Biting the Bullet

After much internal debating, I did decide to move over to the PRL2 (Precision Router Lift) from Professional Woodworkers Supplies, and now the only in-cabinet adjustments I need to make are speed changes on the fixed-base router.

I thought the router would be at least as noisy as the Triton, but it was definitely not the case – quite a bit quieter which was a pleasant surprise.

The coarse height adjustment will take me a little to get used to – while very fast, I found I would overshoot the mark easily.  Granted, I only tried the whole thing for a few seconds – too many other demands on my time.  The fine adjustment is very fine.  It has a 32nd” thread, compared to the 16th” thread of the previous router lift.  The 16th” never seemed overly coarse, so this is very fine.

Now you may wonder – why do I need two router lifts?  One that can fit a plunge router, and one that fits the fixed-base router that it comes with.

Well there is a really simple answer.  I don’t.

I did an upgrade deal with PWS, so they now have my router lift to sell (just as soon as I drop it off!!)  Based on one other that they had to resell recently, it won’t last long!

It was a hard decision – I do like that router lift!

Back to my new PRL2, I do have one interesting idea about the microadjuster wheel.  That red wheel looks perfect to engage a motorised drive.  Be interesting to see how practical that is.

How’s it hangin?

The ol’ router table that is?

Ever lusted over a router lift, being able to precisely dial in a router bit height, make a pass, and need a 0.1mm adjustment to make it perfect?  That is what a router lift can give you.

Sure they are not cheap, but then the router table is one of the main workshop tools, and if you are prepared to put some bling into some of the other tools (tablesaw, bandsaw etc), then perhaps consider giving the router table some love.

I am coming from the other side of the decision, having had a router lift and the Incra fence for a number of years.  I’ve always enjoyed the accuracy, and it comes as second nature these days.  Guess it has improved my woodworking, but that isn’t actually why I have it. (Probably should be!!) I just like being able to use good gear when I am pottering around.

We did think the day of the router lift in Australia was numbered, when the Woodpeckers Router Lift ceased manufacture. The Router Lift was specifically designed for plunge routers, which are just not popular in the USA for some reason.

However, that is not the only form of the router lift that is out there, and the American version, the Precision Router Lift Version 2 (or shortened to PRL V2) is now available here.

This has some cool features that my router lift doesn’t have.  Such as a spring loaded plunge handle to quickly set the height close to what is desired, without winding and winding.  The other, and this is even more interesting, is it has a built-in large diameter knurled wheel to dial in the precise height (it is bright red in the photo, so hard to miss!)

This lift cannot fit a plunge router, but then having a plunge router under a lift is a bit of a waste anyway. I haven’t taken my plunge router out of the table for years.  Probably so full of sawdust now, it may not be able to plunge properly anyway.

So what do you use instead?

Well the PRL V2 from Professional Woodworkers Supplies comes with an 1800W 1/2″ (and 1/4″) fixed base router. So that takes care of that problem!

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are looking for a kick-ass router table, having a router lift with such accurate adjustment, it will certainly have appeal to some.  Given my Triton is struggling (age catching up with it), this is a rather tempting option, and solves one of the final issues with my current setup – how to do through-table bit changes, without having to adjust both the router lift, and the Triton router.  Something I’ve put up with for the overall benefit of the lift.  Guess I really like the look of that red dial!

Some Torque Details

Some more views of the Torque, now that it is all assembled and functional. Looking forward to a chance to really start putting the machine through its paces, but even the first 2 jobs (both for the recent toy kitchens), had me approaching traditional problems from a brand new direction (and no, that isn’t a reference to “overhead”, but of course that is the literal truth!)

Rear View of Y-Axis Rail

The machine is built heavy – at no stage do you feel any component has been scaled down to save on materials cost. The castings are heavy, the bearings are large, the members are solid and have no chance to incur sag, twist, or bend. The horizontal (Y-axis) beam has the tool carriage mounted on it, running on 8 substantial bearings on an electroplated arm. The black knob locks the carriage, so only x-axis travel will then occur (or rotation around the z-axis, if that is what the job requires). (Also, not counting the router plunge, which is obviously a movement in the z-axis) The z-axis movement is primarily the rack gearing that can be seen, and it is locked in position with the twist of the plunge arm. There is also a major movement of the z-axis with the threaded raising and lowering of the main arm, but that is not a movement that will be done during a cut, whereas the x, y and on-carriage z-axis movements are all directions that can be utilised during a cut.

Main Tool Control Mechanism

This is the y-axis arm from the other side, and here you can see the z-axis mechanism – the plate and bearings. One thing that strikes you is bearings everywhere on this tool – if something is designed to move, it is running on bearings, and few bearings are mounted flat – most are angled to the direction of load, so controlling and locking movement, and not just providing a smooth ride. The router mount specifically for Triton is still being manufactured which is why the Triton is still sitting on the original mounting plate, held in the circular saw attachment.

Z-Axis Mechanism

The z-axis beam is even heavier than the y-axis – it has to resist a significant bending moment. Still has the solid cast components, and electroplated beam. You can also see in this image the lock that allows the y-axis beam to rotate, setting the tool to angles other than just straight up and down. This is normal for radial arm saws and some drill presses, and now also for routers as well.

Critical Arm Balance Mechanism

Under the table is the main support arm. It serves a couple of purposes, carrying the beam that supports the end of the y-axis beam, but also the bearings are carrying a load to ensure the upright remains upright, despite the significant bending moment caused by having a heavy tool operate at the end of the y-axis beam. The knob and rod are actually the x-axis brake.

Copy Attachment and Pin Routing Point

An optional addition is the copy attachment. In many situations this provides significant control over the tool – with two hand grips, and will be very useful whether the copy rod is deployed or not. It is still quickly and easily removed if not required. It also provides a convenient allen key storage (a Lazy Larry solution)

In the MDF, you can just see the metal sleeve inserted that takes the pin routing guide. Again, very easy to deploy when required.

Router Table Section with Incra Positioner and MagSwitch

At the right-end of the table, I have still retained a traditional router table…….. cast iron, inset router lift with digital height readout, Incra fence with 1/1000th inch positioning. And MagSwitch of course. If it wasn’t for MagSwitch, I wouldn’t have bothered retaining a cast iron top. But the MagSwitch technology is just too good to pass up, and I want it’s ease of placement anywhere I want it, the safety of featherboards for horizontal and vertical material restraint, and of course any other jig I decide to create, with the use of MagJigs to hold them in place. One such example is the commercially available Woodpeckers Freehand Router Guard, which I have added an additional base to with 40mm holes to take a couple of MagJigs. So easy to place when needed, it actually gets used. Safety equipment is only useful when you use it, and having a method of making using it as painless as possible is never a bad thing.

Freehand Router Table Guard w MagJigs

Is this it? Have I finally achieved (through an amalgamation of quality products) The Ultimate Router Table? It certainly can’t compete with some out there for aesthetics, but where it comes to functionality, I think I am pretty safe to say there would be few tables out there that have more than one with the overhead capabilities afforded by the Torque Workcentre, a solid cast-iron router table that has an Incra LS Positioner and Wonderfence, a Woodpeckers Router Lift, and because of the cast iron, can utilise the awesome MagSwitch technology. It is going to be really interesting over the next while, really putting this machine through its paces. About the only thing it seems to be missing is CNC, and with the potential future edition of Wixey positioning readouts, even that will close the gap significantly.

Cast Iron Router Table progress

Been having some difficulty in obtaining the cast iron wing I needed to mount the router under, as it seems the manufacturers in Taiwan? China? sent a whole stack of the wrong stock, and it will be a couple of months before more arrives.

In the meantime, I have gotten one, and will use one of the standard blanks in the other position, and will decide downtrack whether to replace it with a second router position or not.  I may decide instead to revert back to the original plan, and mount the second on the tablesaw after all.

Be that as it may, this is how we are progressing so far.

Underside of Router Wing

Underside of Router Wing

This is the underside of the new wing.  Not pretty, but then it doesn’t have to be – the machined surface is the important part.  There is also a coating to prevent corrosion during delivery on this side, and I’m actually going to leave that in place.

As you can see, there are a number of T Slots to mount the router to.  I was originally considering attaching the Triton quick release plate to this, so the router can be removed as necessary, but as 2 of the slots correspond nicely to the two main mounting points on the Triton router, I’m thinking I will go ahead by directly mounting the router instead.  I have a couple of high tensile bolts specifically for the task.  I may also use the original Triton hold-downs to add some extra support to the router, to clamp it firmly to this base.

Wings laid out

Wings laid out

Next, I laid out all the wings that will make up the new top.  Looks quite a respectable size doesn’t it!  There are holes in each wing that I will use to bolt them together with high tensile bolts.

Cast Iron Router Table

Cast Iron Router Table

Flipping the wings over, and we get a first look at what the new router table will look like.  It is about the size of the table saw.  To quote South Park…… SWEEEEET!

There is an insert to fit the hole in the router wing (still to come).  If I did place a second router into this table, it would be the 2nd panel from the right that would be replaced.  The paint on the sides was obviously applied without adequate cleaning before painting, so it flakes off easily.  No matter to me – I will remove it all, as I’d rather see the silver colour of cast iron, than some poorly applied off white paint anyway.  The holes in the sides you can see are for affixing the tablesaw fence rails, but I probably won’t be using them.  Instead, I may line the sides with a timber strip all round, but won’t decide that until the base is finalised.

Again, the size of the top may seem incredibly excessive, but wait – there is a reason, and it is a gold anodised reason…….

Incra LS Positioner

Incra LS Positioner

Sure looks the part now!

After all, when the other main tools in the workshop all have cast iron tops (tablesaw, drill press (although mine now has the Pro Table on top of that), bandsaw, planer (jointer)), why shouldn’t the router table, as one of the main workshop machines?  Note the thicknesser was conspicuously absent from that list – have to do something about that!

The Incra is held down by two MagJigs (as I have discussed in the past), and I can now utilise the other MagSwitch tools – the featherboards, other jigs with MagJigs included etc.

So instead of the router table always having to be some shop-made construction from MDF or melamine or similar, or pressed steel, or a wing tacked on the side of another tool like an afterthought, it has serious presence, and joins the 100+kg club as well.

Yes, I know there is such an animal as a shaper table, and this goes a long way towards being a home-constructed version of one of those, but there is one notable difference.  Find a shaper table that can take an Incra fence like this puppy 🙂

I also like the significantly large area in front of the cutter – plenty of stock support here.

Router Table with Gifkins Dovetail Jig

Router Table with Gifkins Dovetail Jig

And plenty of working area when using jigs, such as the Gifkins Jig pictured here.

The top is missing a point for a starter pin for free-hand routing (when using bearinged router bits), but I have a couple of ideas for that – either drilling and tapping another hole, or going for a router free-hand guide like this one from Professional Woodworkers Supplies

Freehand Router Guide

Freehand Router Guide

I’d need to make a minor mod – adding an extra base with a couple of MagJigs included – heh – that just came to me – that will be by far the easiest solution.  See – I LOVE having a cast iron router table!

I’d love to have a full blown router lift included – that would turn this router table from the gold plated solution to the diamond solution.  Maybe one day…..  It wouldn’t be that hard – just replace the existing router wing with one that has the cavity cut for the router lift.  They do exist (Carbatec sell one).

The only problem I’ve come across is in the design of the router wing.  The back edge is machined flat, the front edge isn’t.  They obviously didn’t expect anyone to try to add a wing on that side (why not??), so I will have to decide what to do about that.

A bit of a gap

A bit of a gap

It means there is a minor gap at the extremities.  I have to be carful when bolting this together, as I will need to add spacers in there – if not, I could easily crack the side off while tensioning the bolts – cast iron being rather brittle.  It may be too small to be a real problem, there may be enough ductility in the cast iron to cope, but why take the chance?

The Problem

The Problem

As you can just see in this final pic, the metal of the side is thickest in the middle, and thinner towards the ends.

The optimum solution, and the one I’d prefer, is to take the plate and get the edge machined flat. Now who do I know who has that sort of metal working machinery (ie, a mill)? 😉

If Triton manufacturing was still operational, I might have been able to do it there…. oh well…. there are other alternatives.

So that is the progress on the new router table.

Perhaps not as pretty as Norm’s (New Yankee Workshop), but perhaps it is – I will let you decide 🙂

Woodpeckers Router Lift

The original gold anodised Woodpeckers Router Lift was always something to aspire to – costing somewhere between the cost of a good router and a Festool one (no I have no idea how much the Festool one is – they are always unrivaled on the size of the pricetag!)

Now Woodpeckers have bought out Version 2

Machined out of a solid aluminium block, with a toolless microadjustment (that’s the large wheel front right) it looks pretty impressive.

I have a couple of niggling concerns – the brake still needs an allen (or hex) key which is a bit frustrating, and secondly – what sort of router is it designed for?  The V1 was the same – could only fit a smallish motored router (non plunge), which I guess is where the concept of the Uni Lift came from (sold in Oz by Professional Woodworkers Supplies)

So I’m hoping that some of the upgraded concepts of the V2 will be incorporated into a new version of the Uni Lift, so we can still stick a Triton router under it!

Neither are on my router table though…..sadly.

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?


Episode 04 Triton Router Plunge Spring

Episode 04 Triton Router Plunge Spring

The Triton Router is an excellent machine, very powerful with lots of innovative features built-in.

Table mounting is this router’s forte, and some features are built into this router to optimise using it in table mode.
A plunge router uses a spring to counteract gravity when using the router handheld. When the router is inverted into the table, you don’t need the spring combining with gravity to make the job any harder. The Triton router is designed to make spring removal and replacement an easy task, and this video documents the few quick steps required.

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