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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey all

Got a chance to get my hands on a bunch of old bowling alley lanes.

It's gotta be at least 6/4, probably 8/4, and of course, it's smooth as a baby's butt. I believe it's tongue and groove.

Crazy, I know, but I'm thinking that it might be good stuff to play with for a few projects, (table top and platform bed to name two, a workbench top to name three,) but has anyone ever worked with old bowling alley wood?

What kind of wood is generally used for them? Will the years of constant oiling create any issue with final finishing? Is it even worth my time to even mess with the stuff?

Thanks...
 

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Maple.........I believe is the prefered lumber.......
Ditto. BB I would snag as much as you can. I worked as a plumbing sub for a general contractor that tore down an old bowling alley to build a new outpatient medical facility. They carefully took the lanes up and the general sold the wood for a good deal of money.
It was weird hard maple could be bought for $2.50 bft...but he was getting $5 because people wanted a "story" behind their projects (ones like you mentioned work benches, big farm style dining tables...)
I can't answer the finishing question, you got me there. I guess you will just have to grab it and find out. I personally would not let it get away though.
 

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Pretty sure it would be maple. I would think that even if the top surface had been oiled, the under side should still take any kind of finish you wanted. For some reason I always thought that bowling alleys had a type of varnish finish. I could be totally off base, but at the worst, it would be some kind of drying oil, so it probably could still have another finish applied to it. Grab as much as you can. It's too good to pass up.

Gerry
 

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I'd have thought maple too, but a friend bought an old section that turned out to be either doug fir, SYP, or hemlock...not sure which, but it definitely wasn't maple. Still heavy as all get out.

He made a huge workbench set on a maple leg stand...pretty impressive. The laminated pieces are glued and nailed together, so you've really gotta watch...better off using a blade that you can sacrifice.
 

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Generally bowling alleys are rock maple at the start (to take the blow of the ball landing) and hard pine the rest of the way. You may have some of each. Either one would make a great benchtop.
 

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I did this about 25 yrs ago. Went through 2 Circular saws. We took probably 3/4 of one lane. I have since built a few coffee tables and end tables out of it that will be around for 5 lifetimes.
The bottom of the alley is coated in black tar like stuff that needs to be sliced off. Be prepared for a hard days work. And its very heavy. I've never had a problem with finish. I have used Poly and a product they use to call clear plastic. Every 5 yrs or so I sand em down and refinish them. Good as new.
You need to dismantle each board and glue up for them to work well. Lots of nails throughout. The tongue and groove is not a tight fitting type but it is there.
Go for it and tell us how it was when you have rested.
 

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I just spotted a Sears flyer that had an 8 foot "American Shuffleboard" table (aka "Table Shuffleboard"). It gave me the idea that you could make one pretty easily from a trimmed up piece of bowling alley. Many are longer than 8 feet...
 

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My father had old bowling lanes for work benches in his garage. He had them for at least 40 years. When he past away my brother took them and still has them in his work shop. So, they will probably last for a lifetime, solid as a rock.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update: Seems that someone got ahold of the guy's ear and told him that they might be worth a few bucks... :thumbdown:

So now everything's off until he can "figure out" how much to ask.
 

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Update: Seems that someone got ahold of the guy's ear and told him that they might be worth a few bucks... :thumbdown:

So now everything's off until he can "figure out" how much to ask.
That stinks dude. Tell him you will only charge him $50 hour to remove it (time and material, he pays for the sawblades etc.) ;)
 

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About 15 years ago I paid $50 for a 4' x 8' section of bowling alley. I don't think I would pay more than that because of the work you have to put into it. Unfortunately, I never got to use it. It was destroyed in a basement flood.
 

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Buffalo,
The first 15' or so of wood lanes is maple with the remaining 45' being pine, as another poster stated. Wood lanes are refinished untill they get thin and run into problems with fasteners (nails) They are then turned over and it all begins again on the second side. I think they end up around 2 1/4" or so when run out. All in all there is an awful lot of difficulty in reworking old lane beds and I'm betting you could laminate from scratch with less work and achieve a lot better looking result.
I've seen people (owners) who think they have some high value wood end up paying to have them hauled, after the weather ruined them from being stored outside!
Don't mean to be a wet blanket.
Also there are dealers in renovations, and bowling center salvage, that are bound to have lanes that are unusable for replacement. I would think they would give up those beds for the hauling. If you wish to persue this I could give you some names.
Regards,
Art King
 

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As Art pointed out there are lots of nails in these floors. They nail horizontally when building these so you will ding up your blades when cutting the stuff. So be careful and possibly use older blades that you don't care if they hit a few nails...
There is some bowling alley wood on craigs list for $150 for 2 1/2" Thick x 42" Wide x 11' Long.
That seems like a deal to me if your in New York and can pick them up! :) That would make a couple nice working areas!

N
 
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