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JessEm, Router Lift Reviews, Router Table Reviews, Router Tables With Integral Router Lift

Review: JESSEM Mast-R-Lift Excel II Router Table Top With Integral Router Lift

Review: JESSEM Mast-R-Lift Excel II Router Table Top With Integral Router Lift

Design9.2
Features9
Performance8.8
Ease of Use9.1
Value for Money8.5
8.9 out of 10
What's Hot?
  • Incredible accuracy especially with the optional digital gauge
  • Superb, ergonomic crank handle which locks solidly
  • Large 32" x 24" phenolic table top
  • High quality, well machined construction
What's Not?
  • Phenolic table top scratches easily and scratches are highly visible against the black top
Bottom Line JessEm invented the router lift back in 1999 and with the introduction of the JESSEM Mast-R-Lift Excel II Router Table Top With Integral Router Lift they've taken it to the next level. The Mast-R-Lift Excel II is one of the very few router lifts to utilize a crank handle attached permanently to the side of the table top to make router bit height adjustments rather than the usual system of a removable crank handle inserted into the table top. With the lift mechanism attached directly to the table top rather than a separate mounting plate and with or without the optional digital gauge, the level of precision with this system is unparalleled. If you want the best, this one's for you. buy-now-amazon-button4
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Introduction

When JessEm invented the router lift back in 1999 they created a whole new woodworking category. Since that time other manufacturers such as Kreg and Incra have joined the market with top quality router lifts. Now JessEm have upped their game and taken it to a new level with the JESSEM Mast-R-Lift Excel II Router Table Top With Integral Router Lift.

The most obvious development is the method of adjusting bit height: a large, ergonomic crank handle attached to the infeed side of the router table top – a departure from the usual above-the-table removable crank handle used in virtually all other router lifts (including other JessEm models such as the standalone JessEm Mast-R-Lift II). The only other model we’re aware of that uses a crank arm is the MLCS 9562 U-Turn 2 Router Lift.

On the Mast-R-Lift Excel II the adjustment crank is locked in position by a very efficient cam lock to prevent any movement during routing operations. This worked perfectly in practice and JessEm have done an excellent job coupling ease of use with efficient locking.

When assembling the Mast-R-Lift Excel II everything fitted perfectly, was well machined and felt like a high quality piece of equipment.

Specification

The Router Table Top

The router table top itself measures 32″ x 24″ x 3/4″ thick and is constructed from solid phenolic resin which is used for its dimensional stability and the low-friction of its surface. Rigidity is further enhanced by two ‘L-section’ aluminum table reinforcements that screw to the underside of the table. The top is pre-drilled to screw directly to a JessEm stand such as the JessEm 05001 Rout-R-Table Stand but could equally be mounted to the Kreg KRS1035 Router Table Stand or to a shop-made stand.

In line with most high-end router tables, the table top has an inset extruded aluminum combination miter groove/T-track that accepts accessories such as a miter gauge or featherboards with 3/4″ runners and 1/4″ hardware for mounting fixtures.

An additional feature not seen on other router tables is the 4″ dust extraction fitting mounted on the underside of the table top. This fitting when added to the dust extraction provided through your router fence results in better than normal dust extraction.

The table top features JessEm’s tab lock insert rings that can be changed with a 1/4 turn of the insert ring wrench making insert/bit changes quick and easy.

The Router Lift

Under the table the lift mechanism uses the same router mounting brackets, substantial spindle and rigid guide rods as JessEm’s excellent Mast-R-Lift II with a total of six, double-sealed bearings for long life and smooth, easy operation even with industrial-sized routers.

Just like with the Mast-R-Lift II, the Mast R Lift Excel II is compatible with the following fixed base routers: Porter Cable 7518/690/890, Bosch 1617/1618, DeWalt 610/618/616, Makita 1101, Hitachi M12VC and KM12VC, Milwaukee 5625/5615/5616/5619, Craftsman 17543/17540/28190 and the Rigid R29302.

(The carriage is set from the factory for the Porter Cable 7518 router motor.)

What Makes The Mast-R-Lift Excel II Different?

That’s where the similarity ends and the Mast-R-Lift Excel II has a number of important differences:

Instead of operating with a removable crank, the router carriage is directly driven by an easily accessed handwheel mounted at the right (infeed) side of the table. The handwheel adjusts the router bit 1/8″ per revolution and locks in position with the built in cam lock which engages with a 1/4 turn. The result is superior accuracy down to 1/1000 of an inch. In use the handwheel feels and behaves like a quality piece of engineering.
The router lift mechanism mounts directly to the underside of the table top – not to a removable mounting plate as with all other router lift setups. If you are going to permanently mount your router in a table, it makes sense to mount it directly instead of to a removable plate. It gives you a seamless table top with no lip and no possibility of the mounting plate not being completely flush with the table top.
The Mast-R-Lift Excel II’s low profile design allows above the table bit changes with no special cranked wrenches required. All you need to do is remove the insert plate with a 1/4 turn and crank the bit all the way above the table. It’s as quick and easy as any system on the market.

JESSEM Mast-R-Lift Excel II Video Demonstration

Watch the video to see how simple it is to mount your router in the  carriage and how quick and easy bit changes can be performed. You can also see the optional JESSEM Digital Readout Attachment for Mast-R-Lift Excel II Router Lift in use, which makes micro-adjustment a snap.

Just watching the Mast-R-Lift Excel II makes you want to rush out and get one. It’s an amazing piece of equipment, but it’s an expensive investment at $729.buy-now-amazon-button4

What Else Should You Be Looking At?

The JESSEM Mast-R-Lift Excel II Router Table Top With Integral Router Lift retails at $729. You may already own a fence system that you plan to use with it and you may already have a stand (or plan to use a shop-made unit) in which case you’re good to go.

But if you plan on buying a fence like the JessEm 4010 Master Fence II which costs $239 and a new stand like the JessEm 05001 Rout-R-Table Stand which costs $184, you’ve got a total outlay of $1,152.

If that’s the case, you’d be better off going for the complete system, the JESSEM Mast-R-Lift Excel II Included Complete Router Table System which retails at $999 – a saving of $153. That would allow you to buy a set of the fantastic JESSEM Clear-Cut Precision Stock Guides and still have $50 in your pocket.

You might not want a 100% JessEm system because there’s a ton of other excellent kit out there, but if you do, the complete system is the way to go.

Bottom Line

JessEm invented the router lift back in 1999 and with the introduction of the JESSEM Mast-R-Lift Excel II Router Table Top With Integral Router Lift they’ve taken it to the next level. The Mast-R-Lift Excel II is one of the very few router lifts to utilize a crank handle attached permanently to the side of the table top to make router bit height adjustments rather than the usual system of a removable crank handle inserted into the table top. With the lift mechanism attached directly to the table top rather than a separate mounting plate and with or without the optional digital gauge, the level of precision with this system is unparalleled. If you want the best, this one’s for you. buy-now-amazon-button4


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Chester is older than he likes to admit, a lifelong woodworker with a special interest in everything related to routers, router tables and router lifts in particular. His aim in life is to own everything made by the Kreg Tool Company, and his doctor says he's most likely addicted to anodized aluminum.