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I am seeking any and all advice! I pastor a church in a small town in Texas. I have recently purchased about 4,000sqft of old maple gym floor (I believe it was built in the 1950's and torn down about 10 years ago). I had an idea... I want to build a portable bowling alley. Maybe in 6 foot sections that can be dismantled and then stored. I am relatively new to "woodworking", but have had some fun with it so far. I think the portable bowling alley would be great for the youth (and even the adults) to have fun with periodically. Has anyone here ever made anything of the sort? If so (even if not), any ideas or tips on how to go about? Any ideas and advice are welcome and appreciated. Thank you in advance.
 

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There is more to building a bowling alley than just a bunch of wood. The alley has to be dead level from side to side. Then, it has to be sloped a certain number of inches from front to back. This will be hard or impossible to achieve with individual pieces. Also, keep in mind what this will weigh. Plus you have to have the gutters on the side for ball return or as a ball catcher for poor bowlers. What is the thickness of the gym floor? I recall that the alley is about three or four inches thick with the boards on inch wide and set on edge. My father helped develop the Brunswick automatic pin spotter in the 50s. He brought home a six foot section of the alley when the project was completed. Must have weighed over 100 pounds. Not to rain on your parade but good luck with the idea. Guys in the other buildings kidded Dad and the crew that all they did for eight hours was bowl.
 

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There is more to building a bowling alley than just a bunch of wood. The alley has to be dead level from side to side. Then, it has to be sloped a certain number of inches from front to back. This will be hard or impossible to achieve with individual pieces. Also, keep in mind what this will weigh. Plus you have to have the gutters on the side for ball return or as a ball catcher for poor bowlers. What is the thickness of the gym floor? I recall that the alley is about three or four inches thick with the boards on inch wide and set on edge. My father helped develop the Brunswick automatic pin spotter in the 50s. He brought home a six foot section of the alley when the project was completed. Must have weighed over 100 pounds. Not to rain on your parade but good luck with the idea. Guys in the other buildings kidded Dad and the crew that all they did for eight hours was bowl.
"Then, it has to be sloped a certain number of inches from front to back"

Everything else you say is very true. But to the best of my knowledge (I have bowled a lot of lines in my lifetime) it no slope either side to side or front to back.

Have you ever seen a ball completely stop on the alley? I have.

George
 

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When I sold restaurant equipment, I quoted a snack bar outfit at a new alley and they were using lasers (new at the time) to adjust the alleys. No, never saw a ball stop in the alley. We have an alley close by and I'll ask them for clarification. I took bowling in college- didn't see running when there was no one chasing me.
Edit: A bowling alley is the quietest place in the world. You can hear a pin drop. :vs_laugh:
 

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Smart and Cool
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where's my table saw?
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On a slightly smaller scale ...

What about air hockey or something that uses a puck instead of a ball? Could be a more manageable length.
You would get several tables that way also.
 

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If this is for kids it would not need to be full length and could be narrower also. Rails along the sides to keep the ball on the lane instead of gutters is all that is needed. Sections built of 2x4 frame to support the hardwood would work. Figuring out a simple and positive way to connect the sections seems to be the difficult part.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
There is more to building a bowling alley than just a bunch of wood. The alley has to be dead level from side to side. Then, it has to be sloped a certain number of inches from front to back. This will be hard or impossible to achieve with individual pieces. Also, keep in mind what this will weigh. Plus you have to have the gutters on the side for ball return or as a ball catcher for poor bowlers. What is the thickness of the gym floor? I recall that the alley is about three or four inches thick with the boards on inch wide and set on edge. My father helped develop the Brunswick automatic pin spotter in the 50s. He brought home a six foot section of the alley when the project was completed. Must have weighed over 100 pounds. Not to rain on your parade but good luck with the idea. Guys in the other buildings kidded Dad and the crew that all they did for eight hours was bowl.
Yes sir, I understand it will be difficult and I am up for the undertaking. To answer your question, the gym flooring is about a 1/2" thick by 2" wide per board (tounge and groove) and not very heavy itself (unlike old bowling alley floor). What I had kind of figured, was building the frame out of 2 x 4's and decking it with plywood and then doing the maple gym floor over it. As far as leveling the ground underneath that will be simple, we have several folks who own skid steers and do that sort of work. Then we would just have a permanent area for it outside but be able to break it down and put it in a storage building so that the weather does not get to it. If we could keep the panels to weighing 100 pounds each or less, that would pretty much be a two-man move per panel. I am also not opposed to making the bowling alley shorter and narrower. It definitely does not need to be professional and up to standard. Rather, something that they can have fun with now and then
 

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If they are only 1/2 inch thick you would need, obviously, some way to support it to keep it level. Good luck and let us know what you did with the floor material.
 

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It would need to be supported pretty good, you might get people like me who's back is shot and lofts the ball sometimes,b oucing a 16 lb ball on a 1/2 thick floor would be pretty tough on it, in my opinion

But it sounds like a cool project
 

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Making a bowling alley conference table now for "Main Event". If you would be interested in measurements for everything I can get them. Just let me know.....
 

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Smart and Cool
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Making a bowling alley conference table now for "Main Event". If you would be interested in measurements for everything I can get them. Just let me know.....
That's awesome!!

Please post pics of the finished product.

From working in a Bowling Alley in my youth, met my wife of 35 years there, Mom worked there, and I had a lot of "youthful antics" take place there. Bowling Alleys have a special place for me. I'm in the midst of my home office remodel, and my idea for a desk/workspace is to mimic a bowling lane.
 

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Will do. Table will be 42" x 14'. We are welding bases as well. I cut 3/4x3/4 groves in underneath to put metal in to support it. You can't do anything on this without hitting a nail.......
 
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