winter I got a Saw Stop CI tabletop for it. not a perfect fit, but much better than the home made table I had been using.

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