Creating a Tabletop Out of Reclaimed Bowling Pins




One of my friends and his wife are avid bowlers, and he came to me with a question:

"I got a ton of bowling pins from an alley and I want to get a table made out of them, do you know how to do that?" 

My answer: "Not a clue, but I'll figure it out."

This is a step by step tutorial on how to build a similar table using reclaimed bowling pins - I think it came out fairly nice!

Step 1: Get Bowling Pins

Pretty self-explanatory.

Step 2: Cut Your Seams Into the Bowling Pins

I've seen a few methods for plastic removal on this site before, but I decided to take a new approach. 

You will need: 

-GOGGLES (trust me - the acrylic shield didn't happen just because it looks cool.)
-A Dremel Multitool
-Pair of pliers
-Some scrap acryclic
-3/8" saw blade attachment for Dremel

I recommend drawing a black line on the seam of the pin to guide you as you work w/ the blade.

I found that working from left to right would burn the plastic, and moving from right to left would gather the melting plastic on the blade. You can then pull the plastic off of the saw blade with pliers or a multitool. Let that plastic build up too long and you will start flinging molten pin plastic all over your work space.  

Step 3: More Pics.

Step 4: Remove the Plastic

After scoring the plastic with a razor knife (please cut AWAY from your body!) you can take your pliers and pull the plastic off in small sections.

Step 5: Cut Bowling Pins in Half, Lengthwise

I used a fine toothed sawblade on a compound miter saw, but switched to a ripping blade for subsequent cuts due to burning the wood while cutting these pins in half. Also, PLAN YOUR CUTS! I lost 2 full pins because I didn't plan well when starting the cut and they came out crooked.  It got to be REALLY frustrating having to start all over from the plastic peeling stage.

Step 6: Plan Your Tabletop

My other friend's wife suggested the concept for this table, which involves suspending support rails into cutouts in the fattest part of the bowling pins. These pictures are a rough mockup for proof of concept.  

Cutting the channels was difficult, because you have to keep the flat side of the pin COMPLETELY level while making your cuts.  I used my table saw, making incremental passes, and removed excess wood with chisels.

Step 7: Prep the Pins for Paint and Finish BEFORE Assembly

Wood Filler (I used WoodMax) is your best friend here - any rough patches or saw marks can be filled and sanded smooth again. Remember that we're still looking at the bottom of the table here.

Step 8: Paint the Pins!

A scrap block of wood here helps ensure that you don't get paint into the channel, which could impair installing the support rails in the next step.

Step 9: Install Your Support Rails

For this step, I used 1X4 lengths of red oak, and PL375 construction adhesive to hold it all together.  It is VERY important that you make sure your work surface is level on this step! If you put these rails in crooked, it's going to be pretty difficult to get them out again.

Step 10: Prep the Top of the Table

After waiting a day or two for the glue to dry, prep the top of the table w/ 220 grit sandpaper. I also taped around the perimeter of the table before staining to prevent stain from dripping on to the paint job.

Step 11: Stain the Tabletop!

Here, I used a spray on red stain from Minwax - the aerosol mist was much easier to control, and I was able to get stain into crevices without too much trouble.

The first picture is after 1 coat of stain, the second picture is after 2 coats.  I applied a clear lacquer after staining.

Step 12: Finishing Up

Now you can attach legs, put glass on top, and do whatever you want to make this table your own!  These are pictures of my finished project.  

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my project as much as I enjoyed building it!



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    10 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! We have a handful of the small vintage wooden bowling pins that would make a neat end table....wonder if I could talk my husband in to letting me use them for a project like this...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    First of all... Nice table, well done. :)

    Second... It would be much easier to view your instructable if you edit and remove all the pictures from each step that are NOT related to that step. :)

    Third... Wouldn't it be easier to just cut the pins in half FIRST then remove the plastic from each half?

    2 replies

    Thanks for the feedback! It's my first project on here, so I'll take any advice I can get!

    I thought about sawing the pins with the plastic on, but decided against it. The heat generated from sawing might cause the plastic to stick to the saw blade. It'd be much harder to remove the molten plastic from a full size circular blade.

    Having done it myself in the past with both a table and band saw I can tell you the blades don't build plastic much but getting it off the pin is still a major pain. I found little metal rings at the base of the ones I cut so pre stripping, at least from the base, remains a good idea. I like the modern painted look. Nice work.


    6 years ago on Step 12

    Awesome! I hope that I can scrounge up some pins for such a project. Kudos and thanks for sharing the fruits of your labor.

    Do you know why there are all those voids and spaces in the center of the pins? Were they like that when you cut them open? I would have expected a solid core.

    cool project by the way.

    1 reply

    Well I just looked it up, and apparently the holes and voids are included to keep the weight and center of gravity consistent between pins, since they might be using wood of slightly different density in each batch of pins.