Mast-R-Lift Sizes, Table Tops, and Rockler!

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Forum topic by lightnb1 posted 12-08-2021 09:18 PM 628 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 61 days

12-08-2021 09:18 PM

Topic tags/keywords: router router table router lift jessem question

So I was thinking of ordering a JessEm Mast-R-Lift. It seems to be well-received by people who have them, and the big selling point is that I can fit (almost) any router into it, so it’s not a wasted investment if I get a different router, or want to move routers around later and so on.

Then I ran into a problem.

Apparently, there are two top plate sizes. Model #02120 takes a “Standard” 9-1/4” x 11-3/4” Top Plate, where Model #02121 takes a “Smaller” Top Plate 8-1/4” x 11-3/4”.

After a bit of searching, it seems that “smaller” really means “Rockler”, because their tables are non-standard.

I got my router table about a year ago. It’s a Rockler. It’s got the Phenolic top on the rolling metal frame cart. And according to their website, it takes the “smaller” plate.

Now, I wasn’t planing to build a cabinet router cart right now, but I do want to build one in the future, and I might want a cast iron top for that (or do I?)

Now the problem is, if I buy the 8-1/4” x 11-3/4” lift, then am I going to be stuck with Rockler tables forever, since everything else uses the larger “standard” plate?

And if that’s the case, I’m wondering if it would be better to get the larger “standard” lift size that doesn’t fit the Phenolic top I own, and then also get a “standard” top that I can put on the cart for now to start using it, and then move it to it’s own “real” wooden cabinet cart later. Then, later, when I build my “real” cart (the one that’s a nice wooden cabinet rather than a metal cart), I can put the cast iron top with the lift on the new wooden cart, and put the Phenolic top back on the metal cart and use it as a secondary (non-lifted router) or just sell it.

I feel like, if I’m going to spend more than the price of the actual router(!) on a lift, then I want to buy the last lift that I will ever buy, and have it fit any future router and any future table that I might want to buy or build. So I’m thinking that getting the smaller plate lift would limit my future router top options to only Rockler tops.

There are certainly cases where having two router tables might be useful, like rail and style doors, and I think, it’s really only the second one that needs dialed in precisely to match the first.

Does the “standard” JessEm Plate (9-1/4” x 11-3/4”) really fit everything except the two Rockler model tops? ie. all the router table tops, the table saw extension tables, and everything else I might want a lift on?

What do you think? And is there an alternate router table top surface, maybe a cast iron, that would be a good choice for building a wood cabinet router table in the future? I’m also interested in possibly using a power feeder at some point. And if a good deal shows up on a used one, a shaper.

11 replies so far

View Ocelot's profile


3739 posts in 3980 days

#1 posted 12-08-2021 09:25 PM

I wonder if it’s possible to swap the top plate of the router lift.

If the part is available, it might make a transition path … with whatever hasslle of rebulding the lift.

-- I intended to be a woodworker, but turned into a tool and lumber collector.

View sawdust66's profile


55 posts in 91 days

#2 posted 12-08-2021 10:13 PM

I was in a similar situation about a year ago. Had an old Rockler table and wanted to upgrade table and add a lift. I found out the same as you. In my case I went with a SawStop cast iron table and the “standard” sized Jessem lift. Absolutely no regrets. I like the fact that the 9-1/4’’ x 11-3/4’’ size gives me the option of either moving the lift to a different table, or replacing the lift with another brand down the road.

-- Chris, Pennsylvania

View gbarnas's profile


55 posts in 124 days

#3 posted 12-08-2021 10:29 PM

I have the Rocker setup – Bench Dog cast iron table top & fence with the Incra lift for Rockler and a dust box for mounting below the table top. The table top can be configured as a table-saw wing or added to a stand. I had it on my Ridgid TS3650 before that got damaged when I relocated this past summer. Aside from table-top compatibility, I can’t speak to any issues or challenges from having the 8.25” deep plate, and the Bench Dog table is SOLID with both miter guide and t-track. I have a 3.5HP PC router hanging in the lift and it’s done anything I’ve asked of it.

I just replaced this gear with the Harvey components (wing, fence, dust box) and a Jess-Em lift for the new Harvey Alpha saw, which is a 31” deep table vs the more standard 27”. If the new saw was 27” deep, I’d have kept the Bench Dog wing.

I’m open to selling this (cast top, fence, lift, dust box) for the right offer. New this totaled over $800, so based on current Craigslist and FB Marketplace pricing, that should go for at least $950, right? /s Actually, I would take $450 for the whole rig and throw in a Bench Dog “blank” aluminum insert plate to hold another router. My original plan was to swap plates instead of having 2 router tables due to space constraints. The blank plate has the center hole but no router mounting holes – they need to be drilled and counter-sunk to match your router.

Incra has the cool magnetic metal inserts that are very easy to use and have the most commonly used sizes included – Jess-Em comes with just 3 and makes you buy the others for another $45. FWIW, I’ve been really happy with the Incra (by Jess-Em) lift. Only significant difference is that Jess-Em uses twist-lock plastic inserts and Incra uses the metal inserts.

BTW – I had a second table insert plate for an MDF table that I built. It’s actually sized in-between the Rockler and the “normal” 9.25” size, so I can’t say there’s just 2 standard sizes. :O

-- Glenn, Jersey Shore, NJ

View lightnb1's profile


9 posts in 61 days

#4 posted 12-10-2021 07:16 PM

I wonder if it s possible to swap the top plate of the router lift.

I’ve been emailing with JessEm, and it turns out you can swap the top plates yourself. It’s $80 plus shipping for the alternate plate, but you have to contact JessEm directly to setup an order.

So I ordered a Master Lift II from a retailer that was having a Christmas sale, and I emailed JessEm to try and get the alternate plate. It should end up being about the same as list price on the Master Lift to get the lift and both plates, and I’m sure I can find a creative use for a spare plate.

Glenn, I might be interested if you lived closer, but NJ is too far of a drive.

This has probably been beaten to death, but are MDF tables just as good as cast iron for flatness? And what about accessory holding strength?

If I wanted to build a nice wooden cabinet with drawers and stuff for the router table, what top is a good choice? I’d like something strong enough to take a power feeder and have t-track or miter slots (or both) that can hold down clamps. I keep thinking that MDF would tear out if I tried to bolt heavy things onto it (like a power feeder arm).

View 987Ron's profile


2719 posts in 658 days

#5 posted 12-10-2021 08:25 PM

I have the Incra lift and love the magnetic rings. It is in a Rockler top but on a cabinet I made. Incra fence and jig. Works for me quite well. Would use it again.

Could you not order the larger plate size and enlarge the rockler hop you have, it would only be on one side. You have a router so it would seem easy enough to do. Then the plate could be used with your current set up or be relocated to whatever you decide to do in the future.

-- Ron

View gbarnas's profile


55 posts in 124 days

#6 posted 12-11-2021 01:21 AM

Glenn, I might be interested if you lived closer, but NJ is too far of a drive.

I think there are businesses out there that will pick up and deliver stuff.. ;)

I went and measured my “weird” router plate – it’s 7.75” wide but a standard length! Came from an inexpensive desktop router table kit. Decent 2 HP 1/2” router, fence, and insert (with access to the height knob from the table top via Allen-key crank) but a crappy plastic & Melamine table. I actually used the kit router to make the MDF table top to fit the insert. MDF box below for dust collection via shop vac. I used a plastic garden spike through the box to press the router’s motor lock button so I didn’t have to pull the router out to change bits. I used that for a year or so before upgrading to the cast iron. Maybe I didn’t finish it well, but the edges of the table started to get “fuzzy”, especially near any part that was scraped or scratched. My shop used to be in a “3.5 season” outbuilding with a small propane heater for the winter. Was OK except on the coldest (or hottest) days of the year. Anyway – had problems with moisture that would constantly put a thin film of rust on the T-S and slowly soften anything made of MDF. Wound up replacing the MDF Thien baffle with a Dust Deputy and the router table top with cast iron.

New shop is in a heated 2-car attached garage, so I might have better luck with MDF projects.

Glad to know that the plates can be changed.. I might now keep my Incra lift and replace the top and save $340. :)

-- Glenn, Jersey Shore, NJ

View lightnb1's profile


9 posts in 61 days

#7 posted 12-14-2021 12:04 AM

What are all of the viable options for router table tops?


1. Manufactured Phenolic
2. Manufactured cast iron
3. MDF
4. Melamine
5. Plywood
6. Particle Board
7. Solid wood?

Anything else?

I’ve seen quite a few videos of DIY MDF tops, which is relatively cheap and smooth, but it always seemed like making something out of heavy duty cardboard rather than wood. (no offense intended).

With Phenolic and cast iron, you’re stuck with what is commercially available. I’ve seen the case made that the commercially available tables are too small. (Or that people using them wish they were larger)

Is cabinet grade plywood smooth enough for a top?

Can solid wood be jointed and glued into a table top that’s smooth enough for high quality results?

Or will moisture and temperature cause issues?

What type of coating can be put on plywood, MDF, etc to make it waterproof? It seems like paint and other sealers might wear off quickly and get on the work piece.

View JRsgarage's profile


475 posts in 1851 days

#8 posted 12-14-2021 12:11 AM

Plastic laminate like formica would work well. I’ve recently seen people use phenolic faced plywood on the web but I have never seen or used personally.

-- “Facts don't care about your feelings.” ..., Ben Shapiro

View gbarnas's profile


55 posts in 124 days

#9 posted 12-15-2021 12:58 PM

FWIW – both JessEm and Incra offer options to upgrade the plate in the lifts, or apparently convert the plate as Incra offers it with and without the ring set. I’ll keep my Incra lift and replace the plate. I like the ease of the metal/magnetic inserts.

Having moved from home-made MDF to cast iron TS wing, I’m happy with the cast iron. If I was going to build another, I’d probably look at Melamine or Formica. My concern would be the inset, as those materials are often particle board based and may present challenges with leveling screws. Kreg has leveling adapters that screw into the 4 corners, eliminating the reliance on table substrate. I could swear someone made a gadget that screwed in from under the table so you just cut a 9.75×11.25 opening, bolted it underneath, and dropped in your plate. Can’t find that online now..
well.. here’s one. It includes a steel ring to prevent the leveling screws from digging into the MDF/particle board:

-- Glenn, Jersey Shore, NJ

View lightnb1's profile


9 posts in 61 days

#10 posted 12-15-2021 03:51 PM

What is the viability of converting a table saw cast iron top to hold a router lift? ie. What tools would be required to do a good job of it?

Sometimes people have junk table saws for sale cheap on Craigslist that have cast iron tops, for less than the cast iron top is worth if I ordered just a top new. Surface rust is easy to clean. How hard would it be to cut out the blade insert hole larger so it could fit a router plate instead?

Here’s a picture from a local ad of the kind of saw that I’m talking about. It looks like cast iron in the middle (but the wings look like something else). If I could clean up the rust and cut a better hole in it for the router plate, then it might be worth it if I can get a good price. Plus, a spare motor might be useful for something else, like a DIY disk sander.

View StevoWevo's profile


64 posts in 191 days

#11 posted 12-15-2021 05:52 PM

I don’t think the conversion would be worth it. Most of the cast tops have a specific web design on the bottom to support the cut out so you would be messing with the web structure as well as cutting a new hole. I could be wrong, it happens quite a bit. Just seems like a lot of metal work which I don’t particularly care for when ready to go units can be bought for reasonable money

Edit: I just noticed incra has a template for their inserts on sale right now. Ten bucks plus shipping

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