Mast-r-lift with Incra magnalock plates

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Review by philba posted 03-11-2015 03:36 PM 9933 views 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Mast-r-lift with Incra magnalock plates No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

This lift is “sorta” branded by Incra but it’s basically the JessEm Mast-R-Lift II with the Incra MagnaLock insert plates. I am assuming this is made and shipped by JessEm. I purchased it through the Incremental Tools web site.

In some ways this JessEm/Incra partnership is a tale of two companies (apologies to Mr Dickens). While all the Incra products I have bought have had superb engineering and packaging, the JessEm kind of came up a bit short. I also installed a new Incra LS25 positioner at the same time. The two products cost about the same amount so I could not help but compare the two companies and the products’ fit and finish.

First off, I have to say the the basic lift seems to work quite well. The lift screw is smooth and solid with no discernible play. The locking mechanism is quite solid. My PC7815 router went in easily and is very solidly held in place. The Incra MagnaLock inserts are very nice and the leveling mechanism for that is very well done. It’s all that I hoped for.

However, several things left me less than enthusiastic. The box that arrived at my door, while not flimsy, wasn’t very solid. When I opened it, I found the lift was just sitting in the box and with various other parts wrapped in bubble wrap or paper. To be fair, there was no damage but that’s more a testament to UPS handling. Comparing that the Incra LS package, JessEm could learn a few tricks. Everything in the LS package was locked into place. It could probably survive a 10 foot drop. The JessEm box rattled and definitely wouldn’t have survived a 2 foot drop. I shudder to think what a rough ride might have done to it. I dodged the bullet on that one.

When I was installing the plate, about 1/3 of the leveling screw holes were very roughly tapped. The screws were very hard to turn – to the point of almost bending my hex wrench. I backed them out and looked to see if I cross threaded them (I didn’t) and then applied wax. That didn’t help very much at all. I did’t have the right tap so I just put them in and backed them out until they at least didn’t destroy the wrench. I finally got it to the point where the plate was leveled but that left me less than ecstatic over the fit and finish. The Incr LS had no problems installing – their fit and finish is superb.

Finally, the JessEm instructions are pretty minimal. They are sufficient but, again, there is faint comparison to Incra. The Incra instructions were clear, complete and very easy to follow. JessEm, not so much. In particular, I wanted to know specifics of the table top opening for the plate. The instructions were silent other than to say “you can buy a template from us”. Feh, now you tell me. I did find instructions for a bare plate product on the JessEm website but that was it. So, I just figured it out on my own. Made a template and routed it. It came out pretty well but I surely would have preferred a little guidance from JessEm.

So, once I got past the lousy packaging, lacking instructions and installation problems, I am happy with the lift. I’m glad I got it. I’m giving it 4 stars because of issue noted above. If I had an option for half stars, I would have given it 4.5. Probably the most surprising thing in comparing the two products is that the Incra LS is significantly more complex with about 10X the number of parts and yet they clearly cared about the packaging, fit and finish. I’m even more sold on Incra now. JessEm, not so much.

View philba's profile


96 posts in 2220 days

12 comments so far

View Desert_Woodworker's profile


3390 posts in 2062 days

#1 posted 03-11-2015 09:31 PM

I apprciate the Incra brand and use their products. On the other hand- JessEm products- I had a bad experience with them and the customer service. Where the bad taste comes from is their original router lift ( yeah I know it was a long time ago, but a dog knows when it was done wrong) The cost to replace and get the lift to original condition was over $100. Customer service admitted to me that there was a problem on the old model but the new ones were better. NO offer to help me out (just full retail on the parts…. Therefore NO JessEM for me. I hope you enjoy yours, honestly.

-- Desert_Woodworker

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4156 days

#2 posted 03-11-2015 09:38 PM

I’ve had the Incra version Master-R-Lift II for several years and find it to be an outstanding lift. The one made for Incra has the magnetic lock plates and the one for Jesssum does not…unless they have recently changed it.
I like that the Incra version can easily be raised and lowered with just one finger and then locked in place.

I also have a jessem original master-R-Lift without the separate lock mechanism in my other router table and it is much slower to raise and lower…but to its credit it does not slip. I use the Incra LS Positioner on both router tables and have the Incra tops on both.
At one time prior to my Incra systems I owned a jessem table, fence and leg setup… but I sold it and don’t miss it at all.

View philba's profile


96 posts in 2220 days

#3 posted 03-11-2015 10:52 PM

Thanks for the comments guys. I do like the MRLiftII (same as yours, Greg). While I haven’t had a lot of time with it yet, it does seem pretty good.

Desert WW, that sounds like a pretty bad experience. I have to admit, I didn’t do much research on JessEm the company. Everything I read about the MRLifII was very positive. What I don’t understand is how a company can do excellent engineering but fail so badly on the customer experience.

I think my experiences with Incra have spoiled me. They produce great products and seem to simply do everything right.

View BroncoBrian's profile


894 posts in 2806 days

#4 posted 03-12-2015 03:41 AM

I just got mine installed today. Using it with the larger Rockler table and the PC7518. I had a problem b/c the pistons(?) were not mounted right. There was a vibration until I did the following:

Get the router installed 1/16” from resting on the face. Raise the lift all the way to the o-rings. Loosen the top 4 screws, the retighten. Don’t over tighten the router in the lift, that might have messed me up the first time. Once smooth, the lift is perfect. Well made for sure.

Mine was packaged fine and looks awesome. Very well machined.

-- A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

View philba's profile


96 posts in 2220 days

#5 posted 03-12-2015 02:42 PM

That’s funny, the one that was well packaged needed adjustment, the one tossed in a box and shipped worked perfectly straight off. go figure…

View retfr8flyr's profile


386 posts in 2516 days

#6 posted 03-12-2015 03:28 PM

I also have the Incra Mast-R-Lift II, PC7518, clean sweep system, in an Incra table, with the Incra TSLS fence, mounted in my Jet TS. I couldn’t be happier with the setup and I am a huge fan of Incra products. They were great to deal with when I had some problems with my positioner.

-- Earl

View Marty Backe's profile

Marty Backe

251 posts in 3619 days

#7 posted 03-15-2015 07:08 AM

I did a video review (unboxing and installation) of the non-Incra version of this lift. Apparently my packaging was better, and I had no issues with the leveling set screws. I agree that the documentation is just about worthless. It’s been working great for me.

See my comparison review here: ”

View MJCD's profile


605 posts in 3219 days

#8 posted 03-15-2015 01:24 PM

Just want to add a thanks to Mark Mueller, at Incra, he’s been excellent to work with on configuring different packages (the various miter sleds, Table Saw Fences, ...). He and Incra are class-acts.

I do wish that Incra would be more aggressive in product development, similar to Festool’s ‘system’ – Incra brings the same quality – and sometimes the same pricing…

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 2272 days

#9 posted 03-15-2015 02:03 PM

So how are the new vacuum port insert plates working for you? I have seen some videos and they look like a great solution to reduce table top saw dust.

Incra and Woodpecker tools are both my go to vendors. Great stuff and I love my PRL V2

-- Brad, Texas,

View philba's profile


96 posts in 2220 days

#10 posted 03-15-2015 05:13 PM

I haven’t gotten the new inserts yet. Still waiting to finish the cart for the table before I do. I did built a shroud similar to the clean sweep thing and was surprised how good it works even with the standard mag inserts. Some chips get spewed onto the table but I just brush them towards the hole and they are gone. I do use a slightly bigger insert than needed so there is more airflow. This is with no fence mounted DC.

Agreed – Incra rocks. I do wish they had a version of the standard LS fence with a dust port. Thinking of getting the super fence because of that.

Marty, glad your experience was better than mine. I’m very happy with the MRLII itself though one of the leveling screws is now completely stuck. I’ll just live with it for now. The lift really is a joy to work with.

View EEngineer's profile


1131 posts in 4461 days

#11 posted 03-15-2015 08:11 PM

When I was installing the plate, about 1/3 of the leveling screw holes were very roughly tapped.

I am not sure about that. I had similar problems with the Woodpecker lift I bought. They were insanely tight. On the other hand, you can be sure they wouldn’t change once you got them set :) I finally retapped them. When I did that I noticed that the threaded holes were anodized! Retapping the holes actually removed part of the anodizing in the threads.

At least in my case, it looks like they tapped the holes in the plate then anodized. It kinda makes sense – there is a lot of other machining that must be anodized after the machining – but on those little threads for the set screws I think it added enough thickness to interfere.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View philba's profile


96 posts in 2220 days

#12 posted 03-16-2015 04:03 PM

thanks for the comment. You are probably right about anodizing being the cause but it really doesn’t matter why. They need to tweak their production to fix it. As it stands, I have one screw that is completely stuck. I wish I’d known before hand, would have gotten the right size tap. It takes away a little from an otherwise wonderful product. I have to admit some of the sour over that issue is fading as I use it more but in a premium product I expect perfection.

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