Best Router Lift in 2018 & Beyond: Ultimate Guide & Comparison
The router is an indispensable tool for both woodworking and cabinet making. The ability to cut precise grooves in solid hardwood is critical to getting the right fit for your pieces every time. However, when operating a router freehand, it can be difficult to be precise, especially when you are attempting to make cuts that have to be at exact depths in the surface of the wood.
Experts know that they can make this process much easier by adding a router lift to their work table/work bench. This lift locks your router into position underneath your table, which eliminates the human error factor that comes with free handing your router work. Take a look at our reviews and buyer’s guide to help you choose the router lift that best fits your needs.
Table of Contents
- Best Router Lift - Comparisons
- 5 Best Router Lift - Reviews
- Final Verdict
Best Router Lift - Comparisons
5 Best Router Lift - Reviews
1. Bench Dog Tools 40-150 ProLift
There are a couple of characteristics that are non-negotiable when it comes to a router lift: accuracy, precision, and stability. The Bench Dog 40-150 ProLift Router Adjustment System meets and exceeds expectations in all three categories.
First of all, the preload nut is made of solid bronze designed to prevent backdriving during operation due to motor vibration. This means once you lock in the depth you want on the router lift, it stays put and doesn’t require many adjustments to keep your cutting depth even.
Furthermore, the lead screws are direct drive, self-cleaning, and fast-acting. You never have to worry about sloppy action with use like you do with systems that use belts, chains, and gears to make adjustments. Everything stays lightly locked after each adjustment, and you can rest easy in the knowledge that your router lift will maintain its safety and precision for years.
Another feature that makes this an exceptional router lift is heavy-duty, precision-ground cast iron flat lift plate guaranteed to be perfectly level when properly installed. The motor mount for your router is also suspended using dual ball bearings instead of the cheap sleeves included with most router lift plates.
Finally, the Bench Dog 40-150 ProLift is compatible with most major name brand router motors from manufacturers like Bosch, Porter Cable, Makita, and others. If your router lift is not compatible out of the box with the router motor you already have, Bench Dog Tools makes adapters for every conceivable motor type. Altogether, the 40150 ProLift is an ideal addition to any woodworking bench or table, and provides the performance you need to produce the best possible finished products.
What we liked
- Bronze preload nut keeps router and motor locked securely in place once the cut depth has been set
- Ground cast iron plate is both stable and durable, and provides the ideal level surface for working with your cabinetry or woodworking components safely and securely.
- Lead screws are direct drive to prevent slipping or shifting over time even with heavy use
What we didn't like
- Not compatible out of the box with several major router motor manufacturers (Adapters sold separately)
- Unit is heavy at 22 lbs. without the motor, and requires a sturdy workbench or work table to support its weight.
- Action can feel a bit stiff due to direct drive compared to other similar models.
2. JessEm Mast-R-Lift II 02120 Router Lift
Built to exacting standards and developed using the latest in metallurgy and machine tools research, the Mast-R-Lift II from JessEm is ready to exceed all your expectations. Using 5 double-sealed bearings for primary motor support, the Mast-R-Lift II provides rock solid stability and smooth functioning action without the need for tightening or readjustment. Additionally, since the bearings are sealed you don’t ever need to worry about dust, grit, or debris causing the mechanism to stick or catch without regular maintenance cleaning.
The Mast-R-Lift also uses a unique cam-locking system to keep your lift stable and your bit depth precise once you have dialed in the proper setting with your adjustment wrench. A good cam lock keeps the lift mechanism and other moving parts from moving when the router is in operation, which means no stopping to readjust between cuts.
Speaking of saving time, the Mast-R-Lift II also allows you to exchange router bits above the table. Some router lifts require you to drop the motor from the mount underneath the table to swap out router bits, but all you have to o with the Mast-R-Lift is remove the safety plate, remove the bit according to the procedure for your model router and then secure the new bit in place.
As far as quality goes, JessEm Mast-R-Lift II is made of the highest quality materials using the latest manufacturing methods. The lift plate itself is CNC machined from ⅜-inch solid aluminum before being hard anodized for superior durability. Using aluminum rather than stainless steel or cast iron not only cuts down on the weight of the lift, but also makes it much easier to operate with precision.
Best of all, the Mast-R-Lift II is compatible with popular router manufacturers like Porter Cable, Bosch, DeWalt, Milwaukee, Craftsman, Rigid, Makita and Hitachi. Chances are if you are buying a router lift for our workshop, your existing router is already compatible with the Mast-R-Lift II. This lift is a solid performer that offers exceptional value to cost ratio and makes a fine addition to any woodworking or carpentry workshop.
What we liked
- CNC machined from solid aluminum for durability and longevity
- Sealed bearings provide smooth lift action and reduce the need for regular maintenance
- All bits can be exchanged above the table
What we didn't like
- Lift plate is not made of cast iron, which provides superior stability
- A little on the pricey side given the materials and technology used
- Lightweight design can feel cheap to craftsmen used to heavier, industrial or professional quality power tools
3. Kreg PRS5000 Precision Router Lift
If your primary aim is to get the most precise router lift you can for the best price, the Kreg PRS5000 Precision Router Lift will definitely get the job done for you. Bit depth can be precisely adjusted to your exacting standards using the included adjustment crank to increments as small as a thousandth of an inch. Additionally, you can improve your precision further by using the integrated micro-adjust scale to zero out your bit setting when swapping router bits to maintain the exact depth measurements according to individual bit height. This allows you to make bit changes and adjust your bit cutting depth with confidence every time. No more need for re-calibration mid-job.
This convenient precision is further demonstrated in the above-the-table bit exchange process. No more crawling around underneath your work table or bench to exchange a bit, just remove the collet plate, loosen the bit, extract it, and then pop your new bit into place. Give the mico-adjustable zero scale a quick turn, set your height, and you are ready to cut again. This simplified bit exchange process makes multiple bit projects far less time consuming, and cuts down on the frustration of constantly having to re-setup your router lift in between cuts.
Furthermore, the lift plate itself is machined from solid aluminum, providing a durable surface that isn’t prone to shifting or warping over time even with heavy use. The lift mechanism itself uses sealed bearings to maintain smooth action and stable height adjustments, and thanks to this design it also requires less cleaning to maintain functionality. All in all, the PRS5000 from Kreg is built from the ground up to let you spend more time routing and shaping your woodworking projects and less time calibrating and adjusting your router lift. This is definitely a dial-it-in-and-go router lift, and anyone looking for ultra-precise routing capability at a moderate price point should definitely check out the PRS5000 Precision Router Lift.
What we liked
- Lightweight machined aluminum design provides exceptional precision without significant added weight
- Sealed bearings keep your lift functioning smoothly without additional cleaning
- Ultra-precise height adjustment suitable for any complex woodworking project
What we didn't like
- Lightweight design takes some adjustment if you are used to heavier lifts
- Not compatible with as many router models out of the box as comparable models (may require the purchase of additional adapter accessories)
- Lift plate is machined aluminum as opposed to more durable and stable cast iron lift plates
4. Woodpeckers Precision PRL-V2-420 Lift
A superior quality router lift and a perennial favorite with hobbyists and professionals alike, the Woodpecker Precision PRL-V2-240 is popular for a multitude of reasons. First among these is the spring-assisted motor mount that makes adjusting the bit height far easier than similar comparable models. You spend far less time cranking to make a precision adjustment thanks to the spring-assist, and woodworkers and carpenters who ordinarily find router lift adjustment hard on the hands will be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it is to operate the PRL-V2-420.
Another unique feature of this router lift is the thumb wheel for micro adjustments. No need for fiddling with a tiny allen wrench, just give the thumb wheel a gentle turn and you can dial in your bit depth to exactly where you want it down to the most precise of measurements. The lift mechanism is designed to a likewise standard of excellence, and makes use of direct drive rather than belts or other drive methods means it won’t catch or snag like lesser router lifts.
In terms of quality of build, the Woodpecker PRL-V2 is built like a tank from machined stainless steel and uses sealed bearings to maintain smooth action and stability. One of the benefits to the bespoke motor mount design (you have to get the specific model Woodpecker PRL-V2 for your router) is everything fits perfectly once properly assembled and installed, allowing you to drop your router lift into your work table or bench and get to work.
The Woodpecker PRL-V2 may not have as many bells and whistles as some other router lifts in its price range, but it is a rock solid performer in terms of precision and stability over time. Bits can be changed above the table, you can bypass micro adjustment thumb-wheel using the Quick-Lift wrench system and it can handle light duty use and heavy duty use. One caveat to remember, though: make sure you buy the correct PRL-V2 for your specific model router, as these are not one-size-fits-all. While you may spend more on a Woodpecker PRL-V2, you definitely get tremendous value in return for your investment in this high quality router lift.
What we liked
- Built rock solid with a stainless steel lift plate
- Easy to dial in precision in a compact, high quality package
- Self-leveling twist lock rings
What we didn't like
- Lift plate is more stable than aluminum, but less stable than cast-iron
- Not a universal use router lift
- Direct drive needs to be cleaned with compressed air or a vacuum periodically to maintain smooth lift action
5. Jet 708124 XLIFT-K: Xacta-Lift Router
For those who are looking to give their router work a little extra support, the Jet XLIFT-K: Xacta-Lift DLX Fence makes a perfect addition to any woodworking shop. The machined aluminum lift plate has a twin locking-cam swivel fence to help guide your router cuts, and the big height is adjustable using a built-in lift crank with precision measurement settings. All you need to do is line up your fence, dial in your bit height, and fire up the motor. Everything about this router lift is designed to provide exceptional support to complement the exceptional precision of the lift.
The motor mount of the lift is made from high quality stainless steel, and uses sealed bronze bearings on ¾” solid steel shafts. This all steel construction prevents any sagging or flexing, keeping the lift mechanism stable and operating smoothly despite the heavy vibration of the motor during use. The entire assembly is meant to drop into the precut router table insert in work tables and benches, and is ready to use as soon as it is properly installed.
The deluxe fence itself is designed to mount directly to the router insert plate, which means it can be easily added to any existing 27-inch wide table saw setup, giving you the ability to use your table saw and router in the same table. The wood faces can also be adjusted right over the router bit, allowing you additional precision when shaping and cutting grooves in wood.
Bits can also be exchanged by removing the collet ring and swapping them out above the table, and the fine tuning adjustments can be zeroed to allow you to “hotswap” your router bits without needing to recalibrate your router lift. The Jet XLIFT-K with Deluxe Fence provides plenty of support and precision at a reasonable price point, and offers more versatility and quality than most router lifts in its product range.
What we liked
- Machined aluminum lift plate provides a stable, lightweight platform
- Universal mounting bracket fits routers from most major manufacturers
- Sealed brass bearings provide smooth, dependable lift action
What we didn't like
- Lift plate is not cast iron (heavier and more stable)
- Table saw fence can complicate installation and operation if you don’t actually need it
- Some routers may require an adapter to use this mount
Woodworking Tips for Router Lift by - WoodWorkers Guild Of America
Benefits Of Using A Router Lift In Your Shop
Here’s why you want to install a router lift in your workshop:
Simplify Your Router Work
The value of being able to adjust your router bit depth from above the table cannot be overstated. There’s no longer a need to scrabble around under your work table to change the depth of your cutting channel: just use a T-wrench to gradually change the bit height.
When you are working from a set of plans for a project, you need to know that your router can cut accurately to specific depths and remain stable. A router lift with a bearing system provides both the accuracy and stability you need to make the most accurate cuts possible.
Rock-Solid Base Plate
A stable work surface matters, and the less vibration the better. A router lift provides the best possible stability with a heavy metal base plate that reduces vibration while cutting channels or shaping interlocking pieces.
High quality router lifts always feature standard work table or tool bench mounting systems to simplify installation. Router plates should always be pre-drilled, and don’t consider a router lift that doesn’t have a pre-drilled plate.
Here are the features and capabilities of a router lift that you want to think over when shopping for your own router lift.
Check out the materials that are used in the construction of your router lift. It may be heavier, but the more metal, the better. Brass, cast iron, stainless steel, and machined aluminum. These materials handle high power motors more effectively, and they also can withstand heavier use for extended periods of time.
While most router lifts are compatible with many router models, they are far from universal. You need to make sure that your existing router works with the router lift you are planning to buy. Trying to use an incompatible router with any lift is not only going to offer poor performance, but it is also a shop safety hazard. If your router isn’t listed on the box, definitely check with the lift manufacturer to see if they offer a model that fits, or if adapters are available that will work with your router.
To make the most precise cuts, you need the ability to lock your lift into place. When you can lock in your settings, there is far less play in your router as you cut and you will have to make far fewer adjustments between cuts or jobs. There are cam locks, lever locks, and bolt locks, but of these the cams and bolts tend to provide the best stability.
Router lifts are built to function with specific fixed plunge routers. These routers allow you to remove the motor and attach it to the fixed stability lift. If you don’t own a router with a removable motor, you need to ensure the lift you are buying can be used with a non-removable router motor.
If you want smooth height adjustment action, you want a router lift with ball bearings in the lift mechanism. Sealed bearings made of bronze tend to provide the best action and require the least maintenance. Multiple bearing lift mechanisms are also good, but check to see if the design is sealed or open and what material is used to manufacture the bearings.
- Before You Buy, Ask The Following Questions:
- Is my work table compatible with this specific router lift?
- Is my router compatible with this router lift?
- Will I be removing the router motor from the base?
Asking yourself or a power tool sales professional these questions before making a buying decision is essential to getting the right fit. Provided you do your homework though, you should get plenty of value for your investment.
Using our criteria and router lift reviews, our first choice for the best router lift in 2018 is the JessEm Mast-R-Lift II 02120 Router Lift. Constructed of high quality materials and built to last, the Mast-R-Lift II fits most major brand routers, and is one of the smoothest functioning router lifts on the markets.
The ability to make precise adjustments and exchange router bits from above the table quickly and easily make the Mast-R-Lift II an exceptional value. Combined with the sealed bronze bearings, machined aluminum plate, and solid steel mounting bolts, there is nothing about this router that says inferior quality, precision and stability.
When you are shopping for a router lift for your workshop, definitely give the JessEm Mast-R-Lift II 02120 Router Lift a first look and check it out for yourself. You will not be disappointed.