Motorized Router Lift
THE new PowerLift from MLCS has the potential to take woodworkers one step closer to the ultimate router table. Using only a foot pedal, you can raise or lower your router bit by a few thousandths of an inch. A digital readout gives you the exact height of the bit. Total travel is up to 4".
The PowerLift allows you to make mortises and stopped grooves by plunging upwards into a board, which is much safer than lowering a board on a spinning bit. You can’t make upward plunge cuts with a hand-cranked router lift, of course.
The PowerLift’s control box has two buttons for moving the router up or down, two buttons for adjusting the speed of that movement, a button for changing the readout from inches to millimeters and a button for zeroing out the height of the bit at any point.
While all these features work well, there is room for improvement. For example, the PowerLift has a mechanical depth stop—a rod attached to the lift that stops the lift’s upward movement when the end of the rod contacts a switch. We found the rod awkward to use. Hitting a specific height to within a few thousandths of an inch required trial-and-error adjustments of the rod. Ideally, we would want an electronic, programmable stop. You’d simply punch in a number and the bit would automatically stop at that programmed height. The PowerLift doesn’t have that capability.
The PowerLift comes mounted to a 9" x 12-1/8" aluminum router plate. Once you fit the plate to your table—or just drop it into a table from MLCS—setup is pretty straightforward. Mount a router in the lift, attach the digital control box to your table, plug in four cables, power up and you’re ready to go. The lift travels high enough to bring the router’s collet above the table, so you can change bits quite easily.
The lift only fits 3-1/2" dia. fixed-base routers, such as the Porter-Cable PC690 and 890 series, Dewalt DWD616, Bosch 1617EVS and 1618EVS, and Craftsman 320.17543. Most of these routers have 1-3/4 hp to 2-1/4 hp motors. If you’re going to use large panel-raising bits, we recommend the extra power of a 3 hp router, such as the Porter-Cable 7518 or Milwaukee 5625-20. These routers have 4" dia. motor housings, and won’t fit the PowerLift.
MLCS, mlcswoodworking.com, 800-533-9298, PowerLift, #9450, $390; PowerLift System plus Router Table Top and Fence, #2200, $520; PowerLift System plus Router Extension Table (for a tablesaw), #2201, $520; PowerLift System plus Cast-Iron Router Extension Table (for a tablesaw), #2202, $610.