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Motorized Router Lift

by John W. Nixon on February 11 2006 03:00

Currently rated 3.7 by 7 people

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Project Description

Update - 2/21/09:

I added the first video in the series that shows how to wire the Motorized Router Lift. Stay tuned, there's more to come.

Update - 2/22/09:

The second video in the series has been released and shows the rest of the Motorized Router Lift wiring as well as how to put together the control panel.

control panel

If you're interested in purchasing the variable speed kit that I show in the wiring video, it's available as a kit or fully assembled from: Electronic Light


Device Description -
I motorized the raise and lower action of the table mounted router. There's a panel on the router table that has a toggle switch to control the direction of the lift, and a pulse switch to activate the lift. There's also a foot pedal that activates the lift, allowing you to use both hands to control the work piece while operating the lift.


Background -
The idea was born from my desire to make mortises with a router. I was on the verge of building a mortising jig for use with a plunge router. The concept of the jig is simple - control the movement of the router while incrementally plunging the bit to make the mortise. By motorizing the lift action of the router, I simulated the plunge (the z axis). By adding a tenon jig to the router table, I was able to control the x-y movement of the work piece. The combination of these two elements makes for highly effective and efficient router table mortising. With a router table that has an enclosed lower connected to dust collection, you get a nearly 100% dust free operation (using a spiral upcut bit, all the dust and chips is extracted below the table).

After installing and using the motorized router lift for a while, I realized there were many other benefits beyond mortising.


Some of the benefits -

  • Changing bits - my Motorized router lift is connected to a Hitachi M12V. Changing bits on this router when it's mounted in a table can be time consuming. With motorized router lift, I can drop the router down in a matter of seconds to easily change bits. The router go right back up to the ready position in seconds.
    Stopped Dados - I can start the bit in the middle of the work piece by raising it up with the lift. There's no more tilting the work piece onto a spinning bit to make a stopped dado.
  • Mortising - with the modified tenon jig equipped with stop blocks, I can setup and cut reproducible mortises in no time at all. This setup is great for making matching mortises for loose tenon joinery.
  • Incremental Passes - how often to you take too much off in one pass because you just don't feel like changing the bit height in between passes? With the motorized router lift, the pulse of a button on the table changes the bit height so making incremental passes is really easy.
  • Cutting Circles - I made a circle jig for the router table. It's the standard pivot type affair, but I can rotate the blank while raising the bit with the foot pedal and cut a circle fast and easy.


About the device -
My current version of the Motorized Router Lift is powered by an 18 volt screw driver (Black and Decker XD1200). I converted AC to DC and added a variable powered transformer to control the speed of the motor. I rarely adjust the speed, but it's nice to have that capability for raising the router at different rates depending on the operation. You could easily skip the AC to DC conversion and just use the battery (connected in a remote location) to power the device.
The screwdriver is connected to a hollow drive-shaft that take the place of the nut on the router's threaded rod. This drive-shaft turns against the router body to raise and lower the M12V.


Q. How do you stop the router at the desired depth?
A. I use the router's depth stop.

Q. Does the screwdriver motor continue to run when the router has reached max depth?
A. Yes, but it has a clutch that slips to prevent burning the motor. It's also easy to tell when the max depth is reached - I can hear that the bit is no longer cutting, and I let off the foot pedal.

Q. Do you have an indication of the bit height during the lift operation?
A. Yes, I have a digital caliper connected to the router, and a remote readout above the table that shows the relative amount the bit was raised. I can use this in conjunction with the depth stop to know when to let off the foot pedal.

Q. Do you need to have the VARIAC for controlling the motor speed of the lift?
A. No, if you can find a motor with a suitable RPM, there's really no need for a speed controller.

Q. Can I buy a Foot-Activated Motorized Router lift somewhere?
A. I am currently working with a company to bring the device to market. Patent is pending. Simple enough to build your own though.


Resources -
There's a lot of information on this site site about the Motorized Router Lift. I have videos of the lift in action, pictures, and documents describing the components.

Part 3 of my pool table build showcases the Motorized Router Lift for making mortises:
Arts and Crafts Pool Table Build

My Article about the Motorized Router Lift in Woodshop News  


5/11/2010 8:30:45 AM
United States
Posted by:
Where did you get your router table?
4/4/2010 11:42:55 AM
Posted by:
Pingback from

8 Free Router Lift Plans, Build Notes and Videos | High Quality Tools

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