Progressive Router Table

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This article is from Issue 11 of Woodcraft Magazine.

“Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with the way things work. With my latest machine, the Progressive Router, I could clearly see an advantage to changing the bit in the standing position. I realized that required a hinged top and a hinged top clearly suggested a safety switch ... I produced eight models, making changes to suit my understanding of how a great machine should work.”

—Larry D. Fiscus, CEO of Bacalar Bay Engineering

The router table is one of the most heavily used woodshop tools. What if you could get a router table with souped-up safety and time-saving features? 

Bacalar Bay Engineering in Medford, Wisc., has produced a high-end router table with some new and interesting capabilities. It’s not in full production yet, but several have been built and sold by the company. In this first installment of our new department on tools that are poised to break into the woodworking market, we’ll give you a first look at the Progressive Router Table.

The table is built around an innovative pneumatic-assist lift system. It comes with a factory-installed Porter-Cable 6902 router motor; just clamp the fence in place and hook up a compressed air line at only 70 psi. The built-in regulator has a pressure dial, air filter and discharge valve for built-up moisture. 

The compressed air operates a cylinder that raises and lowers the cutter, using a foot treadle switch — press the front down to lower the bit, and press the back of the treadle to raise it. Operating the lift with your foot frees both hands to hold your workpiece, and the foot treadle is also designed to drop the bit below the table if someone accidentally steps on it. You don’t have to keep your foot on the pedal once the bit is at the height you want, but you must have the presence of mind in the first place to put your foot into a protective housing to operate this switch, making it safer than the traditional on/off switch. 

You can also set the speed at which the bit moves up and down, in each direction independently.  The adjustment is made by turning a small knob at the top of the pneumatic cylinder; a corresponding knob on the other end controls the speed of the downward thrust. 

The lift system has built-in stops that control the travel of the router bit above the table. You can set up to six stops, controlling them with a dial on the front of the cabinet. This means that you can take up to six passes on your workpiece without ever changing the depth of the bit in the router; in fact, you don’t even have to shut it down between passes. Just step on the pedal to drop the bit below the table, adjust the dial, and step forward to raise the bit. You can make fine adjustments to the six stops individually, and a tool-free micro-adjustment to all of them at once.

LIFT THE TABLETOP for easy access to the router motor when changing bits.
heavy-duty construction makes the Progressive Router Table a good choice for heavy use.

Here is something truly progressive about this table: the router motor is attached to the cabinet housing rather than the underside of the tabletop. So all you need to do to change bits is swing the tabletop back (it opens up to 180°) for full access. If you’ve forgotten to unplug the router, a built-in safety switch cuts power to the motor when the table is open. The tabletop is Formica and the hinges are custom-made solid steel.   

THE AIR COMPRESSOr sports a filter meant to prolong the life of the tool. 
A PNEUMATIC CYLINDER raises and lowers the router bit in the table. 

An extruded aluminum frame houses the router inside its cabinet and moves it up and down. The frame, which looks like a large “H,” is guided by bearings made from a slippery, dense, self-lubricating plastic material. According to the manufacturer, their factory has been able to record no wear to date on this material. However, the machine was engineered to be adjusted in multiple locations – almost every part of this table is adjustable to some degree. There are about 50 Allen bolts throughout that can be loosened to adjust parts if necessary. Not that you would necessarily need them, but it’s nice to know these adjustments are possible. 

A steel skeleton houses the aluminum mechanism that moves the router motor.
Most components are easily adjusted by opening and closing Allen bolts.

Replacing the router motor in the Progressive Router Table is quick and easy. You just remove two bolts to free the thick aluminum plate that holds the motor in its H-frame, then unscrew a couple of setscrews to release the motor from the plate. Installing your new motor is the same process in reverse. The table can accept virtually any 3.5"-diameter motor, but using one other than the factory-installed model requires adjusting the metal rail.

Bacalar Bay Engineering is based in rural Wisconsin. All parts are manufactured in-house or locally and each Progressive Router Table is fully assembled on the factory floor. The price of $1,499 includes the router motor and shipping to the contiguous 48 states. See for more information.


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