Best Stand-alone Thickness Planers
A stand-alone thicknes planer is the name I give to a wood planer that has it’s own base and sits on the floor, rather than on a workbench top. Some people call it a “floor model planer”. This is the style of thickness planer that you’re most-likely to find in a professional woodworking workshop, and it’s the type I’ve had for years (until recently…I’ll talk about my upgraded combo planer / jointer below). Why do professionals and serious hobby woodworkers prefer stand-alone thickness planers?
Because stand-alone wood planers (and some combo planers) usually have much more robust features than the benchtop planers, including wider cutting capacity, more powerful motors, longer and stronger infeed / outfeed tables, superior cutterheads, and more.
So what is the best wood planer in the stand-alone style? I can’t say which is the best wood planer for you, because that depends upon how you work wood and what size your shop is. But I will share some of the top hobbyist / professional thickness planer brands below:
Felder / Format 4 / Hammer thickness planers
The Felder group manufactures several lines of top woodworking machinery, and has an excellent selection of stand-alone wood planers and combo planer/jointer machines. I own a Felder Jointer-Planer, which I will talk about in the next section on combo planers. Felder’s highest end production-quality brand is Format 4, followed closely by the Felder brand, and their small pro shop / consumer brand: Hammer. The Felder Group is based in Austria, and they manufacture truly amazing woodworking machines that are known for their engineering, precision manufacturing, and well-thought-out features. Even their consumer Hammer brand is well-made, and has high-end parts and options, like planing widths up to 16-inches. You can see thickness planers and pricing from all three product lines here:
Martin / Robland thickness planers
Martin is another brand of fine woodworking machinery that you’ll often see in production shops. Their wood planer tool lines are the Martin machines and Robland machines (among other brand names for other machine types). The Martin brand is on a similar level as the Felder and Format 4 brands (mentioned above) and is out of most woodworker’s budget. The Robland brand is a more affordable line of machines (similar to Felder’s Hammer brand) that Martin imports from Belgium. I haven’t used a Martin or Robland planer, but have heard great things about the machines. You can see all the wood planers and pricing at the Martin website:
Powermatic thickness planers
Powermatic has been a well-respected brand name among the companies that manufacture machinery for pro woodworking shops and hobbyists with money to spend. The mustard yellow machinery told other woodworkers that you were serious about making furniture or musical instruments. While there are still plenty of satisfied woodworking customers, I started to hear grumblings among woodworking consumers a few years ago due to a possible lowering in manufacturing quality control. Powermatic woodworking machines used to be manufactured in the U.S.A. but after being acquired by the company that makes JET woodworking machinery, many customers have complained about a decline in quality control. Not all of them, but some of them. This may be some research that you’ll need to do for yourself if you’re looking to buy a newer Powermatic planer. You can read a good forum thread about it here to help you make a decision.
Oliver thickness planers
Oliver is a higher-end consumer / pro workshop brand of woodworking machinery. Oliver carries a large range of wood planers, running all the way from a $900 “lunch box” benchtop planer to a $14,000 production 25-inch planer with Byrd Shelix cutterhead. I haven’t tried an Oliver planer, but I do personally own a Oliver hollow chisel mortiser machine and can tell you that the quality is top-notch.
Laguna thickness planers
Laguna has traditionally been a manufacturer of higher-end woodworking machinery, and in addition to their portable benchtop planer (see it here) they have a line stand-alone wood planers that range in bed size from 16-inch to 22-inch, with horse power between 5HP and 10HP. That’s serious power. Prices range from $3,750 to $7,350. And their largest 22-inch planer comes in both 1-phase and 3-phase electrical wiring. I haven’t used a Laguna thickness planer, and don’t know anyone else who has, so I’ve included a forum user review of the 16-inch Laguna wood planer here to help you in your research if a Laguna planer interests you.
Grizzly thickness planers
Grizzly manufactures a large range of benchtop and stand-alone thickness planers and jointer-planer combo machines. These machines are made in Taiwan, and are pretty good quality. For about 5 years I had a 15-inch Grizzly thickness planer with a spiral cutterhead and a 8-inch jointer. I had a pretty good overall experience with the planer (not so much the jointer) before upgrading to a Felder jointer-planer machine. You’ll see some photos of my Grizzly planer throughout this article.
My Grizzly G0453PX Planer (see it here) had a 15-inch wide planing bed, which was suitable for most projects. It’s 3HP motor was strong enough for any boards that I sent through it. And I planed thousands of board feet of lumber with this thickness planer and haven’t experienced any notable problems. The mobile base was the only real complaint that I had, as it eventually lost hold and would slam down every time I put it down. This same issue eventually happened to my Grizzly jointer too. The cast iron tables were very supportive, and the spiral cutterheads left a nice surface with minimal machine marks and very little tearout (only a little on highly figured wood). Another complaint was that as hard as I tried I couldn’t adjust the infeed and outfeed table to get rid of snipe. But overall it was a good thickness planer. You can see Grizzly’s wide range of planers here:
JET thickness planers
Jet is a mid-level woodworking machinery company that makes fairly good wood planers mainly for hobbiest woodworkers. They do make some planers that get into the 20-inch range and run from about $1,800 to $4,000. I have used JET thickness planers in friend’s workshops, and they seemed to work fine. However, the same quality control issues that I mentioned above for Powermatic planers applies to JET. It makes sense, because they are manufactured by the same company.