Unilifts and Triton Routers

Had an interesting question the other day, and thought my response might be useful to others as well.

Hi Stuart. I just purchased a brand new TRA001 and have plans to fit it to my existing Woodpecker Unilft. Some feedback received from an online forum gave the following:

“You don’t need a Unilift.

There is no way to engage/lock the shaft if you can't raise the router up into the footplate. As the TRA001 router rises, a small rod is shoved into the spindle. The rod lives near the spindle, but it’s the action of the footplate moving up that slides it across.

Raising the Unilift may expose the shaft, but it doesn’t raise the router into its own footplate.

You can’t poke your finger in (or screwdriver) to manually engage the locking rod, nor is there a convenient hex nut on the spindle to use another spanner on.”

I know this as I was terribly excited to see the Unilift, but found all this out when I ran it all through my head. It is a brilliant bit of gear, but it seems more suited to routers that use two spanners to unlock the collet, or a Festool OF1400 (or similar) where you press the green switch to engage the lock.

I understand that you have installed a TRA001 to a Woodpecker Unilft. Was the TRA you fitted the newer model with the Micro winder or the earlier version . Did you encounter any issues in getting the router spindle lock to function correctly when fitted to the Unilift.

My response:


It is strictly true, sure.  But written by someone who themselves does not own a Unilift with a Triton attached- I’d (almost) put money on it.

Firstly, to your question.  The Triton I have well predates the through-table winder of the later models.  And if I had started with one of those, I wouldn’t also have a Unilift.  And I would have missed out on things because of it.

Being a Triton router owner, I know exactly what you mean about the collet locking mechanism btw.

When I want to change router bits, I go through the following steps:

1. Reach under the table and switch off the router (it is irrelevant whether I use a starter box or not, turning off at the router is a good safety step), and unlock the plunge lock.

2. Grab the macro-height adjuster, and with one quick turn, raise the router to full height, engaging the shaft lock.

3. If necessary, use the unilift handle to further raise the router so the collet is above the table.

4. Change router bits, using one spanner, one handed.  Still no other router lets you do that, above the table as well!

5. Reach under the table, using the macro adjuster, drop the router enough to disengage the shaft lock, and engage the plunge lock.

6. Switch on the router, and choose a router speed (the router isn’t running, as I have the remote starter box)

7. Use the Unilift handle to finetune the height as required.

If you didn’t have the Unilift, you would pretty much do all the above steps as well, except for #3.  So not a really big deal between them at this point, and I don’t find #3 is that big a deal.

So the Unilift hasn’t really lost you functionality, but has it gained any?

If I was to do the same steps with the Triton router, each time I wanted to micro-adjust the height, I’d have to reach under the table to release, then re-engage the plunge lock.  I bet most Triton owners (particularly with the new Triton) don’t use the plunge lock – it affects their functionality.  Hang on- not having a Unilift means a potential extra step elsewhere in the process, or a degraded functionality.

So what is is that extra step, and why can it be useful?

Take the Unilift out of the table, and sit it on the bench, next to the Triton.  Have a look at that mechanism.  4 posts, gears, chain wrapped around the circumference, all that weight, all that strength, all that rigidity.  Now look at the Triton router, and work out how you’d fit all that strength inside that router.  Doesn’t go, does it!   Now if you took your router apart, you would find the micro adjustment gear.  One small, flimsy nylon thread ( or metal in the new router- not sure about that?). It is a significant difference between the two mechanisms.

Sure, both do the same job, and one is internal, and one external, but boy, is there a difference in the build quality.  Which one is going to wear over time. Which one is going to get increased gear backlash over time, to the eventual point of failure?  Using the plunge lock removes inaccuracies caused by gear backlash.

What you have, is a very solid height adjustment system that will far outlast the built-in option.  Sure, there is redundancy there, but the Unilift will outlast the Triton router.  Your accuracy will be better, you won’t get any slippage in height for not using the plunge lock.

Enjoy, and work with the setup you have- it is a much heavier engineered solution than those who don’t have one.

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”.

Woodpecker Unilift wanted

If anyone (in Oz) has a Woodpecker Unilift (the one that can mount a plunge router) that they are interested in selling, I have a club in Melbourne who would be very interested in talking with you.


Apparently they are no longer available to purchase new which is rather disappointing (no longer being manufactured). The US don’t use plunge routers as much, so the fixed router lifts are still common, and available but not the one that will fit a plunge router.

Contact me if you have one available and I’ll pass your details on.

Fitting the Wixey Remote Readout to the UniLift

The UniLift precisely controls the height of your router bit, and by using a rule, or digital height scale you can get the height set very accurately, and also to change from one to the next.   To take it to the next level, you can also fit a digital height gauge with remote readout directly to the UniLift.  The Wixey Remote Readout can be used in other applications – wherever you have a linear motion (max 125mm) and want to have the position remotely displayed, to 0.5mm.


Moving bracket

The first thing I did was determine where the unit was going to fit, given the specific router I have, and that I want to be able to remove and replace the entire lift with readout attached.  I fitted the bracket in a hole that is predrilled for this purpose, then bent it to the angle I required.


Isolating Screws

The Triton router is quite electronically noisy, and as it has been found to cause some interference with the Wixey digital readouts, it is necessary to electrically isolate the mechanism from the router.  Plastic bolts, nuts and washers are provided for this.


Wixey Sensor Fitted

I drilled a partial-depth hole into the underside of the router plate, and fitted the electronic rule (the green circuit board), and screwed the moving sensor to the bracket.  Now all that was needed was to plug in the Cat5 cable from the remote readout, and I had precise, digitally accurate relative height measurement for the router.


Ultimate Table Upgrade Components

So here are the components I’ve added to continue the router table upgrade (shown in the tablesaw mount – I’ll wait for the Torque Workcentre fitting before inserting the plate into my recently machined cast iron router top).  It consists of the Woodpeckers UniLift, Wixey Digital Remote Readout, and the Pro Router Switch all from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  The switch is a no-volt release 10A switch (so it doesn’t automatically turn back on after a power outage), with illuminated lights for the on and off switches.


Fitting a Router Lift

When I first came across the Woodpeckers Router Lift, I had 2 thoughts – a really visually appealing piece of engineering, and not something that would be particularly useful for owners of a Triton Router (given its built-in geared height adjustment, and particularly the microadjuster).

Times, and opinions change.

What really bought my attention back to the router lift was a router course I went on a year and a half ago, run by Richard Vaughan. He uses Triton routers, and yet was also bestowing the virtues of the router lift, and using them with the Triton.  Not being one to disregard such an expert (and informed) opinion I relooked at the whole concept, and reassessed why I had drawn my earlier conclusions.

I became more aware of a few issues I had with the router, and particularly as they were beginning to age – slack in the height threads (they are nylon, not steel in the Triton router), and some tendency for them to stick slightly when microadjusting.  Some of this can certainly be rectified by a good dismantling and clean, but there is something to the concept of not being dependent on the in-built threads to remain functional (not even touching on the whole Triton spares issues).

So when the opportunity came along to follow Richard’s lead, and add a full-blown router lift to my (self-coined) “Ultimate” router table, I’ve taken it (and the engineering is still very appealing!)

The Woodpeckers UniLift from Professional Woodworkers Supplies consists of a solid anodised aluminium top, various inserts for different sized router bits, which unlike to old Triton router table, are actually flush with the rest of the surface.  It comes with 3, and you can get a set of all 8 sizes if you have a need.  They were originally aluminium as well, but there were too many incidents where the rings were dropped on hard surfaces which caused them to distort and become unusable.  The plastic ones work as well, are as flush with the surface, and can be dropped!


UniLift Mechanism (with router carrier removed)

Below the top plate is where the real mechanism exists – 4 sprockets with a connecting chain, so when the height lever is used, everything turns at equal rates, smoothly raising and lowering the router. There are 4 support rods, and two threaded rods for height adjustment. Around the edge there are grub screws to fine-tune the fit and flushness of the plate to your router table top.

To fit the router, you first remove the router carrier and attach it directly to the base of the router.


Router Carrier Base

There are a number of holes to fit a wide variety of routers. I chose an orientation for the router to allow the best access to the controls.


Reattaching the carrier

Next, you drop the carrier into the bottom of the base, then wind the mechanism down so the screws can be reinserted to fix everything together.

That’s all that is needed to have the router lift operational.  There is a brake on one sprocket which is activated with a hex key (supplied), and another sprocket which can be rotated to take up slack in the chain.

Next article will cover fitting the Wixey digital height gauge with remote readout to the UniLift

The Ultimate Router Table Takes Shape

Guess the heading says it all.

There are still some developments in…uh…development, but I have now started making actual progress on the new “ultimate” router table.

The Ultimate

The Ultimate

As I’ve talked about (and shown the concept of) in the past, this is the router table top actually bolted together, and the original laminated top has been retired.

The top – 5 tablesaw wings bolted together with high tensile bolts.  The 5th wing is known as a router wing, as it has the hole and mounting points for a router.  The inserts for the hole are not shown (I didn’t have them in time for the photo).

The top weighs around 100kg, and is 1250 x 680mm in size. On top of that is, of course, the Incra LS 17″ Positioner, held down with 2 MagJigs.  There is also a MagSwitch featherboard in the foreground. The tablesaw wings and router table wing were all sourced from Carbatec.

So what is to come? The router currently shown is actually in the secondary router position, which is going to be for template copying bits, and for when I’m using the Gifkins Dovetail Jig (which requires you to swap between a straight cutter and a dovetail cutter – might as well have both set up ready to go, as is suggested by Roger Gifkins – if you have the luxury of having 2 outers that is!)  What I want to do is replace the second panel with one that has a cavity that can take a full router lift, such as the Woodpecker router lift with Wixey Digital Height readout.  We are talking about “The Ultimate” router table after all!

Woodpeckers UniLift

Woodpeckers UniLift

The base is also extremely temporary – it will get retired as soon as possible.  However, it will have to do until the top is properly finished, so I know its final dimensions. That top sure looks good for a router table doesn’t it!

The router mounted extremely easily to the router wing shown above

Triton Router Mounted

Triton Router Mounted

There are T slots on the underside of the router wing, and all I had to do was partially grind down the two coach bolts on the Triton router that are there for quick mount & release in the Triton router table.  (They are under the black knob seen here on the base of the router).  It means the router is still almost as easy to remove and replace as it was in the Triton router – you just need to slide it along the T slots!

As you can also see here, this Triton router doesn’t have any of the plastic dust extraction shrouding on it.  That is because I use a 4″ dust extractor on the router table, rather than 1″ pipe going directly to the Triton base.  These are routers designed for permanent table mounting after all, so optimising the setup for that seems sensible.


I now have the inserts for the table, so here’s photographic proof. Also, the benefit of a good cast iron table makes for easy storage of the MagSwitch featherboard! Storing it like this will degrade the magnetic strength over time – something in the region of 5% loss in strength after 100 years apparently.

Surround & MagSwitch Storage

Surround & MagSwitch Storage

The inserts are not as flush with the table as I’d like – it’s a shame that I can’t retrofit the inserts from Woodpeckers.  Hmm – that just gave me an idea.  It is a long shot, but maybe I can (with a bit of filing / grinding).  That would be excellent if I could.  I’m thinking of something like this set here:

Woodpeckers Router Table Insert

Woodpeckers Router Table Inserts

For those wondering why the Triton router, the answer can be as simple as 4 words: Above-Table-Bit-Changing. There are plenty of other reasons, but that one is hard to walk past! And it only needs a single spanner.

Above Table Bit Changing

Above Table Bit Changing

Now, in answer to David’s question, here are some further details of fitting the Triton router to the CI router wing.

T Slots

T Slots

The underside of the router wing has these T slots cut, which are perfect for the router’s quick release bolts. They are not wide enough for the full width coach bolts, so I removed the two bolts from the router base and ground them down a bit on a grinder.

Ground down coach bolt

Ground down coach bolt

At the end of the day, it is only a coach bolt – if you stuff it up, just buy another for 20c!  You can’t grind the wing completely flush with the bolt – you still need a lip, as that is what is holding the router in place after all.  At some stage I might consider replacing the bolt altogether with a high tensile one, but given how well this solution works, that may never happen!

Quick-mount mechanism

Quick-mount mechanism

This is all there is to the quick mounting mechanism of the Triton router.  One coach bolt, a spring, and a knob with a captive nut.  One of these on each side of the router is sufficient to retain it in the table.  It may not seem a lot, but I’ve never heard of the mechanisms not holding a Triton router sufficiently to the table.  You could always add some extra support for the router using the same T slots in the table if you felt you needed to.

After and Before

After and Before

The router on the right is the original Triton setup.  The router on the left is the one ready to be mounted under the CI router wing.  You can see the ground down head of the coach bolt, and also that I have removed the plastic base.  The base is only there for handheld work, so why waste the extra 3mm or so in potential router bit height for a base that is not needed given the router will live under the table?

Router Table Digital Height Readout

At the Melbourne show, on the Professional Woodworkers Supplies stand, you will be able to see a prototype of the latest Wixey digital device, which gives you a remote readout for the router bit height on a router table.  Basically, it connects to the table, and as you change the height, the readout gives you the setting, to within 1/10mm.  The scale however is not directly on the device- it is connected to some Cat5 cable (ie ethernet/network cable) so you can position the readout somewhere that is convenient for you to see.

It will currently be fitted to the UniLift, which is what (as I understand) is the sort of router lift it was originally designed to work with (although not specifically the UniLift, so we’ve been brainstorming on the neatest solution for that).  Now, the idea that was arrived at has a massive implication, and I have been looking closely at it today.

As far as I can tell, it should be relatively easy to have this unit fitted directly to a Triton router.

A Triton router with a remote digital height readout, accurate to 1/10mm!  Think about setting up for a job – insert router bit (such as a dovetail bit), zero the scale, then wind the bit to EXACTLY the right height as determined from a previous job, and start routing.  Repeatability, and ease of setup.

Anyway, that’s what I have been working on in my head this morning – thought I’d share it with you.

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