The idea for a quick action router lift started a few months back. Since then I’ve made three working prototypes to work out the bugs. Lift number four is what I will call the final design. It’s a quick action lever router lift. A lever raises and lowers a router carriage that tracks on flat metal bars. A stop block is incorporated to allow you to quickly return to a previously used position if the need arises.
To keep things simple I made everything out of 3/4” plywood. I often get asked what kind of plywood I use so for this one, and pretty much every other shop plywood project, I used “Blondwood” that I picked up at the blue store. It’s just BC birch plywood with the C side primed white. While the quality is nothing like that of Baltic birch it is a huge leap above cheap pine plywood. I had my fair share of working with cheap pine plywood when I was working on my vanity builds.
For anyone who is interested I put together a detailed 30 page PDF plan for this router lift. The plan includes two versions, one for connecting to a ShopVac through the fence and the other for connecting to a 4” dust collection hose at the bottom. Each version has the router lift, an extension wing for a table saw, and a table fence. The plans are at the bottom of this article.
The entire router lift, extension wing, and fence are made from a 48” x 48” piece of 3/4” plywood. I followed the layout diagram in the plan to cut the majority of the pieces before assembly.
I optimized the layout diagram to batch most of the same size parts together. After all the main cuts are done the sheet looks like this.
And then the individual parts can be crosscut from all of the larger blocks cut earlier.
The first part I wanted to assemble was the router carriage. It’s just a couple rectangles with two 45 degree blocks to hold the router in place. The angles don’t have to be 100% at 45 degrees so I used my speed square to save some time. No need to get the digital gauge out every time.
It’s easier to make the 45 degree cuts on larger stock so I made those cuts first. Then cutting them to length was easy. Especially with a sacrificial fence on the miter saw. I picked this up from Jon Peters on YouTube. It’s just an L shape formed by two boards tacked together and spring clamped to my miter saw fence. It really takes the guess work out in regards to lining up cuts.
After the blocks were glued on a quick test with the router to make sure it lines up properly.
To hold the router into the angled blocks a rabbet is cut on the top and bottom of the router carriage blocks for the use of hose clamps. To make the rabbet I set the blade to the height of the hose clamp and used a sacrificial board on my fence. This way I can cut a perfect 1/8” rabbet as needed.
After the rabbet is cut the corners are rounded over so it’s not such an abrupt corner for the hose clamps. I just used a cheap pull saw and a file.
The router carriage blocks are secured to a larger panel with a couple screws from the back side.
Prototype one and two used drawer slides for the movement of the router. They worked pretty well at first but the more I stressed the lift to test it out the more the slides disappointed me. So I went with steel bars instead. Not only will this method last longer but it’s a lot less expensive. I cut them to length with a hacksaw.
And drilled all of the through holes on the drill press. Remember that if you are cutting metal it’s always best to slow the machine down as much as you can and use some type of oil.
After the through holes I set the depth stop on my drill press and used a larger bit to make a countersink. Drilling the holes was actually the most time consuming step of this build.
The slides could then be mounted to the side of the router carriage. It’s important to get the screw heads below the surface and to file off any burrs that may be sticking up. Also the slides shouldn’t overhang the front side of the carriage as they will prevent the front face of the carriage from clamping securely to the front panel of the router lift. It’s OK for the slides to overhang the router side of the carriage.
A carriage bolt goes through the carriage so a counter bore is needed to recess the head of the carriage bolt. Followed by a through hole.
The lever arm can be positioned anywhere really. I did some experimenting with the previous prototypes and found what I will call a sweet spot for the lever pivot. I drilled four holes but honestly I doubt I will ever take it out of the first position I used.
Two holes are drilled in the front panel to form the ends of the front slot.
To connect the holes I used my jigsaw and a 12” speed square. Speed squares are so handy. I use my 12” square all the time. One of the best purchases I’ve made.
The other half of the slides attaches to the sides of the router box. But before actually attaching the front mounting strip needs to be attached.
Then the slides, followed by the top mounting strips.
To mount the sides to the front the router carriage is first positioned with a speed square.
And with it properly located I could find the exact location of the first box side. Again, I love my 12” speed square.
The second box side can be attached next. It’s important to have the router carriage in the top position when attaching the top of the side. And have the router carriage in the bottom position when attaching the bottom of the side.
Wax makes everything slide effortlessly. I’m not sure if I want to apply any finish to the outside of the lift so I only waxed the metal slides. In the previous prototypes I waxed the front pivot block as well.
The back panel is installed and a hole is drilled near the bottom for the router cord. I don’t see a need in covering this hole up after the cord passes through. When used with a dust collector and a 4” hose the router bit opening will be choking the dust collector as it’s not going to be anywhere near 4”. The cord hole will provide a little bit of relief while still allowing the dust collector to do its job.
Speaking of dust collection… I wanted to mount half of a Harbor Freight blast gate to the bottom for a dust collection port.
After tracing the port and drilling a starter hole I cut the roughly 4” hole out with my jigsaw. And then mounted the bottom panel in place.
Finally the router can be installed in the carriage. This router lift accommodates a standard 3-1/2” diameter router. 4” dryer vent pipe hose clamps are used to secure it in place.
I rounded the top of the pivot block to prevent the top corners from hitting the bottom of the router table top once installed.
A 1/4” copper pipe coupling has the perfect interior diameter to slide over a 3/8” carriage bolt. But before I could use it as a bushing I had to file down the two locating bumps inside the coupling. Then I could pound it into the front pivot block.
All the knobs are just a rectangle with a tee nut in them. You can get crazy fancy with star knobs and such but I prefer simple and functional.
With the front hardware installed everything is working as planned.
For the stop block I needed to embed a carriage bolt into an undersized hole. A couple locked nuts make this process easy. A little time consuming….but easy.
And then the stop block can be installed on the side. All of my previous prototypes had the stop block riding in a slot. I ditched the slot idea as this does the same thing and is much easier to make.
And finally the lift is completed and ready to install under a table saw extension wing or a router table top. Hopefully, within the next couple weeks I’ll be able to get the extension wing and fence done.
As I mentioned earlier, I put together a 30 page, detailed plan for this router lift with a few extra options. For those who are interested the plans are below.
Quick Release Lever Router Lift Plans
This router lift is lever activated for quick movement while still allowing precise positioning. An included stop block will allow you to easily drop the bit if needed and quickly return to the exact position you were at. The plan includes the router lift and enclosure, a 27” x 20” top so it can be used as an extension wing for a table saw, and an adjustable fence. Every piece in this plan is color coded to designate it’s location. I find this approach easy to follow as you can visually glance at the layout or reference diagrams and know where on the final assembly that particular part will end up. There are two versions of the build in the plan. One for use with a 4″ dust collection hose from below and the other to use with a shopvac hose attached to the fence. The lift extends 15-3/4” below the surface of the table. This plan fits a standard 3-1/2” diameter router. An approximate build cost is about $50 depending on where you get the hardware. My cost for everything except the 1-1/4″ wood screws that I had was just shy of $50 with sales tax. Links to the SketchUp files are included in the plan. Included in the lever router lift plan:
- 30 detailed pages
- shopping list
- tools list
- plywood layout diagrams
- reference diagrams for specific part dimensions
- exploded view diagrams
- step by step 3D assembly diagrams with written instructions
The entire plan is included in one PDF document. Most everyone will have a PDF reader installed on their computer already but if you do not you can use the free program Adobe Reader to view the plans. You can download Adobe Reader HERE. The checkout process for this plan uses PayPal. You can use major credit or debit cards through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account. To purchase the plan follow the link below. After you purchase the plan you will receive an email receipt from me containing a link to download your plan. Make sure to check your inbox and spam filter for the receipt. If you do not receive the email within 10-15 minutes or encounter any problems please contact me.
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