How much router do you need in your router table? It’s a good question to ask yourself before you start buying equipment. As with most things, bigger and better costs more, but changing your mind later on is still the most expensive solution of all. Rather than risking the expense of replacing an inadequate set-up, we recommend taking careful stock of your table routing requirements, and buying a router that fits the bill at the outset.
A modest 1-3/4 HP model, like the highly rated Porter Cable 690, will have the most attractive price tag and could turn out to be perfectly adequate, if your work tends toward small projects. It’s also a good choice for a small bench top table, where portability and storability usually trumps the need for loads of power. But if you’re planning to do anything beyond light-duty edge forming and the occasional groove or dado, a router in this class is likely to be a disappointment in the long run.
A step up to a 2-1/4 HP router will give you much more versatility. The Bosch 1617EVS consistently gets a good report card, and will allow you to use larger edge forming and joinery bits, and raise panels with vertical bits without bogging down. For a hobbyist who doesn’t have to worry about production-class speed and durability, a router from this group often turns out to be just the thing.
But if the ability to tackle any size routing task you want is important, we urge you to look seriously at a router in the 3-1/4 HP class. And if that’s the way you decide to go – and you wouldn’t mind the added accuracy and convenience of a top quality router lift – right now is a good time to act. For a limited time, Rockler is offering a great price on a router lift / router motor package that will do anything your can throw at it accurately, conveniently and with plenty of muscle. With the JessEm Mast-R-Lift & Porter Cable 7518 Router Motor Package, you’ll get the power to drive even the largest router bits, accurate bit height adjustments, and above the table bit changes for not much more than you could spend on a router alone.
A no-nonsense powerhouse, the Porter Cable 7518 is a longstanding favorite of professionals and serious hobbyists for router table use. Its 15 amp motor puts it at the top of its class, and its electronic 5-speed control offers an RPM range that will cover everything from 1/4” straight bits to huge horizontal panel raisers. To amenities like soft-start circuitry and a frustration-saving auto-release collet, the 7518 adds totally sealed bearings and a unique design that put the bottom bearing extra close to the work for decreased runout and vibration.
Actually a little more router than you need for most handheld operations, the PC 7518 makes an excellent dedicated router table router. And happily, it’s available at Rockler in a “motor only” form at a significant cost savings. Add to that the current $25 mail-in rebate offer from the manufacturer and the limited time discount on the lift package and it turns out to be a lot of router for the money. Best of all, you won’t ever find yourself wishing you’d sprung for a unit with more guts.
And the Mast-R-Lift? There are two things a router lift can give you: easy, accurate bit height adjustment and easy bit changes – both do-able from above the table. The Mast-R-Lift handles both admirably. Voted “best bet” by woodworking author Geoge Vondriska in a recent Woodworker’s Journal router lift comparison, the Mast-R-Lift will save you the awkward sub-table fumbling you’ll experience time and time again if you simply bolt a router and base to the underside of your router station. As important, the Mast-R-Lift lets you make accurate bit height adjustments from above surface of the table using a handy drop-in “speed handle”. Each turn of the handle moves the bit up or down 1/16”. This adjustment ratio is gradual enough for exceedingly fine adjustments but still lets you crank the collet up above the table in a hurry when it’s time to change the bit.
The lift mechanism rides on two ground and polished shaft situated in four sintered bronze bearings. The operation feels smooth and effortless, even with a whooping 3-1/4 HP router installed. The Mast-R-lift also features a unique adjustable thread tensioning device, which simultaneously eliminates backlash and the need to lock in the height setting – just crank the height up to where you need it and you’re ready to route.
The lift mechanism itself is bolted to a 9-1/4″ x 11-3/4″ x 3/8″ aluminum plate with appreciable features of its own. It’s ground flat to within .002” and is equipped with an easy-to-set plate leveling mechanism. Once you have the plate perfectly flush with the surface of your table, you can snug it in place with the built-in insert adjusters.
The plate comes with one “Tab Lock” insert with 1-1/2” bit opening. If you’ve ever been disappointed by wonky router table inserts that won’t stay in place or have to be ground down to sit flush with the surface of the table, you’ll especially appreciate the Tab Lock set-up. With a gentle twist of the included insert wrench, the Tab Lock inserts are held firmly in place and perfectly level with the surface of the plate. A set of four variously-sized additional inserts is also available and includes a 1-1/4” guide busing-compatible diameter for table top pattern routing.
It’s a great set up, and right now it’s available at an especially great price. The JessEm Mast-R-Lift & Porter Cable 7518 Router Motor Package would make the perfect complement to a custom built router table. You can make it fit your custom-crafted router station easily and precisely with the Mast-R-Lift Installation Template. Or, you can let us do the work by picking up a Rockler Mast-R-Lift Table (top only) for around $60 without a fence, and $120 with. Either way, you’ll be all set for a lifetime of heavy-duty table routing on a set-up that won’t leave you thinking, “Why didn’t I get the big one!”