Router Lift and the Triton Router

(Updated Oct 08)

It has come up a number of times in discussions whether there are benefits of a router lift.

The router lift has a single purpose: to accurately control the height of the router bit, and provide a stable platform for that bit in operation. The reason for having one, is if your router’s features are not fulfilling this requirement already. Many (most) routers are not designed for table use. They may be plunge routers (with or without a microadjuster, or one that you have to engage then wind through the whole plunge range to set bit height), fixed base routers etc. Setting the bit height when the router is inverted is an absolute pain. They also may be cheaper construction, so are not particularly stable until fully plunged.

Then we have the whole issue of bit changing. Trying to get 2 spanners (or 1 and engaging the shaft lock) while under the table can be an absolute nightmare. Or, you have to design the table in a way that it lifts out of the way providing better access to the router.

For all these reasons, the router lift is a god-send. You plunge the router to full depth (stability), and lock the plunge mechanism. You mount the router in the lift, and never see it again! All height adjustment is done above-table, and you rely on the quality of the router lift mechanism to maintain the bit height when subjected to the vibrations of a router running at speeds up to 20,000RPM. A good lift has no problem with this. To change bits, you buy a bit extender ($A120 – $A180)- which is simply a collet on a 1/2″ shaft, so at full height, it is accessed above the table. Some secure the router bit with a simple cam others have a more traditional collet mechanism. So now we have: above table height adjustment, above table bit changing, and any weaknesses in the plunge mechanism of the router (reasonably) taken care of.

The Triton router does overcome a fair bit of this (although I now use a Triton router with a router lift!) What does the Triton router give me? Easy height adjustment, with geared macro, and micro adjusters that work through the entire range of the router, and you can start using the micro adjuster at any point. Through table bit changing built into the router. (And not to mention, 3 1/4 horsepower, 1/2″ collet, and a whole heap of other features built in). So you don’t have above table height adjustment, but that isn’t critical. Why? Because I am already kneeling down when setting my bit height as I am sighting across the bit to the ruler, or the bit of stock that is about to be machined etc, so it makes no difference whether the handle is above or below the table – either way it is right there in easy reach. While there, I then lock the plunge mechanism, and turn the router on. (A good router table has a second on-off switch that is easy access, especially for stopping, so you only turn the router off at the router itself for bit-changing).

My solution is both a router lift, and Triton router.  I don’t need to use an extender, so long as I am prepared to use the Triton quick plunge (reaching under the table).

Did I say that I really don’t like router bit extenders? They have a purpose, for the occasional job, but I don’t like seeing them in every day use. There is a lot of load on a router bit – why multiply that load with an extender? (Like putting 2 kids on a seesaw- one much further from the centre than the other – it multiplies the load) All that extra load has to be borne by the router’s bearings, and collet. And I really concerned about extenders that use a cam to hold the router bit – one small contact area on the cam itself, and by it’s nature, you are pushing the router bit off-centre against the opposite wall of the collet to secure it. Did I mention 20,000 RPM?

Food for thought?

 

4 Responses

  1. Hi,

    I enjoy your website, and find it very useful. I ended up buying a Triton 3 1/4 HP router based largely on what you wrote about it. I am just starting to use it, but love it so far. However, I ran into a problem this week using a rail and stile bit. It ripped the board out of my hands (I stupidly was feeding the board between the bit and the fence). I know this is ridiculously ignorant, I am normally good with tools but this is a new one to me and I completely brain farted it. Anyway, the featherboard at the end of the fence kept the board from becoming an airborne missile, but now the collet of the router seems to be damaged. I am having trouble with bit exchanges (it is too tight). I also have some gashes in the shank of my rail and stile bit.

    Do you know where I can purchase a new Triton collet (or a collet that will work on this model)? Also, does a gash in a bit shank ruin the bit or can it still be used?

    Regards,
    Dave in Chicago

  2. These things happen – won’t be the first (or last) time I’ve had things propelled around the workshop too!

    WRT the collet:
    If you feel that it has been rendered unsafe, then replacement is definitely the best option.
    In considering that, when you do get a bit into it, does it still run true, or is there any noticeable out-of balance/ off centre rotation occurring.
    The tightness in getting another router bit in and out – is it that there has been a little damage to the end of the collet, or is the whole thing been distorted somewhat.
    I imagine you have the US collet, which is more intricate that the original collet, so it can hold a router bit much better, but I guess is more prone to damage if the circumstances work against it, so again I’d probably consider replacement is the best option.

    As to suppliers etc of spares, I’m not sure of the US distributions any more, but try calling the USA/Canada Customer Service Hotline: 1-888-TRITON1 [874-8661]
    Their website is http://www.tritonwoodworking.com/

    Triton Workshop Systems (USA)
    P.O. Box 794, Rooseveltown NY 13683
    Tel: (613) 936-2955
    Fax: (613) 938-8089

    Triton Workshop Systems (CANADA)
    2107 2nd St. W., P.O. Box 523,
    Cornwall ON K6H 5T2
    Tel: (613) 936-2955
    Fax: (613) 938-8089

    Customer Service: 1-888-874-8661
    E-mail: tools@tritonwoodworking.com

    As to the router bit, again, it isn’t necessarily damaged, but I’d probably take it along to a quality router supplier (and not just a retail outlet), and get an expert opinion. They are expensive bits to be sure, but at the same time, they are large bits, and could make for a deadly missile if their integrity has been compromised.

    It also depends on what you mean by gashes. I’m guessing that what has happened is – during the kickback, the router bit has bitten heavily into the timber as it got wedged between bit, fence and featherboard. The bit may have actually stopped moving temporarily, but with 3HP the collet has slipped on the bit, causing the gashes (and in that case, I’d imagine the damage to the bit is superficial, and a bit of emery paper will fix it right up) The collet however has had to withstand a significant force, and has possibly distorted the splines. Without actually getting to see the bit or the collet, my best guesstimate (and that means “take with a grain (or a whole shaker) of salt), that the bit will prove to be fine, and the collet needs replacing.

    Hope that helps a bit (sorry – couldn’t resist)

  3. Very interesting articles on the need for a router lift on a Triton 3 1/4 HP router. After using a few times, I decided to tackle the issue anyway, and ended up having to make one.

    Here is how I did it, in case anyone is interested.

    Click to access TritonRouterLift.pdf

    • A really interesting article – and worth the download if anyone wants a read – about 5MB. A few comments in reply: firstly, this is a response to one of my early posts, and I have been slowly converted over by a number of expert opinions (particularly Richard Vaughan) that there is definitely a place for a router lift, even with the Triton router! In fact, I am hoping to actually review the latest one from Professional Woodworkers Supplies (with the digital readout) sometime soon, and at that point I will probably never look back. I have found over the years that the Triton router becomes slowly increasingly difficult to set an accurate height – probably just a lack of cleaning the internals on my part, but a full blown router lift takes care of that.

      Secondly, what Kelsey has done here in engaging the microadjuster of the Triton router with a reversible procedure is superb work – I am absolutely kicking myself for not thinking of it myself. I got tied up with the overall MOF001 solution, and forgot about the hex head under the microadjuster knob. Brilliant stuff. Never mind scavenging gears etc from fishing boat parts etc Home grown engineering at its best 🙂

      So thanks to Kelsey for readdressing an old post – it is always interesting to read back and see how my opinions have modified over the years.

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