Workbench Build #1: Tearing apart the bowling lane.....

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Blog entry by JL7 posted 05-10-2011 03:37 AM 13773 reads 4 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workbench Build series Part 2: Starting the glueup + the Sweetheart No. 62 »

Long story short – 2 years ago a picked up a couple pieces of thick Hard Maple bowling lane for really cheap. The idea was for a workbench. I then realized that the bowling lane was held together with LOTS of spiral cut nails that have some incredible holding power.

I did actually start building a base out of Walnut but never finished because I found a great deal on this bench on Craigslist:

I never really took a shine to the Craigslist bench, it’s not heavy enough (even though it looks like it is), and it’s not flat – the tail vice end tapers off. It can probably be leveled but still want to build my own…..

I decided I couldnt tolerate the nails so last weekend I started tearing apart one of the old bowling lanes, using mainly a pair of Vaughn Superbars in tandem to peel the Maple lams apart:

Starting thickness of the Maple is 2-5/8”:

Next – we have a bunch of nail to pull:

Just then my friend Jay stopped by and he actually voluntered to help:

Jointed, planed and ripped:

Also decided to add a bit of conrtrast so I ripped up some Jatoba – this is strickly a mockup – no glue, just a few clamps to keep things in line for my imagination:

Planning on gluing up in three or four sections and running through the planer. Also planning on a 5” apron around the perimeter – probably out of 8/4 Walnut.

I have 2 of these purchased from Grizzly (In storage fot the last 2 years):

Thinking of using rectangular dog holes for the tail vice and round holes for the face vice…...bad idea?

Also plan on resuming the Walnut base idea – likely will be 8/4 material laminated to create 3-1/2” or so timbers.

Hoping you will speak up if you have design ideas or you see something here that is terribly wrong…...

Thanks for looking.


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

25 comments so far

View therookie's profile


887 posts in 2877 days

#1 posted 05-10-2011 03:52 AM

Cool when I finish this bookcase I am building a really big heavy duty workbench.


View patron's profile


13610 posts in 3391 days

#2 posted 05-10-2011 04:19 AM

all the best in this
having it your way
probably the best part

what color putty
will you fill the nail holes with ? lol

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Karson's profile


35128 posts in 4450 days

#3 posted 05-10-2011 05:13 AM

I kept the nails in mine and I’ve not noticed any movement in the planks.

To take them apart, (Which I needed to do for my Kitchen counter top) I used a rotary grinder.I think they are called a muffler tool for cutting the bolts on muffler clamps.

I ground the heads off the boards and cut the shafts of the other ones and separated the boards. It didn’t require pulling the nails as I separated each of the strips. To take the nail sections out of the boards I used a round punch to drive them out. They popped out quite easily. It didn’t take a lot of sweat or cursing.

I made two benches from my alley1) a portable (100 lb) top and legs that come apart so that I can take it and set it up at our woodworking club if I need to. And the 2nd one is my main bench.

Click for details

Click for details

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View JL7's profile


8671 posts in 3015 days

#4 posted 05-10-2011 05:17 AM

Hey Rookie – thanks for the comments – I can’t wait to have a HEAVY DUTY bench – good luck on your build!

David – Appreciate the comments – having it your way is always the best as long as the budget allows… this case, the material is already here, so nothing left but the sweat equity… far as the nail holes, they will be covered when I glue the beast together and surround it with the apron. What looks like holes in the photo are are the Walnut pin markers from the bowling lane.

I am hoping this goes putty free…..


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View JL7's profile


8671 posts in 3015 days

#5 posted 05-10-2011 05:26 AM

Karson – thanks for the note and some nice looking benchs! I am wondering how you drilled the dog holes with the nails, or were you extremely lucky and just missed all the nails? Appreciate the post and might call upon your wisdom if I get stuck here!


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View JL7's profile


8671 posts in 3015 days

#6 posted 05-10-2011 05:35 AM

Thanks Gary – I am curious about your Jatoba comment? It is really hard and it was really scary ripping a wide board into 2-1/2” strips, plus it seems to take on a life of it’s own….....but I survived it! I haven’t machined alot of Jatoba before so this is a learning experience for me. 2 of the boards bowed after ripping so will have to think about how to deal with the glueup….


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3770 days

#7 posted 05-10-2011 05:58 AM

You have made the first step, getting started and the hardest, removing the nails. I’d advise putting in round dog holes. There are just too many things you can fit into a round hole that the only thing a square one will hold is the bench dogs made for them. Think Veritas bench puppies, holdfasts and roung bench dogs.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2890 days

#8 posted 05-10-2011 02:37 PM

I vote for round hole also. The main reason I like the round holes is for shop made bench cams and different shaped clamping devices. When in need, its easier to drill a 3/4 hole than to mortice one. IMHO Very nice mockup I like the contrast;)

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View JL7's profile


8671 posts in 3015 days

#9 posted 05-10-2011 03:22 PM

Karson – please disregard my question about drilling the dog holes – I see you covered that in your post – again – that is a fine looking bench!

Kenn and Dave – appreciate the comments – the round holes do make sense and they make the glueup a bit easier I guess. Also Kenn – that’s a nice looking bench you made….....


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2743 days

#10 posted 05-10-2011 03:30 PM

You want to sell that CL bench?! PM me!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 2993 days

#11 posted 05-10-2011 04:16 PM

I´ve always dreamed with a bowling lane.
Great Jay stopped by. Easy job to outsource !! :)

That seem to be a future heirloom bench Jeff. I love the Jatoba contrasting.

I´ll keep stitched to this blog now.

Once started the first post of this blog, you´re obliged to keep on writing the following posts !!

This is going to be fun to follow.

I do also prefer round holes. They are easier to make symmetrical, and they can easily handle asymmetrical pieces

-- Back home. Fernando

View WoodArtbyJR's profile


428 posts in 3015 days

#12 posted 05-10-2011 04:23 PM

OK Jeff & Karson, I’m going to ask a STUPID question. Why take the alley apart? Couldn’t you just use the alley as is? Was the fact that you wanted to have dog type holes the reason? I do like the jatoba contrast.


-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

View JL7's profile


8671 posts in 3015 days

#13 posted 05-10-2011 06:01 PM

Hey Fernando – I will try to keep posting – now you have me under pressure to finish this thing! And ROUND holes it is!! Appreciate the input!

Jim – not a stupid question – if you read Karson’s post – he did leave the nails in for his workbench, but took them out for his countertops.

I decided to remove the nails for a couple of reasons – one because of the dog holes – two because the boards are impacted with old dust and debris – three because it is difficult, if not inpossible (with the tools I have) to get a smooth uniform edge to attach the skirt to and four becasue the top is tapered from the hundreds of floor sandings it has been through.

No question, there are ways around all these issues, and honestly I have been debating this decision for 2 years – finally I just decided to go for it…

Appreciate the comments Jim!


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View JL7's profile


8671 posts in 3015 days

#14 posted 05-11-2011 04:24 AM

Hey Gary – I see your point – I defineatly got the Jatoba for less than $10/bf – a lot less. I think the contrast will class up the project – so no regrets there. Not planning on building another bench after this so this is my shot!

Thanks Gary.


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15373 posts in 2668 days

#15 posted 05-11-2011 04:55 AM

Glad you’ve opted for round holes – two different sets would be a self-inflicted, persistent pain in the backside, I’m thinking. Exceptional bench, well done and much success with all kinds of builds in your future!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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