Introduction: Ultra-cheap Router Lift

Picture of Ultra-cheap Router Lift

Though the real solution for a router table involves a lift kit, there's little point in spending $200 to tie up my good Dewalt router for possibly infrequent use.. A sale at Harbor Freight netted me a 1.75hp plunge router for $40, and Amazon delivered me a Rousseau Router Base Plate for $39. All that was left was to make my router lift on the cheap. The only visible damage I'll do to the router is two small (1/16) holes drilled into the motor assembly near the depth stop.

This is not as robust as a lift kit with a professional grade router, but can be assembled for under $100 (As low as $70. One commentor has noted that HF also sells an identical plate for about $20 +$7 S&H.)

(Note: As usual, this will probably void your warranty.)

Step 1: Design Overview

Picture of Design Overview

The plan is to replace this fixed, rudimentary height adjuster with a setup that will compress the plunge router motor (and bit) upward toward it's base with accurate height adjustments. Instead of the height adjustment preventing compression beyond the nut, we'll use it to crank the motor upward like a normal lift system.

Step 2: Depth Adjust Replacement

Picture of Depth Adjust Replacement

To do so, we will replace the depth stop with this mechanism, mainly a bolt that tightens to compress the motor to the base. The 'lift' is comprised of the following:

A tee nut anchored to the motor housing, about 8" of threaded 1/4-20 rod, a 1/4-20 coupler, and a "Connector bolt" (unseen below the coupler) through the bottom base.

Total required parts: One 1/4-20 x 40mm(1.5") Connector bolt ($3.50 for 4 in the Furniture parts drawer at Lowe's), 8" of 1/4-20 threaded rod, 1 Tee Nut ($.70), and one 1/4-20 coupler( $.85 each)

(Skip the washer as it is unnecessary. )

Step 3: Drill Through the Base

Picture of Drill Through the Base

Remove the depth adjustment rod to disassemble the router. Mark the other side of the depth adjustment socket to drill a 1/4" hole for the connector bolt.

(It may be easier to drill from top to bottom through the socket. Start with a bit just small enough to fit the socket and make a divot in the bottom, then re-drill with a 1/4" bit through the base.)

Countersink this side of the hole (as seen where the drill bit is) to match the shoulder of the connector bolt.

Step 4: Mark and Drill Recess for Bolt Head on Router Plate

Picture of Mark and Drill Recess for Bolt Head on Router Plate

Placing the router base on the bottom of the plate, mark the plate through the hole we just drilled.

-Once marked, remove the router base, drill through the plate (from bottom to top) at the mark with a small (1/8") bit to make a pilot hole.
-Using the hole as a center, use a Forstner bit to make a clearance pocket deep enough for the connector bolt.
-Flipping the plate, re-drill the 1/8" pilot hole wide enough to pass the Allen wrench through the plate into the top of the connector bolt.

Before assembling, lubricate the flange of the connector bolt where it meets the base.

Step 5: Construct the Compression Bolt.

Picture of Construct the Compression Bolt.

(Final view, after assembly)

-With the base still separate, attach the Tee nut to the motor flange. (I drilled two 1/16 holes and hammered two brass nails through the Tee nut flange into the motor flange. JB weld may work just as well.

-Join the 1/4-20 threaded rod to the connector bolt projecting through the base with the coupling nut.

-Reassemble the base to the motor*, with the threaded rod through the Tee nut to compress the motor towards the base. (*Only replace the plunge springs in the tube nearest the new compression bolt, as both are unnecessary with it in an inverted position under the table.)

The complete assembly order should be: Phenolic plate, Connector bolt, Router base, Coupling nut, Motor flange, Tee nut. (Skip the washer I added, it's unnecessary once under tension.)

Step 6: Completed Product

Picture of Completed Product

Once sure it is working correctly, disassemble the coupler, lubricate the connector bolt and tee nut, and add some Lock-tite to the coupler before reassembling. The connector bolt and attached threaded rod will now compress the motor upward toward the base elevating the bit.

Further notes:
- As this is my first Instructable, let me know if anything is unclear.
- 1/4-20 threading was dictated by the connector bolt, but the thread count is a pain. 1" of travel is 20 turns. 1/4" is 5, and 1/16" is 1 1/4 turns. 5/16-32 would be better, but harder to find tee-nuts.
- As you can see, 8" of threaded rod looks unnecessary, but I'd rather have extra than too little.
- The only visible damage to the router is where I drilled two small holes for the brass nails to prevent the tee nut from turning. The only other hole I drilled is in invisible at the bottom of the threaded socket for the depth stop. I will have no problems reassembling the router with it's original parts. (Provided they don't get reused elsewhere.)

3/8/2008: - One thing I overlooked in the reassembly is the locking mechanism (black lever on the right in below pic). It relies on a small metal disc to press against the post, but falls out easily.
3/13/2008: It seems that the router in the middle of the saw wing is bowing it down a little (1/8"), so I'm rebuilding it by replacing the strips of MDF on the bottom with a full sheet. Add a couple bars of angle or box tubing from HD and it should be much more stable. Router still works like a charm.

Continuation project to come: Dust collection


Ralphcs419 (author)2017-08-25

I MADE IT! Using a Craftsman plunge router. Had to sub a 3/8 16 thread rod. That's what the router had to begin with. Works so easily. Thanks

lustreking (author)2016-12-23

Wow, I've had this same router mounted in my saw for probably 10 years, but I've rarely used it because it's so hard to adjust without a lift. The springs are really strong. Since you have gravity working for you, did you shorten or remove the springs completely before reassembly?

lustreking (author)lustreking2016-12-23

I read it again, and saw that you removed one of the springs. Thanks, definitely going to do this one!

Poppy Ann (author)2016-12-04

A great instructable showing all the important parts, does using one screw to lift itnot cause it to grab the guide shafts? on my router if I do not push against both sides at the same time it just jam's on the guide shaft.

I am in the process of building a router/saw table with the router fitted to one side of the table and the saw fitted to the center of the table the reason for my doing it this way is when using a router the work piece is always to one side of the cutter and when using the saw the work piece is on both sides of the table.

The Local Handyman (author)2016-10-19

Very instructive I've enjoyed reading this article I have been trying to figure out the best and cheapest way of doing this and I have just learned how thanks.

Yomitan Dan made it! (author)2016-08-28

Just backed out the bolt in my Porter Cable plunge router that sets the depth and used a smaller bolt and that little funky nut. I had to shape it to fit the contour and thereby I didn't have to fasten it to the router like you did it doesn't spin. Then I reset is the nut and washer in the plywood table top so it was flush. Works like a charm. It hasn't vibrated loose yet that I've noticed but I haven't done any serious work with that yet either. Thank you very much for the idea .

AZjohn (author)2016-03-20

This is a brilliant money saving idea.. (one of those "I wish I'd thought of that")

Great pics and instructions- - -THANK YOU MUCH john

Fezder (author)2015-11-04

Wohoo, there's hope for my cheapo router! not wanting to ''waste'' ~100-200 euros for another triton....

dbynoe (author)2015-09-18

I made one of these for my old Craftsman 3hp plunge router about 2 years ago. I think it works as well as any router lift that I have seen. After real world experience, I suggest a few minor changes. First, lubricate the screw, I used a light grease, seems to work well, second, I had to replace the nails with very small self taping screws as the nails started backing out shortly after I started using it. Next I added some thread locker to the coupling nut as my router is heavy and the nut would occasionally back out. the last thing I did was lock a coupling nut on the trailing end with a small nut, so that I could use a nut driver to run the router quickly up for bit changes, I later started using a socket-ed hex driver on the end of my drill to make a form of power lift from the top of the table. Its been a while, but the power driving may have been why I needed the thread locker in the first place. In any event, my version cost me about 10 bucks for enough stuff to make 2 of these, only used one, but I had purchased every thing in pairs in case I screwed up the first try. Anyway, after 2 years of use, I think its brilliant, and now several new router designs have this feature built in, there was also a company that sold a somewhat more complicated version of this for around $70 to $100. I can't imagine it working any better than this one.

dave01 (author)2014-04-28

Great work! So simple and easy to do. I am making a new multi-purpose work bench and have the exact same router (Good reliable workhorse) so easy for me to do.

I will look at changing the threaded rod and replacing with an 8mm x 200mm hex cap screw.

Lastly I will try and think of a way to introduce an accurate way to measure height and come back to you if I work it out.


ccraig8 (author)2013-03-02

I love your homemade router lift idea. I just now started learning how to router and a friend gave me a Hitachi M12V. I was trying to figure out to make a lift and then I saw this. A couple of questions though: My threaded rod is 5/16, will that hurt?
Also, u said it's pulling down on the saw wing. What is it you are calling the saw wing?
Last, u said just replace the Mdf to make it more stable. What and where the Mdf to replace?
Sorry for all the questions. I'm just fixing to do mine.. U can email me if u want.

Vestus (author)ccraig82013-03-03

Two small factors against the 5/16th. Firstly, the Hillman 'connector bolts' are 1/4-20, so that dictated the size for me. (I can't find them in other sizes.) Also, a 5/16 t-nut may not fit in the flange. If you can find the parts in 5/16 you may find elevating the router easier than using 1/4". Great idea with the lower lift knob too.

As for mdf support, I was trying to install it in the side wing of my table saw, which was a single 3/4" particle board sheet supported on two sides. It all depends on where you're installing it, but preventing sagging is key (angle iron supports, extra mdf, etc) (Since I wrote this, I bought a new saw, new router, and I eventually made a router 'table' from a shipping crate. )

PS. I'd edit your post and remove your email before the spam bots get it.

ccraig8 (author)2013-03-02

I know it's been 5yrs since this project. Have u had anymore issues since? Also, if u put a knob on the other end of the threaded rod, u can control it from top or bottom.....

scavanger (author)2010-01-04

 Nice instructable.
I did something very similar with my Porter Cable router a few years ago.
Some of you may find it helpful so I posted a link. Not all the nice detail that Vetus posted here, but a few photos on my blog you may find useful.
Hope it gives you a few more ideas to work with.

Homemade router lift mechanism 

scavanger (author)scavanger2011-08-10

The above link is broken I'm Just updating it here: Homemade Router Lift Mechanism For a 3HP Porter-Cable

Some great idea here, thanks to all for sharing.

pfred2 (author)2011-06-12

If you'd just bought the Hitachi you'd have gotten a lift accessory thrown in the deal. At least I did. Look familiar?

The lift is the knob sticking up on the left. That and you'd have gotten a full power balanced tool too.

Vestus (author)pfred22011-06-13

The m12v isn't available on our side of the pond. How much do they run?

pfred2 (author)Vestus2011-06-13

I think the old model is discontinued today. I paid $120 for mine years ago. The big ugly green machine. It is nice though electronic soft start, variable speed, smooth, gobs of power. It even came with a decent 1/2" straight carbide bit just to get you started. I'm not sure if they all came with the lift accessory or not but mine did. When I was in the market for a good tool it was the cheapest "real" 1/2" plunge router going.

The biggest complaint anyone ever had about them was the dumb base ears to hold guides stopped you from running the largest bits. But some folks just knocked those ears off. You could almost buy 3 M12Vs for what most other routers in its class cost.

I haven't always been the kindest to mine either

dyril (author)2011-02-19

Thanks for this Instructable. Being new to woodworking I ended up getting a DeWalt 618PK but then shortly kicked myself for not having researched router-table-friendly routers. So I just modded the 618's plunge base like so (how lucky that I could find a nice spot to drill holes). Remove unnecessary things such as springs and plastic casing. Cut a 3/8"-16 socket-head bolt and graft onto another sawed-off bolt, joining with a connector nut. I couldn't find teenuts, so I carefully tapped the sliding portion (using the bolt).

Vestus (author)dyril2011-06-13

I have a 618 that I planned to install on the table saw wing and never found a good way. Thanks for the pics.

air-v (author)2011-06-03

I've got POF1400 Bosch Router, and i would try your tips. Do you think it will be possible ?

Vestus (author)air-v2011-06-06

Most likely, but I'm only basing that on advertising photos. I don't see much to hold the tee-nut on, so you may have to use JB weld.

drab84 (author)2010-10-09

Thanks for this, I have the exact router you do, and wasn't about to spend another 100 bucks for a lift system. You've saved me a lot of crawling under the table.

Vestus (author)drab842010-10-10

Let me know how it works for you. I managed to scrounge and buy a lift after I finished this and never used it much.

drab84 (author)Vestus2010-12-15

Sorry it took so long to get back to you. Project got delayed, but it does work great! I used the JB Weld method on the tee nut (mostly since I broke a drill bit the other way), and it worked, but was hard to line up. All in all it works great, and much much cheaper than the alternative. Thanks again!

patrick kane (author)2010-08-30

looks great

garymuto (author)2009-07-09

Cool set up. I got a router raizer kit for ~$20 at Rockler on clearance and thought it was a steal since it retailed for $90. It has a few more novelties like a dust cap for the hole in the router plate and an Z shaped allen wrench (speed wrench) with a handle and a small magnet to remove the dust cap when adjusting. Not bad for $20 until I see that I could' ve done it for about $8. I set up my 3-1/2 HP Craftsman router and it works well. I thought about doing this to my P-C 690 but only had one kit and the craftsman is so bulky I chose that one for the Raizer. Maybe I'll set up my 690 so I can have 2 routers with above table adjustment.

JillB (author)2008-07-31

thanks Vestus. Any chance of posting photos / pictures of the hardware used at the base? We don't seem to have anything like it in Australia regards, Jill

Vestus (author)JillB2008-08-01

The pictures and links in step 2 should illustrate what they look like, and the picture series in step 4 should show how the base is assembled. Connector bolts are typically used for flat-packed (particle board) furniture, so most hardware stores around here (US) have them.

JillB (author)2008-07-31

Found them - they are referred to here as knock down fittings for furniture


JillB (author)2008-07-31

Nicely done, Vesta, and great to hear it works well. I want to do a similiar thing to my Hitachi TR-12 router, which is almost idential to yours. Could you please clarify what you have done at the base? I don't understand how the allen key arrangement is done, and what keeps the router body from sliding back down the slide posts. regards, Jill

Vestus (author)JillB2008-07-31

The likely route for the TR-12 shouldn't be too different. In this photo Hitachi TR-12 the height limiter is in the foreground and would have to be replaced. This is effectively the pic in step 1 upside down.

The base only needs a hole drilled where the post attaches. Through this we put the 'connecting' bolt (not my word, Lowe's label for them). If we could find 9" connecting bolts, we'd just need the tee-nut on the motor and be done. Turn the bolt to tighten against the nut and compress, pulling the motor up to the table.

The connector bolt has a nice large flange and goes through the base pointing up toward the motor. To that, we use a coupler, and a piece of threaded rod to reach the u-shaped mount point on the motor, where we attach a t-nut. Turning the connector bolt (and rod) lets us compress the base to the motor and raise the bit.

(The router doesn't slide down the posts due to being upside down, and the springs left inside. )

The connector bolts have an allen socket in the top, which makes it a conveniently small hole needed in the mount plate.

JiminPA (author)2008-01-06

To make it even better, Harbor Freight has a very similar router plate for--last time I checked--around $20. Check the online catalog.

auntnana (author)2007-12-27

Just what I've been looking for! Great instructable!The head of my connector bolt just happened to be the exact same diameter as the depth adjustment socket so couldn't countersink. I used a spade bit to trim the socket down a bit then grinded smooth and flat with a Dremel tool so it would fit under the base. Have to be careful and slow so that the trimming is even and level. Info could be just a teensy bit clearer on what's to be lubed and what's to be locktite-d. Also had to use JB Weld as the nails didn't cut it. Great job!

leonmcd (author)2007-12-12

How hard is it to change bits? Do you just crank for a long time or do you pop the router and plate out of the table?

Vestus (author)leonmcd2007-12-13

It's easy to drop the router a dozen turns and then raise it up again. I managed to save an S-shaped allen wrench from some particle-board furniture that makes things easier. If you don't care about returning to an exact height, you can chuck up an allen bit in a cordless drill and lower it the easy way.

sysiphus (author)2007-12-01

Awesome idea. I have a cheap plunge router that has been sitting unused due to a design flaw. Reading this, I suddenly see how I can have it back in service, work around/correct the design flaw, and have the router table I've been craving. Wow. This is exactly why I love Instructables. Thank you for posting this!

Spritegeezer (author)2007-11-29

I like the idea. Actually I use my good router on my router table as I can't do a thing with it free hand. One question. Why did you choose to us a plunge router? Wouldn't a standard router work just as well without the mods? Is it to make adjustments easier?

Vestus (author)Spritegeezer2007-11-30

The main benefit of a lift kit is easy accurate adjustments. Most of the non-plunge routers that are out twist to adjust the height. This usually tends to be a 'try, then verify, repeat as necessary' process (and usually the reason people buy a lift kit.). A scratch built lift kit has to ensure it raises level, and doesn't move when I feed a chunk of hardwood into it. I've seen a couple well done lifts, but they tend to be rather complicated to keep the router stable and level. The plunge assembly contains the stability in its design, all I needed to do was to raise the motor accurately.

Spritegeezer (author)Vestus2007-11-30

That was my assumption. I just wanted to be certain I wasn't missing something else. Thanks!

When he is adjusting the height of the router in the table he is plunging up and down. If he hadn't used a plunge router he would have had to fabricate an up and down slide.

bleachworthy (author)2007-11-25

good job!not many people modify their tools like this, good craftsmanship!

GorillazMiko (author)2007-11-25

awesome instructable :-)

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