Bowling Alley Pine & Maple PLANE-ABLE?

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Forum topic by NyTxTrialAtty posted 12-31-2012 01:02 AM 4389 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15 posts in 2219 days

12-31-2012 01:02 AM

Hello fellow LJs. I have decided to pry apart the 8 sections of bowling alley that I have. Each is 128” x 42”. Prying the boards apart is tedious work, but not as hard as I initially thought it would be. Pulling the spiral cut nails out is not a joyous event, but again, not the hardest thing to do either.

I am only on the first of 8 sections and I have only pulled about 12 of the 40 boards off (this is a tedious task recall). So, I may end up changing my mind and just cutting them to the desired length and sanding what I need if I get really lazy.

However, as it stands right now, I am going to do it the right way and pull them apart. But i need to plane them all. My concern is that each of these boards has a tongue and groove to each side (one with the tongue and the other side with the groove). My query is whether or not I am risking the planer but attempting to plane these boards with these tongue and grooves?

Also, there is a lot of hardened glue on each side. Almost has a hard plastic feel to it.

I am lazy….so I would love to be able to just plane these boards as is, but I am fearful that common sense tells me this is not going to work.

Never worked with a planer before, so I am a rookie on many levels.


Thanks in advance.

16 replies so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

19045 posts in 2805 days

#1 posted 12-31-2012 01:37 AM

I am going to do it the right way
What are you doing right?

The finish on those boards are going to dull the planer blade quick.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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15 posts in 2219 days

#2 posted 12-31-2012 01:46 AM

Well, when I first posted about this project, I received numerous replies. Most told me to do it the “right way” and pry each board apart and take out all the nails and plane them and then glue them back together for the project.

A couple suggested just cutting the size I needed and sanding each side and leaving all the nails inside.

Not sure about all bowling lanes, but there is no finish on the ones I have. It is a veneer. That veneer is glued on top of the SYP or Maple (depending on the location of the lane). So it is raw pine/maple. No finish.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19045 posts in 2805 days

#3 posted 12-31-2012 01:50 AM

What is the project? Why are you planning.

It doesn’t make sense to just take it apart to put it back together unless there is a reason the nails shouldn’t be in there in the new project.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View NyTxTrialAtty's profile


15 posts in 2219 days

#4 posted 12-31-2012 01:57 AM

Don, I completely agree. For the main project, I am building a workbench and want to use the bowling lane to act as the bench top. Believe me, if I can avoid pulling them apart – I will do it. I have read others who have done this and their concern was that they were not able to drill holes for the bench dogs because of all the nails inside.

But some of the lane segments I have are not in great shape. They have been in and out of the weather (Houston, TX) for years before I came into the picture. Not withstanding that, they are in pretty good shape. Some are pulling apart from the others. None of the segments I have (if I recall) were solid solid pieces like you would find if you pulled up the lane from the bowling alley right now. Most have been exposed to the weather and I think in order to utilize their full potential, they may need a complete overhaul.

That is…unless…I can figure something else out…

What do you think Don?

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1894 posts in 2421 days

#5 posted 12-31-2012 02:05 AM

I wouldn’t, personally. That glue and whatever finish is still on it will gum up your planer blades right quick, and then there’s the inevitable missed nail.

I guess I don’t understand the issue with the tongue and groove, as far as planing, though. If you want to get rid of the tongue/groove, wouldn’t you just run it through a table saw?

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3075 days

#6 posted 12-31-2012 02:06 AM

I’m a bit confused so pictures would be great.

I just read the blog and now I know you want to build a workbench. Do not sand or plane your lanes down. I recently resurfaced my bench with bamboo flooring (finished side up) and can testify that a good finished surface (bowling alley type) is the best surface for a workbench. I can glue up my projects right on the bench and let the excess glue ooze out onto me bench. The next day, I’ll pick up the glued up component and it will not be stuck to the bench. The excess glue pops off the bench. I’ve stained on it and the drips come off easily with a sharp chisel or blade – and I’m also talking about skin thick glue and stain. Go to your workshop now and squirt glue or stain on a piece of those lanes you intend on discarding and tell me if I’m wrong.

Since you’re just planning your bench now, check out my bench and get a few ideas on a very versatile bench and easy to build. On this site’s search engine, type in the word “unique”...

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View Don W's profile

Don W

19045 posts in 2805 days

#7 posted 12-31-2012 02:06 AM

Are there pictures posted somewhere?

I’ve never pulled a bowling Allie apart, so bare with me. Are the nails only blind nailed in the tongue? If that’s the case, you know where not to drill.

When you build the bench, do you have a solid piece big enough for the bench?
Are you laminating it to make it thicker? ( how thick is it)

Can’t you just take sections apart, like every 12” or so?

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View JL7's profile


8693 posts in 3203 days

#8 posted 12-31-2012 02:58 AM

Here are some basics for the bowling lane…....I’m restored several of them, whether this is the right way or wrong way, It’s the way I’ve done it, and had really good results. All the work surfaces in my shop are made from this process.

First though,

Must have:

- 2 Vaughn superbar type pry bars (IMHO)
- a metal detecter
- table saw
- jointer and planer
- an old putty knife
- A long pry bar for pulling nails
- A couple of small puches for broken nail removal
- hammer and a beefy screwdriver
- a bench helps a lot to hold the old lane for dismantling.

Keep in mind the easiest part of this is tearing apart the old bowling lane – getting it glued back together can be challenge, but I’ve learned a few tricks on this as well…..

Clamp the lane to a bench (or something).......and drive the beefy screwdriver directly between the tongue and groove of the first and second board from the end grain…(no photo) . this will allow you the get the 2 pry bars started:

If you push on one bar and pull on the other, it will peel apart fairly easily.

Once apart – pound the nails through. use a a really long pry bar to pull the nails…...lay the boards on the floor to make it easy….

Scrap the crap off the boards with the putty knife. Theres lots of it….

Optionally… can use a RAS (random orbital sander) to clean up the groove side of each board before planning…..I’ve had great results using this technique.

AND VERY IMPORTANT – MUST use the metal detector before planeing. Trust me, there will be cut off nails that you miss. Use the punches to remove the cutoff nails. Keep in mind, you didn’t necessarily cut off these hidden nails, but they are in there…..

Run them through the planer with the groove side down, until you remove the tongue completely….then flip them over to clean up the other side….if the ends of your bench are covered, you don’t need to remove all the the groove, your choice…..

I choose to run them thru the jointer at this point and then through the table saw to make nice square parts…...makes the glue up much nicer…..

Built these to help with the glueup.

For doing a bench, you must decide how you will flatten the finished piece. On my bench I did it it sections, then ran them through the planer before gluing the sections together, but now I’ve figured out ways to keep the glue ups flat…......easier said than done tho….....

Hope this helps…....

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View JL7's profile


8693 posts in 3203 days

#9 posted 12-31-2012 03:00 AM

Don – FYI…...the nails are totally random and there are lots of them… my experience the lane will finish up at 2-1/8”.....

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2913 days

#10 posted 12-31-2012 04:09 AM

The lane I saw taken apart had tongues and grooves about 2 inches tall. The maple boards set on their edges and each piece was nailed with ugly little nails and lots of them. If the lane were even close to solid I would leave it alone. If you take it apart you can’t plane the tongue off and have much left as I recall. I would be looking at a way to drill through the lane from side to side and bolt it together.

View JL7's profile


8693 posts in 3203 days

#11 posted 12-31-2012 04:26 AM

Here are my results from 2 difference lane manufactures….noting that they were both slightly different, they both cleaned up to the same dimensions…...

The standard bowling lane will clean up to a full 1” thick board without the tongue and groove. In other words, a clean squared board 1” x ~2-1/8”.

Another note – each nail passes through 2-1/2 boards…..

Don – to your other question – yes, you could potentially remove (12”) sections, but would be a pain to deal with, because the nails are always present… good way to clean and flatten those faces…..

I’m not advocating which way you chose, but these are my findings….

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Don W's profile

Don W

19045 posts in 2805 days

#12 posted 12-31-2012 01:04 PM

Now that I see JL7’s pictures it makes a lot more sense. A picture is worth a 1000 words.

If you had a piece big enough for a bench I still don’t know why you’d take it all apart, but if your saying its damaged enough that you don’t JL7 has some good advice.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3224 days

#13 posted 12-31-2012 01:55 PM

I’ve planed literally hundreds of boards with a similar finish – basketball court – and while it does wear out blades, it also does the job well. IMO, if you consider a set of blades part of the price of doing it, it will be well worth it. Because then you can easily do whatever you want with the wood, and it will all be uniform.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View eran's profile


1 post in 697 days

#14 posted 02-21-2017 06:52 PM

I’m late to the party here, but curious about the bowling alley glue. I’m reworking a bowling lane floor into a table top. I combined sections of bowling lane floor, pocket screwed them together, trimmed the outside with walnut, filled the cracks and gaps with resin, and then finished the top with an oil/wax finish. Looks amazing, except that now the old glue is seeping up from the joints.

I’ve had these sections of floor in my shop for years, totally stable. When I began processing them I found the glue that @NyTxTrialAtty mentioned. It was hard, plasticy, and seemed completely stable. Now it seems to have liquified – maybe under the pressure – and is continually bubbling to the surface. I’ve scraped it off numerous times, and now, months later, it continues to come up through.

Before I applied the resin, I cleaned the surface with Naptha, maybe that reactivated the glue? I finished the top with Rubio’s Monocoat, maybe that had an effect? Wondering if anyone’s had this experience with bowling lane glue and knows how to stabilize it?


View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2752 days

#15 posted 02-21-2017 07:07 PM

I’m even later to the party than eran, but JL7, that seems like an awful lot of work to get your hands on some kiln dried maple, and full of nail holes, to boot.

The other issue of not just putting the lane on the bench without taking it apart because of the promise of nails inside, would it not be practical to buy a metal cutting hole saw for the bench dogs? I know these nails can be hard, but man, that’s more work than I’d be up for, considering what it is.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

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