The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Many years from now, many will look back at this time with a real sense of regret, as they struggle to fine tune the height of their table-mounted router, be that an aging Triton, or some other brand.

A simple phenolic or aluminium plate supporting the router where it could have been a still -gleaming gold and red anodised plate with a chain-driven 4 guide rod height adjustable Woodpecker Router lift.

The units are not a cheap router mounting plate, and after doing a search on Google, you see many have attempted to replicate their function with varying degrees of success, but it would be rare for any MDF-based jig to replicate the shear accuracy of the Unilift.  The part that really peaks my interest is the chain that runs around the circumference, ensuring the router is raised and lowered from to diagonally opposite points resulting in a very smooth action without a chance for binding or slippage.

Orders can still be placed for the very last production run of these lifts (the US do not tend to use plunge routers, so previously decided to stop production, but have been encouraged to make one final run for anyone wanting one compatible with plunge routers).  Once this run is completed (and it will only proceed if there are sufficient orders received), there will be no more, and the long dark tea-time of the soul for wanabee owners will commence. (It is a Douglas Adams reference, who also created “Last Chance to See”, a TV series on endangered animals).

They are $655 inc GST each, so it is a serious investment for the one main shop machine that is generally ignored by shop machine companies by and large.

I certainly have one, and use it, (and the through-table height winding) every time I use the router table.  Yes, I have Triton routers, but as they age (mine are over 10 years old now) I am finding a tendency for slippage in the height, wear in the internal height adjustment gearing.  It isn’t a lot, but enough to affect the accuracy on some jobs, and I much prefer this robust solution.

I have taken my table a fair few steps further, creating a cast iron top for the table (made from tablesaw wings), but you don’t have to go to that extreme to enjoy the control the Router Lift provides.

Orders for the Woodpecker Router Lift can still be made from Professional Woodworkers Supplies through the link here, (please note, the $655 now $100 price is only the deposit!), and absolutely must be done by the end of the month (31 July).

For what it is worth, I have never seen one for sale second hand, despite the 100s that have been sold in the years they have been available.  Guess that says something eh!

Last Chance to See

Deep on safari to the Serengeti workshops, channeling my inner Douglas Adams, looking for what is soon to be an extinct species, if it isn’t already.  The flash of gold, a splash of red, a loop of chain, soon to be destined only to be seen in captivity, in the sheds of those who took the opportunity to acquire one before the last were ever made.

I speak of course of the Woodpecker Unilift.

Woodpecker Unilift

These are no longer in production as I mentioned about 3 weeks or so ago.  However, there may be one final chance to purchase one of these new: IF there are enough who register their interest to purchase one with Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  So, your “Last Chance to See”, (or rather buy) starts with you deciding to register an expression of interest:

Send your “Expression of Interest” – Please include your full name, contact telephone number. The subject line to read Unilift.

Expressions of interest close May 18th 2012


The Unilift mounts a plunge router – popular (and the most common) in the Australian market.  Not so much so in the US, which is a major contributor to the Unilift ending as a product line.

It has 4 support rods, and features a chain that runs around the circumference so each side lifts evenly.  It is a precision tool, giving very accurate height adjustment and a brake to lock the position in – no chance of a slippage in height.

If it is not for you, no problem: but if you ever desired to have one of these to complement your router table (especially if you use the LS Positioner), this really is your “Last Chance to See”.

The Carbatec Bench

The final push, actually the easy bit – the bench assembly.  With the Veritas vice in place, the four legs are bolted to the underside of the bench, and the vice(s) fitted.  Because I had added the Veritas, I had a vice left over so added it to the back of the bench behind the drawer.  It only needed 3 holes to be drilled to fit it there, so no biggie.

The shelf is then bolted to the legs which provides a significant amount of rigidity.  The vices are then screwed down, and the drawer assembled and fitted.  Anyone who has ever bought anything from Ikea will have no problem putting that drawer together.  The entire bench assembly should only take about 30 minutes.  (Again, instruction manuals be damned).

The standard vice is a very simple animal- the two bolts at the rear of the guide bars are removed, then the base is unscrewed.  The front jaw added then the unit inserted through predrilled holes in the bench skirt. The rear bolts are tightened, and the base screwed to the underside of the bench.

This was then repeated for the other vice that I fitted at the rear of the bench.  No point letting one go to waste!

With all the vices and fittings in place, it was time to turn the unit over.  Bloody heavy thing – weighs in around 80kg.  Perhaps not as heavy as a full wood one, but enough.

The bench in position in its new home.  (fwiw, the rear vice looks high because it has the removable jaw extension added).

With the Veritas in prime position, and clamps all around, this bench is ready to work. I’m debating whether to put my metal working vice on the bench as well – may do, especially if I park the Festool Vac under the bench.  The benefit of having the boom arm!

The bench can move a bit when pushed on, but it is pretty good.  There is some spring in the legs (unavoidable), but the majority of the movement would come from the feet.  If you were serious about bench stability, I’d not use the feet and instead would bolt the bench to the floor, and/or use a bracket to secure the bench to a wall.

I still have some holes to drill in the Veritas Vice jaws, so I can add some bench dogs.  The plastic ones that came with the bench will probably go in the bin, and instead I have picked up some Veritas ones from Carbatec, which fit a standard 19mm hole.  These will be perfect on the Torque Workcentre as well, as soon as I drill the new matrix of holes for the Walko clamps.

I got a set of Veritas Bench Dogs for the bench, and a set of Veritas Bench Pups for the jaws. Will see if that is enough for my typical use, not that they are particularly expensive, and they have a great, heavy feel.  With some holes in the side of the jaws of the Veritas Twin Screw, it will also allow large sheets to be clamped vertically to the side of the bench as necessary.

I also found these Veritas Surface Clamps, which also fit into the same 19mm holes.  The knurled knob tightens the clamp into the hole, and the arm moves freely up and down the shaft until a load is applied when it then locks into the ridging on the shaft.  These too will be extremely useful on both the workbench, as well as on the Torque Workcentre.

So the whole thing has come together nicely.  A combination of an easily assembled bench (that I didn’t have to make), and some quality fittings to finish it off.

One day, this bench will allow me to follow the reasoning of Douglas Adams (and the Deep Thought computer – a computer designed by pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent race of beings to answer the question of life, the universe and everything (42), and then to design the computer that could explain the question) and use it to build THE bench.  But not for a long time yet!  This bench will keep me out of trouble for a long time, and more than likely will only help me contruct another if I happen to acquire a much larger shed that would give me space for a second one!

Over the coming weekend, I’ll try to get some photos of the bench in action, particularly the Veritas Dogs and Pups (and Surface Clamps) and how they work with the vices to secure items down.

FWIW, the standard (unmodified!!) version of this workbench is expected to be seen on “Better Homes and Gardens” tonight (Friday 20 May 11) on channel 7 at 7:30pm when the Amazing Race teams appear and complete some building challenges.

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