Pulling up bowling alley lane?

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Forum topic by Fur_252 posted 01-27-2014 12:45 PM 9200 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 2139 days

01-27-2014 12:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: bowling alley

I recently was doing search on bowling alley lanes and came across this site. Great site! Recently my small town bowling alley sold and going to get demolished for a new ford dealership. I was wondering how hard would it be to rip up sections of the alley? any special tools to rip floor off lane? I was thinking 10ft sections because of the weight of the floors. I read plan on using a lot blades because of the nails. I would really love to make work benches out of the floor and maybe a shuffleboard table down the road. Is it worth the time and effort of peeling the lanes up or one lane? What can I expect on doing this? How much time would it take 2 guys to bring up one lane?

24 replies so far

View b2rtch's profile


4907 posts in 3606 days

#1 posted 01-27-2014 01:07 PM

People have been doing this before, be ready to pull out thousand of nails

-- Bert

View chrisstef's profile


17980 posts in 3564 days

#2 posted 01-27-2014 01:31 PM

Ive never done one personally but being in the demo business I would bring the whole tool box, and a chainsaw. Id start with a sawzall and some “Axe” blades made by Milwaukee. Those are the best blades for cutting wood IMO. Little thicker than normal and wont bend on you if they bind. Id also have a circular saw with me with a couple of junky blades. After that id have a chainsaw handy, just in case.

From what ive heard the first 10’ or so should be hard maple. There’s a possibility that the rest couple be of a lesser material such as pine. Id venture to guess that it would be an all day event for 2 guys doing one lane and its gonna be heavy. 200-300 pound range would be my guess. Id shoot for the first 10’ of multiple lanes.

Now if I had to do it in real life as a project I would bring in a mini excavator to do the heavy lifting and have the guys chainsaw it into sections at about 8’. A skidsteer with forks might help out too. One guy would be relegated to sharpening and replacing chains on the saw.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Nicholas Hall's profile

Nicholas Hall

352 posts in 2664 days

#3 posted 01-27-2014 01:36 PM

Lots of folks have done this in the past. I think PurpleLev produced the most famous example. It’s a lovely bench, as are many bowling alley sourced benches.

For my part, I’d rather have a Doug Fir bench that I could build over a long weekend using Home Depot lumber for $150 than a free bowling alley bench that took me 40 hours of just demolition, de-lamination, and re-lamination. For every guy that’s built a bench from a bowling alley, there are 10 who’ve built a soft-wood bench. Either bench will get the job done. (BTW I’ve never built a BAB so I don’t know how long it takes to pull all those nails)

The definitive text on workbench construction “Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Construction and Use” by Christopher Schwartz, advocates for the use of the lowly southern yellow pine for building workbenches. I don’t think it’s worth getting hung up over the wood species. Hardwoods are great, but there is nothing wrong with inexpensive softwoods for benches.

I think the real question you should ask is “how many additional hours will bowling alley sourced lumber add to my workbench project?”. Getting it out of the bowling alley is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re willing to put in the extra time that experienced people say it will take, then by all means go for the bowling alley bench-top.

I’m not trying to discourage you. Like I said, far better men than I have built bowling alley workbenches and love them, I’m just trying to give you an alternative before you pull out the cats paw and pry bar!

Best of luck and let us know what you decide to build and how it works out!

-- Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

View Fur_252's profile


10 posts in 2139 days

#4 posted 01-27-2014 02:33 PM

Is there anything holding this to the subfloor… it nailed, screws, tar, glue? Or can I expect any of these?

View Bluepine38's profile


3387 posts in 3642 days

#5 posted 01-27-2014 03:23 PM

I worked in a Fasteners store for a few years, and every spring a gentleman that refinished/repaired bowling
lanes would come in and buy quite an assortment of screws, and if I remember correctly some were #14 or
1/4” by 3” or 4” so do not be surprised if you find some screws. I never checked out his projects, just sold
him the screws.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View chrisstef's profile


17980 posts in 3564 days

#6 posted 01-27-2014 03:26 PM

Id guess that they are probably laying on sleepers and there’s no real subfloor like youd see in a typical house. You probably wont know until you start ripping a section out.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3518 days

#7 posted 01-27-2014 03:34 PM

FWIW, my father helped cut up a piece of bowling alley used for a research project. Not only nails but be prepared to used lots of blades as that maple is like cement. It’s not a job to be rushed, either.
He used it for a workbench and didn’t delaminate it.

View Fur_252's profile


10 posts in 2139 days

#8 posted 01-27-2014 05:38 PM

I talked to the owner he was telling me that the whole lane is hard maple! Could this be true? What I read is the first 15’ is hard maple then soft pine or fir after that. Is he full of it?

View TheDane's profile


5702 posts in 4220 days

#9 posted 01-27-2014 05:44 PM

Fur_252—It depends on who built and installed the lane. Some were all hard maple, some used softer woods after the first 15 feet or so.

chrisstef may be right. Our lanes sat on cradles that were effectively big sleepers. The cradles sat on a concrete floor and were high enough to allow for sunken, covered ball returns.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Gentile's profile


357 posts in 2376 days

#10 posted 01-27-2014 05:56 PM

I met a guy once that made kitchen counters out of bowling lanes. It looked good. LOTS of nails…

-- "I cut it twice and it's still too short"

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 2625 days

#11 posted 01-27-2014 06:24 PM

I would verify what is made of. Some of the later lanes are plastic.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3518 days

#12 posted 01-28-2014 03:06 PM

The first part would be a hard wood as many bowlers, in my observation, tend to throw the ball down instead of out in front of them
The piece my father had was all hard maple- back in the mid 50’s.

View JL7's profile


8761 posts in 3522 days

#13 posted 01-28-2014 04:34 PM

I’ve never removed bowling lanes, but have worked with them after the fact. As noted above, there does seem to be large screws that hold them in place. There are plugs on the top surface that have been obviously removed to get the screws out. I’ve worked with 2 different varieties and both had steel angle iron mounted with screws to the bottom side also.

The lanes are nailed together horizontally, and randomly, so not easy to know where they are. A 7-1/4” Skil saw won’t cut all the way through. An 8” saw will and, as mentioned above, if you use some throw away carbide blades, you can cut through it.

It takes 4 strong guys to pick up a 15’ section.

I got a ton of the stuff for nearly nothing at an auction 4 years ago, or so…...didn’t have any idea what I was getting into.

Nicholas makes some really good points. This isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

I’ve made a bench and several shop counters out of this material as well as a coffee table. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it….I did choose to remove all the nails and and clean up the boards, because those pesky nails are a problem otherwise (for me).......

There are some pictures HERE of the dismantling process.

The cool thing in my opinion, is that the quality of the Maple is outstanding. You won’t find many defects in the wood except for damage perhaps when removing the lanes. And there is the satisfaction of re-purposing this beautiful material.

That being said, I wouldn’t personally tackle the removal process, nor would I pay much for the material. For me, it was a cheap resource for some nice wood.

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View dataman19's profile


4 posts in 1906 days

#14 posted 09-16-2014 07:44 AM

First off – I know this is an old thread – but my delimma is a) start a new thread and take a chance that somebody will point me to this thread (this thread doesn’t really answer my concerns).
b) Start a new thread and never get a correct answer (nno pun intended – but sawing up the lanes is not a good option for me – unless there is a way to reassemble them)...
OK – now I am faced with the task of removing bowling alley lanes that have been in-place since 1958-1962.
I do not want to cut them up – I need them whole…
I get that I will have to make a cut at the approach/lane transition… This is not a problem as there is already a visible seam here to start with.
My problem is that I will be reinstalling the lanes in a home. So I need a functional lane when I am done.
Yes I said it – I want the whole 63 foot 9.5 inch lane as one piece…
There I said it…
Can anyone point me in a direction where I can learn what it takes to remove a solid bowling lane without destroying it?

View Fur_252's profile


10 posts in 2139 days

#15 posted 09-16-2014 12:36 PM

Ok I ended up with some bowling alley lane. The thing is that is some heavy stuff a 10ft piece we had 4 guys to carry it out! I’m not for sure if 2 guys could carry it out didn’t want to blow out butt doing it. Thing about a full lane is do u have a straight shot carrying it out? If I was u and knowing how heavy the lanes are I would cut the lane 15ft pieces and have 6 guys there to lift, piece them back together sand a refinish the lane. Unless the bowling alley is getting demolished could drag it out and then get a crane to pick it for you. Just an idea

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