Instructables

Reclaimed Bowling Lane Table

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Picture of Reclaimed Bowling Lane Table
I recently moved into my first house and was in need of a dining room table.  I saw a picture of a table that used an old section of bowling lane for its top and decided that I'd like to build something similar for myself.  With about 30 hours of work over a few months I was able to turn a tattered piece of wood into a beautiful, sturdy table that should never need replacement.

To find the lane section I did a Craigslist search for bowling lanes and happened to find a guy about 50 miles away from me that was selling lane sections that he procured during a demolition job he was hired for.  I paid about $300 for an 8 foot section with the arrow inlays.  The section was about 2.5" thick and weighed about 250 pounds.

I've included a .dxf file of the wooden leg parts in this Instructable so that anyone can build one if they'd like.

 
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Step 1: Preparing the lane

Picture of Preparing the lane
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The first step in the process was to add support to the lane section to keep it from sagging.  When the lanes are installed in the bowling alley they are built in place.  The builders lay down long strips of maple and side nail them to the adjacent maple pieces.  No glue is used in the entire process which means that once the lane is taken up from the floor it  doesn't behave like a single slab of wood.  All of the maple pieces are still tied together via the nails, but there is a certain amount of flex that the lane has.  If not supported properly the lane will sag quite dramatically in the middle due to its weight.  To add support to the lane I chose to inlay aluminum bars width-wise across the bottom of the table.

Using a hand router and a piece of metal to serve as a guide I routed out three pockets across the width of the table.  I made the pockets 3/4" wide to accommodate the 5/8" aluminum square stock and made sure to make them a little deeper than necessary because I needed to sand the bottom down and didn't want the belt of the sander to touch the metal pieces.

With the pockets routed, I set out drilling out the aluminum bar stock.  I spaced the holes so that each was on center with piece of maple.  The goal was to tie all of the pieces of maple together using the bar so that the table won't sag in the future.  When this was done I ran screws through each hole and into the bottom of the table.

This resulted in a sturdy top that shouldn't sag.

hoda0013 (author) 1 year ago
The top is attached to the base via some long screws that pass through the upper beams into the tabletop. This was the one part I could have planned a little better as I could have used the CNC router to create the clearance holes for the screws, but instead was forced to hand drill them because of the oversight.

I was looking for some old school machine bases (cast iron lathe legs, etc...) for a long time but with no luck. I agree that it would have been cool to incorporate something old for the base.
echoclerk1 year ago
The top looks great. How did you attach it to the base?

I think the aesthetic of the CNC Plywood clashes with the Table Top though. The contemporary look of CNC plywood ruins the overall look.

It would look much better if there was more consistency between the two - in colour and era / period.
I built the desk at which I work from a lane. As I didn't need the full width of the lane (depth of the desk), I ripped it. I used a carbide circular saw and took my time as it sparked through the nails (typically aluminum). I was wondering if you had any difficulty routing out the support groves as you must have hit a nail or two (or fifty). What type of tip did you use?
hoda0013 (author)  MajorWebUser1 year ago
The routing of the support grooves was actually really easy. I too was worried about nails but didn't actually hit any. The nails on the edge of the table are visible so when I set the depth of the router I allowed for a little clearance between the bottom of the bit and the visible nails and then crossed my fingers and hoped that I was set high enough for the nails that I couldn't see. Luckily it worked!
cnludwig1 year ago
I like your 'ible. Very nice. My friend made a workbench from a long section of a bowling alley, but I think this is a much better use. I hope you get a lot of great use from it.
Yeah this way you're showing off the lovely timber. I could see myself making a loooong kitchen benchtop out of this stuff.
hogey741 year ago
Nice! That's also the kind of table you want to have around just in case the mob turns up with tommy guns ... unlike in the movies, that thing actually would stop bullets :-)
crazyg1 year ago
congratulations
Beekeeper1 year ago
Congratulations on a great project. I always like a solid table that will last a lifetime instead of a modern one made from veneered 3/4 inch particle board guaranteed to last until your first move!! I have two comments, both related to expansion of the wood as humidity changes in the environment - perhaps winter to summer or north to south. Wood expands across the grain so your aluminum bars may prevent movement of the wood. Similarly attaching the top to the legs directly with screws doesn't allow for movement of the wood due to expansion from humidity changes.

I'm not sure how best to do it differently and in any case it may not be a problem. But the only way I can think of is to make the screw holes in the aluminum bar into slots, and attach the top by using a small pieces of aluminum angle screwed to the legs and then screwed to the top through slots (rather than holes).
rhb.me1 year ago
Great job! I built a similar table out of bowling lane, it's such an awesome material if you can find it, especially the arrow section where the maple meets pine:

http://rhb.me/2010/02/bowling-lane-dining-table/
Love yours too!
yoelaine1 year ago
Great idea and nice job! I'd like order one.
paintphone1 year ago
How much approximately did the CNC cost for making the lower assembly?
hoda0013 (author)  paintphone1 year ago
I paid a little under $300 for the wood and labor.
lknowles1 year ago
I love this!
great work !
axodus1 year ago
now that's one unique coffee table. great work :)
I have a 28" x 6' long section of alley, that I use as a work bench. I worked at a machine shop where all the work benches are bowling alleys. This section I have was in an office built in at desk height, the fella moving in wanted a desk, they were going to toss this bit, I took it. It was a pretty nice score for free. The legs I have it on were one of those 2 x 6 workbench kits home depot use to sell.
I do get a bit of sway in it when I move it, so your alum. inlay looks like a good idea!

I too am looking for a dinning room table and had not thought about using it this way.

Thank!
hragatron1 year ago
Heya, I was wondering how you were able to attach the legs assembly to the bowling alley surface? A pic or two of how that works would be great! Building my own table and want to find an elegant way of attaching legs. Thanks!
synack1 year ago
It really ties the room together.
wilgubeast1 year ago
What a beautiful reclamation project. This could have gone in a very different direction in the hands of someone less skilled, but you've managed to create a glorious piece of furniture. Thanks for sharing and sending me scrambling to check the local costs/availability of bowling lanes on Craigslist.
yoyology1 year ago
Beautiful work!
It's gorgeous! Love the legs you made. :D