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Solid Speed & Accuracy
Text, photos & video by Tom Hintz
Update: I have received a ton of email about the Quick-Lift, many asking how it is working. It continues to work fine and the lift mechanism continues to be a welcome addition that makes my tasks at this router table faster and easier.
Woodworkers can be hard to please at times. When it came to router lifts, we wanted ultra-fine height adjustment capabilities, but also wanted to be able to crank the motor up quickly for bit changes. Woodpeckers has come up with an ingenious way to accomplish both in one router lift with the release of their new Woodpeckers Quick-Lift.
As is their habit, the Woodpeckers Quick-Lift kit includes the lift, speed wrench, spanner (insert) wrench, three inserts (1", 2 5/8" and 1 3/16" stepped for the Porter Cable guide bushing design), safety starting pin and the lift wrench that operates the mechanism that sets this lift apart from the crowd. All of the above are very well made from top-shelf materials, another Woodpeckers tradition.
The Lift Plate
Even the basic lift plate itself is new on the Woodpeckers Quick-Lift. Made from high-end aluminum (QL-350P is phenolic) the plates are precision machined on Woodpeckers big-buck CNC (computer numerically controlled) machining centers that insure precise fit and smooth operation of the components. The Woodpeckers Quick-Lift plates are available in both popular sizes – 9 ¼" by 11 ¾" or 8 ¼" by 11 ¾."
The Quick-Lift series plates incorporate Woodpeckers super accurate Twist-Lock inserts that are also CNC machined from high-quality aircraft aluminum. (The QL350P inserts are phenolic) The Twist-Lock inserts hold tight, stay centered and remain level with the plate surface better than any others I have seen.
The Quick-Lift plates have eight fine-thread leveling screws around the perimeter that make adjustment a snap. They also feature Woodpeckers innovative adjustable plungers in two edges that keep the plate secure in the cavity. Stabilizing the plate within the cavity helps limit vibrations that can be caused by the plate moving slightly in response to torque created by the bit cutting wood.
New on the Woodpeckers Quick-Lift plates are a pair of engraved graduated scales designed to make setting a fence fast and accurate. With identical scales on either side of the plate, aligning the fence has never been easier, or more accurate.
A hallmark of Woodpeckers design is simplicity and dependable function. The Quick-Lift motor mounting system is a perfect example. Designed to fit specific motor diameters, the two-piece mount bracket uses a pair of hand-operated knobs to lock the motor in position. This tool-free design is not only secure, it makes removing the motor for hand-held tasks ultra fast, something that is important if your shop is not overrun by spare routers.
The motor mount bosses are machined from aluminum and are 1 ½"-thick. This width not only provides a very secure grip on the motor housing, it insures vertical stability while routing that translates into smooth operation and cuts.
Mounted on a pair of ¾"-diameter, precision-ground steel posts, the lift mechanism bosses are fitted with quality bronze bushings that insure smooth operation in a dust-laden environment. Maintenance of the bushings is as simple as wiping the shafts down and applying a dry lubricant occasionally.
The lift is adjusted up and down on a 32-pitch screw. The fine threaded screw makes 0.001" bit height changes easy. The 0.001" graduated scale surrounding the height socket allow you to dial in the exact correction needed to perfect the most sensitive of cutting jobs.
The new quick release feature really makes the Woodpeckers Quick-Lift unique. Insert the 9 3/4"-long, steel lever, give it a ¼ twist clock-wise and you can lift the router to expose the collet above the table for bit changes using the lift lever alone. After changing bits, use the lift lever to release the mechanism and lower it close to the bit height needed. Remove the lift lever and use the speed wrench to make final height adjustments. If this system is not fast enough, I'm afraid you are doomed to a life without a router lift.
In the Shop
The Woodpeckers Quick-Lift arrives fully assembled with nothing but installing your router motor and leveling the plate left for you to do. The instructions for installing the motor at first seem overly simplistic but the job really is that
easy. The only thing to watch for is turning the motor so any locating pins on the side of its housing are aimed between the mounting bosses. Also, be sure that the switch and speed control are not hidden behind a post.
Getting the Woodpeckers Quick-Lift ready for use took all of five minutes, including stopping for photos. If only everything in woodworking went this smooth! Though we used the Woodpeckers Quick-Lift extensively during the evaluation, the motor never loosened up until I turned the clamping handles off intentionally.
With the Quick-Lift in its cavity and leveled, I raised the motor fully and found that the collet was easily accessible. Above-table bit changes are a snap. To test the 4" bit capacity claims, I installed the longest bit I have, a 3 1/2"-long straight cutter. Even with the motor mounted flush with the surface, higher than needed for above-table bit changing, I could lower the bit and its bearing below the plate surface.
The Woodpeckers Quick-Lift is a pleasure to use. The plungers keep it snug in the cavity for vibration-free routing. The lift mechanism is also very stable, holding whatever height is set perfectly. The speed crank operates smoothly and combined with the graduated scale surrounding its socket, makes height adjustments in the 0.001" (or less) simple and predictable.
One of the first jobs for the Woodpeckers Quick-Lift was routing box joints using my Goodview Designs jig that needs a Porter Cable style bushing installed. This jig is dead-on accurate which means the router had better be centered on the insert/bushing or my joints were not going to fit. The motor mount in the Quick-Lift was dead on and the joints came out perfect.
The fence scales also come in handy whether you have a dedicated fence on the router table or use a clamped-on board. Having dual scales makes setting the fence square with the plate very easy. They also make small adjustments to the fence simple and far more accurate than trying to eyeball or measure the change manually.
Throughout our evaluation, the Woodpeckers Quick-Lift performed perfectly. The lift system is smooth, steady and brings the collet above the table instantly with the lift handle. I can't think of anything more I could ask of a router lift.
The Woodpeckers Quick-Lift, with its unique motor lift mechanism will be just the thing for woodworkers who need to use their router for both hand-held and table-mounted duty. The ease and speed with which the motor can be installed or removed is overshadowed only by the ability to change bits above the table; a combination of features we have not seen in one router lift plate. This capability will make the Quick-Lift attractive to anyone who appreciates this kind of convenience.
The Woodpeckers Quick-Lift is available in several versions. The QL-350P (phenolic) and QL-350A (aluminum plate) fit the Porter Cable 690/890, Bosch 1617/1618 and DeWalt 618 motors. The QL-420 fits the Porter Cable 7518 and the QL-414 accepts the Milwaukee 5625 motors.
With a street price of $199.95 (1-6-2006) for the QL350A reviewed here, $159.95 for the QL350P phenolic version and $229.95 for the QL420 and QL414, this is not only a wise investment; it is more than competitive with lesser plates on the market. The quality we have come to expect from Woodpeckers products means this is a one-time purchase. Precious few things in woodworking bring that kind of long-term value.
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