Either if you already have a router table in your workshop, or you are thinking about getting one, a router lift is a great addition to it, no doubt. It doesn’t modify the way a router table works, but it makes operating it way easier. With standard router tables, changing bits and adjustments have to be done from under the table, which is can be cumbersome. It’s also harder to get a fine adjustment when you need it. Router lifts make those steps much more simpler. Which router lift should you get, though?
In this quick article, we’ll talk about Jessem Mast-R-Lift and the Incra Mast-R-Lift. They are both valid pieces of equipment with minimal differences. We’ll detail those in the following paragraph; based on those information, we’ll decide which one you should buy. Do you want the answer now? I’ll choose the Incra lift.
What is a Router Lift? What Does it Do?
As suggested by its name, a router lift is a woodworking machine that accommodates your router and moves it up and down with fine adjustments. If you are familiar with router tables, router lifts are basically an upgrade. Compared to a simple router table, a router lift makes it easier to set up your router, since you work from the top without having to do adjustments under the table.
A router lift is a great addition to your router table. It will take your woodworking to another level. The main advantage of using a router lift is that it allows you to make super precise depth adjustments. There’s a crank to spin on the top of the lift; for most router lifts, every revolution moves the router 1/16 of an inch. On top of that, you won’t struggle any more when changing bits. With a fixed router table, you would have to remove the router from below to access the threaded nuts that keep the bit in place. With a router lift, you can access and change the bit from the top of the table by moving the router all the way up.
In conclusion, a router lift will eliminate the most tedious parts of working with a router table, and it will increase your precision and accuracy.
Jessem vs Incra Router Lift: In-Depth Comparison
We learned the advantages of having a router lift over a simple router table. The following question is: what router lift to choose? In the following paragraph, we’ll compare two of the most famous router lifts, the Jessem Mast-R-Lift and the Incra Mast-R-Lift.
First, a few words about the companies. Incra is based in Texas, while Jessem is based in Canada. Both companies produce woodworking positioning tools; Jessem is specialized in router accessories, such as router lifts and tables (which they claim to have invented in 1999).
The most important thing to keep in mind is that both lifts are manufactured by Jessem. So most of the following considerations are valid for both lifts.
When it comes to woodworking tools, the materials used are very important. Accuracy can only be achieved by using top-quality materials. That is true with these lifts. Let’s take the top plates, for example. They are made in aluminum, which is also hard anodized. That guarantees abrasion resistance.
Both lifts are heavy-duty, and they will probably last you a lifetime.
The only difference in materials lies in the ring system. The Jessem inserts are made in plastic and need to be screwed in.
The Incra reducing rings are magnetic and lock in place on their own.
This is a key aspect to keep in mind when considering buying a router lift. Compared to a router table, a router lift is way easier to adjust and also more accurate. The mechanism is the same with both Jessem and Incra lifts: using the provided lift crank you can move the router up and down for a very fine amount. A complete revolution corresponds to 1/16″, a quarter revolution to 1/64″, and so on. The spindle comes with notches which come in handy.
After you are done, lock the lift in place by cranking the locking mechanism, all above the table. This is a nice addition that will guarantee you stability even during the most demanding routing activities.
Another aspect to keep in mind when getting a lift is if it will fit your router! Both Jessem and Incra lifts rock a clamping system made of 4 aluminum blocks which can be adjusted accordingly to your router size. Thanks to that, they fit most router sizes, at least the most common ones. Just to be sure, check it beforehand. You don’t want to buy a router lift that won’t fit your router.
Easiness of Use
This is one of the main reasons to get a router lift. Instead of having to reach under the table, router lifts allow you to change bit directly from above. Simply remove the reducing ring, then move the bit all the way up for easy access. Don’t forget to unplug the power source when performing such activities! It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
In this quick article, we first assessed the reason why you should upgrade your router table with a router lift. It’s easier to use, especially when you need to change bits, and guarantees you a finer depth adjustment.
Then, we talked a bit about two premium lifts marketed by Jessem and Incra. We learned that they are both made by Jessem and they are pretty much the same. The only discordant note is the plastic inserts of the Jessem. They make the all package feels cheap, and I don’t really get why they would go with those on a premium tool like this.
Since the price tag is similar, I’d go with the Incra Mast-R-Lift. If you can get a good deal for a Jessem Mast-R-Lift lift, you should go for that one. At the end of the day, the plastic rings don’t constitute a problem during day-to-day usage.
Finally, a few suggestions to make the most out of your router lift:
- When getting a router lift, make sure your table is able to support it. Consider putting additional support to avoid the table cupping in the middle.
- For the best results, make sure to feed the piece from the right direction, which is against the rotating direction. Moreover, make sure to let the bit work at its own rate, don’t force your project onto it.
- Consider installing some sort of dust collection to keep your shop clean. A good idea might be getting a CleanSweep Cabinet. This accessory made by Incra goes under the router table and can be installed easily. It also helps with noise reduction, which is a plus.
That’s it for this article! Let me know which router lift is your favorite in the comments below.