The conversation about bowling alley wood typically centers around how to reclaim, recycle or reuse it for home projects. With a bit of effort, you re-purpose a bowling lane into tables, benches, worktops, countertops or specialty furniture. The aged, cured quality of the wood often outshines what's available at your local lumber yard.
Lane Wood Make-Up
Bowling alley wood is laminated side-by-side like a butcher-block countertop. Often 2 1/2-inches or more in thickness, the side-by-side lamination gives the wood incredible strength and resiliency.
The Amount of Wood
A bowling alley lane is about 63-feet long, and measures 42-inches wide. A single bowling lane includes approximately 22 feet of maple wood and 41 feet of old growth pine.
Prior to 1980, bowling alley lanes were made entirely of solid wood. Contemporary builders now use a combination of fiberglass, synthetics, laminates and or other engineered wood products. The products in lanes built after 1980 won't yield the same results for re-purposing a lane into a table or countertop.
Bowling alley lanes are often divided into thirds; the first section usually contains sugar or hard maple, pine typically outfits the middle section, while the end section can contain maple or a combination of about 40 linear feet of maple, and 20 linear feet of pine. The breakdown may be different on some alleys with shorter maple sections of about 16 feet on both ends.
Durability and Cost
Maple, getting the most traffic and abuse, can take a beating and be sanded and finished multiple times. Because pine is more affordable and less dense, it's often chosen for the middle of a lane where it receives less traffic and abuse than the maple. Pine does not tolerate repetitive refinishing processes.
Older bowling alley floors were different, using pine harvested decades ago. Old growth pine, taken from the center of the tree is harder and more dense than ordinary pine with a straighter grain. Contemporary pine is milled from smaller trees and not as strong in comparison. The age of the pine or it's quality may be hard to determine without extensive research.
Walnut, to a Small Degree
Walnut is another wood component of bowling alley lanes. Often inlaid as markers, the dark chocolate provides a direct contrast to the amber color of the pine and maple. Reusing these smaller pieces is difficult, at best, but they add an interesting element to your project.
Bowling lane wood is typically finished with some type of oil-based polyurethane. Oil-based finishes are tough, and may cover the wood with multiple coats, which must be removed before recycling ore re-purposing the lumber.