There are a lot of router lifts on the market, and while they might look extremely similar at first glance, there’s a lot you need to consider when making your purchase so that you end up with a product you’ll love using for years to come. Router lifts aren’t a necessary investment, but getting the right one makes your work easier and faster, so it’s important that you make a good decision.
Whether you’re new to working with routers or an expert looking to upgrade your equipment, we’ve got something for you in our reviews of the best router lifts of 2020.
|JessEm Mast-R-Lift II 02120|
|Kreg PRS5000||2-1/2 inch||4.65/5|
|Incra Master Lift II||3-1/2 inch||4.40/5|
|MLCS 9562||4.2 inch||4.30/5|
If you’re looking for a great router lift, you can’t go wrong with the JessEm Mast-R-Lift II. The fact that this router lift is made from some of the best parts on the market means that it’s an investment that will last you a very long time.
The Mast-R-Lift II also has one of the widest ranges of compatibility with routers from multiple brands, meaning that if you already own a router or have multiple routers you like to switch between, you’re in good shape.
Of the router lifts on our test, it’s the easiest to install, and also one of the most secure, really cutting down on vibration and backlash that plagued other models. The only downside is that it only comes with one insert for securing a router, meaning that you if you want to use multiple routers you will have to buy extra.
The Kreg PRS5000 is a good all-around router lift. It features a micro-adjustment scale capable of changes that vary by just thousands of an inch, meaning that you get the exact cut you want on your router.
It also has compatibility with more than 20 routers across a variety of brands, without any need for adapters or modifications. This means that swapping out routers for different tasks is easier on this router lift than on others. It also lowers the cost of operation in the long term, so you should definitely check out this model if you have multiple routers or are planning to upgrade shortly.
One small downside is that this router lift cannot be leveled from the top, so you may have to take it off and put it on a few times as you make adjustments.
The JessEm 02310 is the Mast-R-Lift II’s little brother, which means that you’re getting a stripped-down version of the best router lift on the market. The upside is that you’re getting the same quality parts and craftsmanship that you find on the more expensive model.
The downside is that it is compatible with a lower number of models, and one of the ways they cut costs was by using a system that is more time-consuming for changing out routers.
If you already own one of the models that it supports, and if you’re planning to use one router, then this is one of the best purchases you could make. You’d be getting a model very close to one of the best router lifts on the market, for much less money. That’s a great deal!
The best thing about the Incra Master Lift II is the quality. This isn’t a router lift that you’re going to wear out any time soon.
However, it’s a very expensive router lift, and you would such a hefty price tag would mean that it has a wide range of compatibility with routers of all brands and sizes. This is not the case with this router lift, as it has one of the most limited ranges of compatible routers.
It also doesn’t work with the popular Kreg-brand router tables without purchasing a conversation kit, which is an additional expense on top of a router lift that was expensive to start with. If you’re spending this much money on a router lift, wouldn’t you want it to natively fit into your router table?
If you have an Incra router table and a compatible router, this might not be a bad buy, but it’s not going to be the right buy for most people.
The MLCS 9562 is certainly not the best router lift on the market. There’s a good chance that you’re going to have to adjust and sometimes machine some of the parts yourself in order to get it functional right off the bat. If it were priced like a discount model, then maybe this would be more acceptable, but it’s pretty expensive relative to some of the other models on our list.
It also features an awkward design, using a side-mounted handle for height adjustment instead of top-mounted like on most router lifts.
There are two ways of looking at this. Either it’s a good design choice because you don’t have to take your work off the table to adjust the router. Or, it’s a lazy design choice, not compatible with most tables, and self-defeating, in that the point of a router lift is to not have to spend as much time below the table. This isn’t going to be the right router lift for most people.
Hopefully, our reviews have given you some aspects to consider when making your decision about which router lift to buy. If you’ve never owned a router lift before or if you’re looking to replace one you’ve owned for a long time, you’ll benefit from getting outside opinion and advice before making your purchase. This buyer’s guide is designed to help you understand the above reviews in context, but also to allow you to make a fully informed decision when you’re ready to buy.
We stressed this a lot in our reviews, but it is important to make sure that you choose a router lift that will be compatible with a router you own. It’s always frustrating to buy something and start putting it together, only to realize that it doesn’t fit what you already have. You can save yourself a lot of time by making sure to read through the list of compatible routers before purchasing a router lift.
If you have an older router, your calculations should change somewhat. While you definitely should purchase a router lift that fits the router that you own, you may want to purchase a model with a wider range of compatible routers. While we wish it were different, most power tools eventually wear down and break beyond repair. If there’s a chance you might be buying a new router shortly, choosing with a lift with a wider range gives you options when you go to buy.
It’s also important to make sure that the router lift you buy will be compatible with your router table. Not all models work with all tables. Other require conversion kits that cost extra. Sometimes that will work out fine, but other times the fit will not be quite as tight as you’d like it to be. You’d hate to end up with extra vibrations that affect your cut because your router lift doesn’t fit correctly in your table. Like with your router, if your router table is aging you may want to consider a router lift with a wider range of compatible tables so that you have flexibility. You may not want to purchase the same router table again for price or quality reasons.
It’s also important to check out how easy it is to change out routers. If you only own one router and plan to only own one router, this isn’t as big of a deal. Some people like to own multiple to be able to do different kinds of projects with a greater degree of control, which means they’re going got be swapping out their routers. If that’s you, you’d be wise to invest in a router lift which makes it easy to change routers. While it’s possible for all router lifts, you will save a lot of time if you choose a model that is designed to make it easy.
One of the big things that separate the top-tier router lifts from the bargain models is how easy they are to use. All of them can be leveled, for instance, but some models make it far easier than others. Some can be leveled from above the table, which is certainly the easiest method. Others require changing out washers or other parts, which requires testing how level the router lift is, and taking the router lift completely off to change. If it’s not quite right on the first try, you could end up spending some time getting it right, which is less time spent working on your actual projects.
This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for you, necessarily, but you do need to honestly assess the value of your time. If you’re having to squeeze out time for shop projects already, it may be worth it to spend a bit more money to get an easier-to-setup router lift.
You should also research how easy it is to get a router setup to use with a router lift. Some router lifts require just a couple minutes of work to get the router installed, while others have a more complicated process. Most designs are secure, so you shouldn’t worry about the router lift dropping your router during operation, but as with all devices, you should be aware of the amount of time you’re likely to spend setting things up.
Some router lifts also require the purchase of extra parts to trade out multiple routers easily. This will drive up the total cost some, but also saves some time in the long run. Of course, this is something you only really need to pay attention to if you have multiple routers, but it bears driving this point home. You shouldn’t waste time or money in the shop if you don’t have to.
You should also strive to buy a router lift that allows for above-the-table bit changes. This is a little thing that is available on most units, but you’ll find yourself wasting a lot of time under your router table if it doesn’t allow for those changes. This is one of the primary reasons that most people purchase a router lift, so don’t cheat yourself out of a good deal by buying an inferior model.
You always want to get the cut that you’re expecting to get when you’re using a router. The quality of your router lift can affect your ability to do so. Better-quality router lifts are better designed to ward off vibration, which means that you should have an overall-smoother cutting experience. Vibrations usually mean that you’ve set something up wrong if you’re using a router lift, though a manufacturing defect may have come into play. You’ll want to make sure that you’re getting a quality model and installing it correctly because vibrations in your router are something that can transform a perfect cut into a merely-okay one.
You should also note how precisely the router lifts can be adjusted. Some models can be adjusted down to a few thousandths of an inch, which leads to incredibly precise cuts. Preictally, this might not mean much, but it’s always better to be more precise when building something than less. You’ll also want to make sure that you get a model that doesn’t have much give, or really, any give at all in it while adjusting. You should be able to feel confident that you’ve set the router depth to what you want it to be when you lock it in before the cut, and models with give really lessen that confidence.
Like with most things, better quality generally comes at a higher price. This is also true with router lifts, though we outlined some options that are excellent quality but won’t break the bank. If you choose to go with a cheap model, you run the risk of getting a router lift that isn’t up to the task.
Poor-quality routers announce themselves in multiple ways. A common fault is a warped baseplate. No matter how many times you try to level the plate, and no matter how careful you are when trying to do so, it will never sit quite flush with the table it sits in. This can become irritating when you’re trying to slide wood from the table towards the router, as it will catch on the lip that forms. Mostly, this will just be an irritation and make it harder to get the wood you’re working to sit flat, but if you’re working with softer woods, you run the risk of chipping or splitting the wood.
The good news is that the best way to avoid this problem is simple: buy a higher-quality router with a baseplate made of better materials. Not only will it be less likely to be warped, but it will also, in many cases, be more scratch-resistant, and generally last longer. Sometimes higher prices seem extreme, but when they are used to deliver a product made of better materials, then they pay for themselves in extra years of life.
The risk you run when you buy cheap equipment is that you’re going to receive something with shoddy craftsmanship right out of the box. In some instances, the defects are cosmetic, or something that you could fix at home, while other times the defects will be so severe that you will need to return the product.
This ends up being a huge waste of time. Saving money usually isn’t worth it when you have to correct factory errors on your own time and at your own expense. And if you have to return the router lift, you’ll waste more time choosing, ordering, and waiting for your router lift.
While there is a lot to consider, you can certainly get an excellent router lift without breaking the bank. A few of the important factors that we discussed above include the durability of the router lift, the time it will take to install, the precision you will require, and the compatibility with tables and routers.
If we could sum up what all of this means in a single sentence, we would say that it means to that you need to figure out what you expect out of your router lift, and what time and resources you will be able to invest in it. The balance between price and quality, or the value that you get out of a purchase, is something that is going to vary from person-to-person, based on your personal situation and the kinds of projects that you want to. Hopefully, we’ve given you all the information you need to make a well-informed decision.
The JessEm Mast-R-Lift II was the best all-around router lift in our reviews. Since it boasts a high-quality build, great design for switching out routers, as well as a wide range of compatible routers, it would be hard to find anything better on the market. The Kreg PRS5000 is an excellent runner-up, with a wide range of compatible routers and precision adjustments. The JessEm 02310 brings a lot of the Mast-R-Lift II’s features, but comes at a lower price, making it the best value for the money. The Incra Master Lift II might work for some people, but its general lack of compatibility with many routers makes it the wrong buy for many people. And, the MLCS 9562 suffers from a poor build quality and strange design, despite its hefty price tag, making it a very poor-value purchase.
It’s not always easy to figure out which model is just right for you, but we hope that these reviews and buyer’s guide will help you pick the router lift that will serve you best for years to come.
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!