Space is usually at a premium in a small workshop. Add machines and it becomes even tighter, and you need space free behind them for taking off timber that has passed through a saw or planer. Will a combination machine or standalone units suit you best?
For the small workshop there are several advantages in having a combination machine. A single unit incorporating saw, planer, thicknesser and spindle moulder takes up less space than four separate machines. Cheaper versions are equipped with a single motor so, unlike standalone machines, you are not paying for three or four motors. After all, if working alone you can only use one machine at a time. It must be positioned close to the centre of the workshop, however, to give you access all the way round.
A disadvantage of a combination machine is the inconvenience. This is variable and depends on the design of the particular machine. Imagine wanting to machine-square, mould and dimension a single component. That action will take you from the table saw to the planer, to the thicknesser, possibly back to the saw and finally to the spindle moulder. This ability to change from one operation to another is less efficient on a combination machine than it would be using standalone machines.
Despite costing more, there are advantages to this option. Firstly, you do not have to buy every machine at once. You could start with a table saw and add a thicknesser when funds permit. You may consider a spindle moulder a luxury and it might be an unnecessary expense. Depending on the sort of woodwork you intend to do, a band saw may be more useful than a table saw anyway. Standalone machines obviously have their own motors, which add to their cost, but a real benefit is that fence or depth settings do not have to be moved. When you use a combination machine, you may need to reset fences when changing from one function to another. Unlike a combi machine, most standalone machines can be positioned against the walls, leaving central floorspace free. If sharing, there will be less queuing, too.