Some readers may not be familiar with the JessEm Tool Company of Barrie, Ontario. JessEm, founded in 1999, was the first company in North America to manufacture a router lift, and over the past three years their flagship product, the “Rout-R-Lift”, has been consistently rated the best lift on the market.
A router lift, as the name implies, is a mechanical device that enables you to raise and lower your router without having to mess around under your router table. If you do a lot of router work this accessory can be a real time saver. The Mast-R-Lift is both an insert plate and router lift. The top of the Mast-R-Lift, which serves as an insert plate, is manufactured from a solid piece of 1” aluminum, and measures 11 ¾” wide by 9 ¼” deep. The plate on the unit I tested was perfectly flat, with no deflection at all. There is a 3/8” rabbet along the bottom edge of the plate to enable you to make a snug fit in your router tabletop.
The bit opening is a generous 3 ⅝” diameter. When using small sized bits you insert a reducer ring, which has a 1 ½” diameter opening. The reducer ring is easily inserted or removed with the supplied tool. For greater convenience you can purchase an accessory kit of reducer rings with openings of ¼”, ½”, 1 ⅜” and 2 ½”. Underneath the insert plate is a carriage that holds the router. The carriage, which is CNC precision machined from 1” solid aluminum, allows 3 ½” of vertical router travel. The two carriage posts are 1 ¼” in diameter with 1” diameter precision steel pins. In between the two carriage posts is a threaded steel arm, which is attached to a gear via a maintenance-free rubber belt.
Turning the gear moves the carriage up or down. You turn the gear by means of a height adjuster handle that fits into the gear through the top of the insert plate.
One full turn of the height adjuster handle moves the bit 1/16” (.0625”). There are a series of 32 tick marks on the adjustment dial. Each tick mark measures a .0020” movement of the bit. That’s probably the best level of accuracy you’re likely to get with any router riser on the market.
Installing your router on the Mast-R-Lift is very easy. Loosen the two bolts that hold the carriage clamp to the body of the Mast-R-Lift. Then slide your router in between the carriage posts. The Mast-R-Lift was designed to hold the Porter Cable 7518 router. For mid-size fixed-base routers with 3.2” or 3 ½” diameter motors, like my Porter Cable 690, you’ll need their adapter collar, which you place over the router. Tighten the bolts, and install the Mast-R-Lift into the opening in your tabletop. (Note: you may have to enlarge the opening in your tabletop).
You can easily level the insert plate flush with the top of your router table by means of the four levelling bars located under each corner of the insert plate. At 14 pounds (without your router attached), the Mast-R-Lift has a lot of mass, which helps to reduce vibration. About the most convenient feature of the Mast-R-Lift is the ability to change router bits without having to reach under the router table or remove your router from its housing. Simply turn the height adjustment handle until the lock nuts on the router bit are above the tabletop.
If you are doing a lot of router work, constantly changing bits, then this feature alone is worth the price of the Mast-R-Lift. I was very pleased with how quickly and accurately I could adjust bit height. When first setting height adjustment I doublechecked accuracy with the Blade Gauge II precision height adjustment tool. Once I got the knack of using the height adjustment scale I made a dozen successive cuts with 1/32” increments; every one was bang on.
The Mast-R-Lift is a very durable, well-constructed product, which should provide years of trouble free service. It does exactly what it claims to do, and does it well. I highly recommend this woodworking accessory. The Mast-R-Lift jig is competitively priced at $379.99, and comes with a two year warranty. For the dealer nearest you call JessEm at 1-866-272-7492, or visit their Web site at: www.jessem.com
Carl Duguay - [email protected]
Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.