In 2021 a nearby bowling alley was being demolished and they gave away sections of old bolwing lanes. They were maple, so I took a few without any projects in mind. Fast foward to 2023 and they’ve been in my garage for a while and are quite a pain to move around, so I asked some friends if they wanted anything made from it. They wanted a kitchen island, so off to the races I went.

Alley loaded on a trailed behind my then car, a GTI clearly fit for hauling. Then then what each section looked like when I started

I got a base on etsy made of square tubing, delivered to my house. It was just raw metal. But it looked really good so I just put a coat of clear laquer on it to prevent rust.

Part of why I haven’t used these lanes is because the material is very dfficult to work with. The strips of maple are stapled together, with enormous 2 inch long staples. Then there’s a 2x4 stapled + glued to the bottom. So taking them apart and reusing wasn’t really doable, and the 2x4 holds a very specific curve along the top (so that when you bowl it nudges the ball towards the gutters).

To get something usable for a flat surface, I ripped off the 2x4. The top then still held together, but would flex significantly and was not structurally sound. This meant I could take some actually straight boards and re-join them to the top to make it both flat and structurally stable.

Even after this, the top was still in very rough shape though. It came from a demolition construction site, so there were many deep grooves in the top’s surface. Initially I thought about sanding it all down, but I’d probably have to remove about an 1/8 of an inch from the entire top, while keeping everything completely level / even. That did not seem doable.

Instead, since the top was already flat, I used a handheld router with a sled and spiral bit to remove big sections down the length of the table. The columns left over kept a surface I could ride the router sled on, then once done I could swap the sled to ride the carved out sections and route the elevated sections instead. Afterwards I much less sanding to smooth it all out. I only did this for the top, since the shelf would mostly be hidden anyway.

The top now mostly resurfaced, I could see what I was working with and decide where to remove extra to bring it down to dimension. I don’t have a track saw, so I extended the bottom of my circular saw out past the motor. Now I can use a weighted-down factory edge of 8 foot plywood as a guide. Even if I had a track saw I’m not sure I’d use it on this material. The staples are really hard and by the end of this project I had chipped off quite a few of the carbide teeth on my circular saw blade. After cutting to width I chamfered the structural 2x6’s underneath so they wouldn’t easily be visible from above.

And of course cutting it to width left a bunch of staples on the edges to be pulled. I used vice grips to create a sort of head of the cut off ends, then a pry bar to get them out. Then I could put some wood filler in the holes and there at least woudn’t be shiny metal bits poking out.

After a few rounds of finish sanding -> filler in staple holes I could be finished with the top.

And that was just half! Then I had to repeat everything for the shelf.

First, rough cut to length.

Then flatten / readd structure with 2x6’s.

Then measure / cut / fit to the interior width of the base.

Once fit to width I went back and finish sanded, and added some breadboard ends similar to what I did on the top. On the top I attached them with screws with oversized holes to allow for wood movement. Then I squared off the countersink and cut a perfectly-fit rectangular piece to seal it in. On the base I left the screw heads visible.

With it done I still had to attach it to the base, which meant drilling some big screw holes through the 1/8 inch thick, 2x2 steel tubing (with a hand drill!). Then marking the holes on the underside of the shelf, putting in some machine screw inserts, then screwing everything in.

All that, and it should be done? But it turns out it’s too heavy for me to flip over alone in my shop. I actually had to get a mini manual forklift to be able to load it into my car. It just barely fit in the back of my Toyota Highlander.

At my friends house, it took a few people to unload and maneuver into position. Then I finally saw it finished right side up!

I like how it turned out, and I’m really glad it didn’t get damaged in transit!