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Bowling lane repurpose project

by JoeNJ
posted 12-05-2016 04:38 AM


29 replies so far

View ArtMann's profile

ArtMann

1008 posts in 898 days


#1 posted 12-06-2016 06:16 PM

I helped a friend make a bench top out of a section of bowling alley. There are two things I know of that make this stuff hard to deal with. First of all, it is extremely heavy. The second thing is that bowling alleys are not glue-ups. The individual planks are nailed together with hardened steel nails in a tight grid. This makes it very difficult to size the slab with a circular saw. You just have t assume that you are going to destroy some carbide blades in the process. I’m not sure but I don’t think the markings are inlaid. I think they are painted on and then varnished over. You can do that yourself if you want to retain the bowling alley appearance. I doubt if it will be noticeable if you get the markings a little bit off.

We had the surfaces thickness sanded on a giant wide belt sander at a custom millwork shop. I don’t remember how big the motor was on this beast but it handles a full width, 8 foot length section with ease. The independent variable speed conveyor motor was 5 hp. It was quite a sight to see. The guy used a fork lift to run it through several times. I think my friend paid $50 to get it smoothed to something like 80 grit.

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#2 posted 12-06-2016 07:05 PM

ArtMann, thanks for the response. Yeah, I learned the boards are nailed with spiral nails so the alley is allowed to flex when in use. Since I plan on using a section of this for a workbench, removing the nails is pretty much mandatory. I don’t mind the work involved in the nail removal process because the end result, from what I’ve seen, is outstanding. I have confirmed that the markings are actually inlaid…about a half inch…from what I saw. The pieces I have don’t have the arrows (I do have some dots which is cool) so I was hoping to get those arrow dimensions and spacing so I could replicate that as design element. I could just wing it but thought I’d give this forum a shot. -Joe

View DirtyMike's profile

DirtyMike

637 posts in 984 days


#3 posted 12-06-2016 07:37 PM

Sounds like your getting some of the maple ends huh? I found a website that had all the info on bowing alley lanes, and the arrow spacing was on there. sorry no link. the stuff is very pricey around me and makes a heck of a table. cheers

View MrFid's profile

MrFid

878 posts in 1986 days


#4 posted 12-06-2016 07:47 PM

I think this image shows the layout for the arrows. I got it from here:

http://www.courtdimensions.net/bowling-lane/index.php

which has some good explanations of where the arrows are to be laid out. Good luck with your projects!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View Ted78's profile

Ted78

401 posts in 2082 days


#5 posted 12-06-2016 08:16 PM

I have a section I use as a workbench top. I don’t think removing the nails is terribly feasible, or particularly necessary. The nails are placed about in the middle of the thickness, so you are not going to hit one with a chisel or anything. The pin end I know also has a steel rod through it with bolts on the ends, I think it is some kind of adjustment to keep the lanes level or planar or maybe both, so it it something to keep in mind if you are cutting it up. I manages to rip a piece in half for some tops to saw benches on a 9” table saw with a 3/4 HP motor and a cheap HF carbide blade. It is hard and heavy, the ends are made of hard maple, but it’s not all that hard to work with for what it is.

-- Ted

View Cooler's profile

Cooler

299 posts in 925 days


#6 posted 12-06-2016 09:01 PM

I worked in a nightclub in the 1970s as a bouncer. It’s earlier life was as a bowling alley. The club’s owners ripped out the alleys and made 40 foot long tables for the customer’s to sit at. All they ever did was buy metal legs. No finish was applied, no sanding no nothing.

It seemed like a satisfactory table for this application.

You can see the tables here: https://media2.wnyc.org/i/0/350/c/99/photologue/photos/MFP%20Waitress.jpg

-- This post is a hand-crafted natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar should not be viewed as flaws or defects, but rather as an integral characteristic of the creative process.

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#7 posted 12-06-2016 09:24 PM

@ Ted78, I thought about leaving it in place but the material will flex if it’s not glued up and I’m not a big fan of that look. I have seen a bench where it was not glued and I was not convinced that was they way to go, at least for me. I’m getting 2, 16 foot sections so I plan to make other projects that will most likely require glue ups.

@ MrFid, I saw that exact posting also and was hoping it had more arrow detail, but it did not. Specifically, I’m looking for the actual size of the arrows. I know which boards they go on so I need to narrow down the size. I can wing it but, I’m trying to be as true as I can.

@ DirtyMike, The pieces I’m getting appear to be the maple ends as they have the inlay dot markings. The area approaching the pins is usually heart pine. The lumber change is very visable when you see it up close…almost woven in like a large box joint or finger joint. I’m paying $400 for 32 feet at about 40+ inches wide 2.5” thick. For all that maple, I thought that was a great price. The pricing increases with markings, especially the arrows and where the pins are set. That’s what prompted my interest in the arrow detail so I can replicate it in future projects.

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#8 posted 12-06-2016 09:26 PM

Cooler, thanks for that post. Those tables look really cool and gave me some ideas. Thanks.

View DirtyMike's profile

DirtyMike

637 posts in 984 days


#9 posted 12-06-2016 09:51 PM

That is a heck of a deal, good luck.

View Ted78's profile

Ted78

401 posts in 2082 days


#10 posted 12-06-2016 10:07 PM

Ahh, that makes sense. my bench is pretty short so flexing isn’t much of an issue, but I think you’re right I bet the lanes were actually designed to flex so they could adjust them to keep them flat as weather and humidity and such changed. Also probably why Bowling alleys went to synthetic lanes I would guess.

-- Ted

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5007 posts in 4042 days


#11 posted 12-07-2016 03:24 PM

I did not remove the nails from my bench. Just attached some “T” shaped iron to the bottom with heavy wood screws, drilled my dog holes, attached the vices, attached maple aprons with glue and screws, and went to work on the legs, etc.
Made one heck of a bench, and I use it every day.
I’ve never had a flexing problem. The hold fasts work very well in the full thickness of the lane section.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View ArtMann's profile

ArtMann

1008 posts in 898 days


#12 posted 12-07-2016 07:10 PM

The section of bowling alley I worked with was quite stiff. I think it very doubtful you would find it flexes if properly supported. If I were you, I would not plan on removing the nails and re-gluing the slab until you have actually tried it on a small scale. I have and I will never do it again. It is possible to drill holes all the way through cross grain and tighten it up with threaded rods or very long bolts.

Good luck!

View TheGreatJon's profile

TheGreatJon

339 posts in 1315 days


#13 posted 12-07-2016 08:00 PM

You may possibly have the determination of… some mythic being with a lot of determination. But I think that you might quickly give up on the project if you try to take out all of the nails. I’ve never worked with bowling alley slabs, but I got a ton of old barn wood once and getting out the nails presented two problems:
1. It was horrible, tedious, muscle-cramping work.
2. It scarred and splintered the wood. Some nails came out easy. A lot of them did not. – to be fair, I did clean up enough of the beams to complete my project, but I’m also stubborn enough to get through two engineering degrees without a whole lot of natural intelligence…

I would echo what was said above. I don’t think you will notice any appreciable flex over the 6-8ft span of the normal bench. If you are concerned about it, reinforce it with a I-framed support structure between the legs.

-- This is not the signature line you are looking for.

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#14 posted 12-07-2016 08:06 PM

@ArtMann, Thanks. After some of the feedback, it seems I’ll need more patience than luck but I’m ready for the challenge. Hopefully, I’ll have a completed project to post … at some point.

View Cooler's profile

Cooler

299 posts in 925 days


#15 posted 12-07-2016 08:35 PM

I am recalling my time at “My Father’s Place” (the night club). We had to move those tables for some of the performances and they were very, very heavy.

There is quite a bit on the Internet on re-purposing bowling alleys.

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=how%20much%20does%20a%20bowling%20alley%20weigh

-- This post is a hand-crafted natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar should not be viewed as flaws or defects, but rather as an integral characteristic of the creative process.

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

3034 posts in 1562 days


#16 posted 12-07-2016 09:05 PM

Joe I made a workbench out of a section of SYP bowling alley lane.

You are correct about removing the nails. I should have taken all the nails out and glued it up. Didn’t even think about it till it was too late. I don’t know how you would go about drilling a hole for a threaded rod in something that wide. Its not for stability (the nails hold it fine) its for when you start drilling holes for vises, dogholes, and bench hook holes.

Yeah, its hit or is, but unlike Bill, I lived to regret it. I nail on 2 out of the 10 holes I drilled and one of the vise holes. That was why I used a piece of clear wood as a doghole strip as you will see in the pic. But for a the bench hook holes in the field – major PITA ruined a nice auger bit.

Even still, the bench is a beast no problems. Good luck I’m sure you’ll do better than I did!!

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

388 posts in 1041 days


#17 posted 12-08-2016 01:48 AM

I’ll try and get you some dimensions tomorrow. I started this Saturday and finished on Monday. 16 hours. It’s in finishing now…

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#18 posted 12-08-2016 02:48 AM

@rwe2156, yea. Just from gathering feedback, from here and asking around, removing the nails or not seems to be the big question. Seems like folks have equally mixed feelings about it. Im on team remove. Your bench looks pretty sweet, I can hope for half that success. I thought the same as you with a separate dog hole strip out of some contrasting wood, maybe walnut.

@JackDuren, Many thanks! That’s exactly what I’m looking for! It looks great so far…good luck with the finishing.

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#19 posted 12-08-2016 03:06 AM

@cooler, yes, I found a ton of info on the net about how people have repurposed this material. Some very creative ideas which is awesome. Getting the spacing of the arrows, however, was important to me so I could recreate that look in future projects because the pieces I’m getting won’t have that detail.

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#20 posted 12-08-2016 01:43 PM

@TheGreatJohn, funny, I have received mixed feelings about those pesky nails…the person I’m buying the material from made a bench from it also. The flex, comes into play over the width, not the length. He has only a six inch overhang on his and it flexed more than I’d like…while applying some downward pressure. My intention, at least for now, is to go nail-free for my own workbench and try to use the rest of the material as is.

View Snipes's profile

Snipes

177 posts in 2326 days


#21 posted 12-08-2016 03:33 PM

Jack are you worried about your miters opening up? RWE how did you put your breadboard ends on?

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View splatman's profile

splatman

586 posts in 1481 days


#22 posted 12-09-2016 06:05 AM

@ JoeNJ: Why not ask JackDuren to measure and send you the arrow details?

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#23 posted 12-09-2016 12:17 PM

@splatman, yes, Jack said he would do that after his comes back from the finishing process. I think that’s how I read his posting. I’ll go back and check, maybe I missed something.

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

388 posts in 1041 days


#24 posted 12-10-2016 02:38 PM

The pieces are 1” and the arrows are every 5 on a 45 degree. I couldn’t get over the table because of pour epoxy to measure. It should be done Monday.

As far exp/con on the table I believe this will be minimal as the top it’s like an accordion. I could put a clamp on it and gain a 1/4 easily. You could blow the top out with air all day and pull over 50 years of dirt every time.

The decision was epoxy and probably get a urethane finish over that. Now how that affects exp/con well, I guess we will find out….

View Ripper70's profile

Ripper70

1085 posts in 990 days


#25 posted 12-10-2016 03:42 PM

Seems to me that the price you’re paying is quite a bargain. There’s a seller in Brooklyn has been hawking that stuff on craigslist for quite a while for about $100/ft.

Made me curious to see what was all the fuss about the nail removal from this wood. There’s one video I found that that gives a pretty good idea of what to expect when you start cracking those boards open. Another showed the potential that this wood has for reclamation projects. Cool stuff.

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

388 posts in 1041 days


#26 posted 12-10-2016 04:00 PM

There were screw nails along with finish nails. The floor had been sanded enough times that some could be seen on top. We tore of one edge on each side just to get a clean edge and it was heavily nailed. The video showed it being easy but it wasn’t. Sections can be bought for around $300 8’ long. Which section and where can predict the cost…

View JoeNJ's profile

JoeNJ

37 posts in 1358 days


#27 posted 12-10-2016 04:24 PM

@JackDuren. Thanks again, I think the actual arrow is about 6” by just under the width of one board. The arrows appear to form a 90 degree angle when looking at all the tips. If that’s the case, the placement works itself out. I’m not in any rush as I just picked up the material today. This stuff is freakin heavy as it’s all maple. I wound up with 4, 8 foot sections.

@Ripper70, that’s why I jumped on it. Hard to pass up. It may sit for a while but I’ll get around to it one of these days.

View Ripper70's profile

Ripper70

1085 posts in 990 days


#28 posted 12-10-2016 05:22 PM

At the price you paid it’s a bargain, for sure. Looking forward to seeing the finished results. You’ve got your work cut out for you! ;-)

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

388 posts in 1041 days


#29 posted 12-10-2016 05:59 PM

Metal was grooved in underneath and 4” wood screws with walnut plugs were used to lock the 1” maple on the border. It’s pretty stable, It’s a fun piece anywhere in a home or office..

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