Lots of good ideas, some misses

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Review by EarlS posted 09-13-2020 03:10 PM 3216 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Lots of good ideas, some misses No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I’ve been using the JessEm Excel II router table package for about a year.

JessEm Excel II router table package – $1543.99 includes:
Mast-R-Lift Excel II
TA Fence
ALTS Stand
ALTS Caster Set
Clear Cut Stock Guides

Pow-R-Tek Switch – $49.99
10 piece insert ring set – $42.99
2 fence stops -$34.99 each

There are also other accessories (Wixey digital readout, Mite-R-Slide II) that I use in conjunction with the table package. Those will be reviewed separately.

The table, fence, and router lift are well thought out, making router set up and adjustment relatively easy. Jessem get 5 stars for quality, durability, looks, and ease of use above the table.

The router table loses a star for completely failing with the below table dust collection. The vacuum port looks like it was an after thought. With the level of quality, attention to detail, and design of the components above the table, the lack of decent dust collection below the table stands out in stark contrast.

At this price point, the router table package should have included the insert ring set and Pow-R-Tek switch in the package. It appears the Pow-R-Tek switch is included in the current offering.

Initial assembly took 3-4 hours. There is a lot to put together. As always with JessEm products, the instruction manual was easy to follow. All of the pre-drilled holes matched up exactly with the parts. There were a couple of missteps inserting the PC 7518 motor into the lift (not reading things thoroughly). Each major component (table, fence, lift) had a separate instruction manual which made assembly less confusing since one component was assembled before starting the next one. Read the instructions thoroughly a couple of times before starting.

Once the table was assembled I realized there is a quite a lot of empty space that would be ideal for router related storage. Unfortunately, JessEm doesn’t appear to sell extra side rails.

Raising and lowering the router lift is quite a bit different from the usual adjustment wrench set up most lifts have. There is a hand wheel that locks on the right side of the table. One complete revolution raises/lowers the lift by 1/8”. I also installed a Wixey digital readout which makes setting the height even easier.

I did have to reset the router motor in the lift. If the router motor is too far up in the lift, longer bits can’t be lowered far enough to use (tall pattern bit with top mounted guide bushing). If the router motor is too low, and small, short bits can’t be raised up high enough to use.

Right and Left Fence Tracks are extruded from 6000 series aluminum, machined and anodized. Front and back covers reducing dust buildup. Each track has its own linear imperial/metric scale.

Once the tracks on sides of the table are properly aligned (part of the installation instructions), the fence can be set up parallel to the miter slot with minimal effort. I still haven’t worked out a system for using the tape measure with different sized bits. It is a nice feature, but with somewhat limited usefulness.

The fence is SOLID.
It is made from 3 separate 6000 series aluminum extrusions, machined to the tightest of tolerances and anodized for durability. There is a 36” easy to read imperial/metric scale across the top. The sub fences are also extruded 6000 series aluminum, machined to the highest degree of accuracy and “hard” anodized for long lasting use.

The out feed fence has threaded adjustment knobs for joining board edges. Each revolution of the dial is equal to 1/16” and the out feed can be adjusted from 0” to 1/4”.

All of the adjustment knobs are precision machined with ergonomic knurls from either 303 Stainless or 6000 series aluminum. All the hold-down knobs are fixed into retainers so the knobs remain with the fence if it is removed from the table.

One of my biggest issues with table top routers has been flimsy insert rings. These are heavy, rigid inserts that don’t deflect under pressure and don’t have high/low edges around the circumference of the insert.

The router package only came with a couple of insert rings so I ordered the 10 piece set, which includes a blank, 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1”, 1-1/4”,1-1/2”, 1-3/4” and 2-1/4”. There is a tab-lock that uses 1/4 turn to tighten or release the insert ring. All of the rings are labelled with its size. This is another area where JessEm could improve. When a customer is buying a complete, high end product, include complete sets of accessories, even if the price increases slightly. It was aggravating to use this for the first time only to realize the insert selection didn’t accommodate the bit size.

Changing bits is basically the same as with any router table. After removing the insert plate, unplugging the motor, the motor is raised up until the collet can be accessed with the collet wrenches.

The power switch is mounted on the right side of the table, at just the right height that I can nudge the paddle with my thigh and turn off the router if necessary.

Dust Collection:

More to the point – what dust collection???
There is a standard 2-1/2” OD / 2-1/4” ID dust port in the fence. Underneath the table, there is a vacuum shroud that is mounted next to the router spindle.

In theory, the vacuum should have enough suction to pull the chips and dust into the shroud. In practice, neither the shop vac (high vacuum, low flow) nor the main DC (low vacuum, high flow) do a satisfactory job. The shroud is sized for a 4” hose which would imply that a regular DC is appropriate for the job since the shop vac would be hooked up to the fence dust port. Here’s what it looks like after running a few pieces through a profile bit:

What you can’t see is the dust that is floating in the air and settling on everything in the shop. It isn’t quite as bad as using a hand held router with not dust collection, but it is close. This is the single biggest design problem with this router. As I mentioned above, I’m looking for some after market side supports so I can build a box around the motor with a hole in it for the DC hose.

The fence stops are also solid.

I’ve used the stock guides a couple of times when running boards lengthwise through the router. They keep even pressure on the boards which gives a smooth, even cut. Generally, the boards need to be at least 2” wide so the push block doesn’t hit the guide.

There were some small spring loaded stops that I think were included with the table accessories, a shroud that can mount directly above the bit, and a contraption that also could be used as a shroud over the bit, though I’m not sure what application it would be used for.

I haven’t used any of these yet, which is somewhat telling when considering they were included with the original router table package.

Overall, this is more functional and better designed than previous router tables I’ve used (home made top with original Jess Em router lift, and the BenchDog ProMax cast iron top and associated lift which I reviewed). As with most quality product these days, it wasn’t inexpensive, but the quality means it should work for a good long time. Hopefully, JessEm will come up with something that will address the poor dust collection capability.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View EarlS's profile


4754 posts in 3593 days

10 comments so far

View EarlS's profile


4754 posts in 3593 days

#1 posted 09-13-2020 03:12 PM

Side Note: i had to go thru a verification process to post this review. I wonder if this is a new security feature?

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Lazyman's profile


7980 posts in 2632 days

#2 posted 09-13-2020 04:26 PM

It would seem to me that the fan on the router blowing up would largely negate any suction from that port off to the side (if I am seeing that right). I think that the only good way to make under the table suction work is to add a box or plenum to corral the chips as they fall and keeps the router’s fan from blowing them in all directions; otherwise, it is more like a dust sampling system.

I’ve gotten that random captcha verification from time to time, though not lately. I cannot seem to figure out why it pops up when it does. Seems kind of random.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View pottz's profile


20687 posts in 2229 days

#3 posted 09-13-2020 11:49 PM

great review earl looks like a real nice setup.ive never had to do a verification before.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View splintergroup's profile


5871 posts in 2467 days

#4 posted 09-14-2020 02:55 PM

I love the detail and honest evaluation of good/meh/bad Earl!

Seems pricy (not surprising), but the utility of these tools is fantastic and money well spent IMO.

Eventually they will develop a system that looks much like a Bridgeport milling machine 8^)
The crank for bit height is something that has been ignored by many of the other vendors, I’ve been tempted to buy a “sidewinder” for my woodpecker PRL since on occasion the table top crank hole gets covered with my circle jig and I need to rotate the insert 180 to allow access.

View EarlS's profile


4754 posts in 3593 days

#5 posted 09-14-2020 05:35 PM

In retrospect, the total cost of this set up is in the small CNC range, or the Shaper Origin at Rockler. I hadn’t considered that before Splinter’s comment. That opens up an entirely new line of thought/discussion – CNC set up or high end router table?

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Peteybadboy's profile


4015 posts in 3195 days

#6 posted 09-15-2020 05:48 PM

That is a great review, Thanks for that!

-- Petey

View JoeFuture's profile


48 posts in 417 days

#7 posted 09-16-2020 05:49 AM

Thanks for the great review. It looks like the current version of the package includes the switch now but still not the full insert rings set. I’m still waffling between this and the Incra setup and you’ve given me a lot more to think about.

View chem's profile


45 posts in 2850 days

#8 posted 09-20-2020 05:25 PM

This is a wonderful review because:

1. It is detailed and honest.
2. You describe why you score it the way you do.
3. It saves me the time of finishing the review I was working on for the same tool.

I agree the dust collection is not good below the table (above is fine), but much better than I had before. The lift mechanism is superb and coupled with a digital gauge removes all guess work. The lack of a router mount insert is fantastic because it removes a common source of unevenness (this was my main motivation in replacing my steel Craftsman router table because small parts were always getting caught up).

What impresses me the most is the build quality and how solid everything is. I have a lot of Festool gear and it is always disappointing how you pay premium prices for something that is lots of plastic and feels cheap (function makes up for this in general). The JessEm router table is light years ahead in build quality compared to the vast majority of tools in my shop and probably tops overall. That part of it is a pleasure and pushes me more to the 5 star category.

-- chemist by day, woodworker time permitting

View kajunkraft's profile


197 posts in 3455 days

#9 posted 09-21-2020 09:54 PM

I have the Incra Clean Sweep under the table. In theory it seems like a good setup, especially with the metal(magnetic) inserts with lots of slots. In fact it does seem to collect a lot of dust, because every time I look inside there is not a lot of dust laying around.

However, my “complaint” is that my router lift gets really tight fairly often.

To remedy this I have to pull the router out and thoroughly clean & lube the lift & slide bars. Just seems to me that it builds up too quickly.

Although I have pretty serious central dust collection I run my router tables with a Rockler Dust Right which is dedicated the whichever router table I am using at the time.

View JoeD2's profile


1 post in 244 days

#10 posted 02-21-2021 03:33 AM

I am in the midst of assembling the Jessem Excel II router table/lift/fence/stand, etc as purchased from Lee Valley. Just wondering if anyone has taken a shot at creating a dust box for this setup. Attachment to the table is the part that is puzzling me so far. I would like to avoid drilling into the tabletop, maybe some sort of adhesive caulk or tape would be the way to go. Does anyone have insight on a potential method or attachment?

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