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Why I got into Bowling Lane tables

Updated: May 20, 2020

Bowling was once a much bigger pastime than it is today. Bowling alleys are now closing- down all over the country. Eventually the closed bowling alleys get demolished to build something new or they get gutted of anything of value and that's when the slabs come onto the market.

I believe that things shouldn’t be so disposable. The ease with which society puts things in the garbage upsets me. That is why I work with materials that bring a sense of permanence. I want the objects that I create to last several lifetimes. The indestructible nature of bowling lanes was the first thing that attracted me to them.

Another reason I started working with the lanes is that that they were locally available (within a reasonable driving range). There are plenty of bowling lanes for sale all over the country, but finding some locally doesn't always happen. The lanes I am currently working with came from Hudson, FL. Two bowling alleys closed down in this small town over the last decade, providing me with a great stock of this material.

When I run out of the lanes, I'll be forced to move onto something new. But that's ok. It keeps life from becoming too monotonous.

A few things to know about Lane tables.

Not all bowling lanes are created equal. The lane materials vary depending on when they were made, where the wood was sourced, and the budget available at time of construction. Some very old lanes are mostly pine and a little narrower than modern lanes. Some high end lanes where entirely made in maple, but for the most part, most lanes where made with a combination of wood species.

On the higher quality lanes, the approach to the arrow (Darts) is usually solid maple. This is then immediately followed by a transition piece where the maple meets southern yellow pine. The lanes then become fully pine until they switch back to maple under the pins (Pin Deck). They were built this way because the areas that see impacts from balls or pins require very hard, high-density, expensive wood, and areas that just encounter balls rolling smoothly (no impacts) can be made of less expensive, not-quite-as-hard wood.

The market for the raw slabs has decided that different types of lanes and different markings on bowling lanes should be priced differently. Ranked from most to least expensive, you will find:

  1. Transition pieces

  2. Arrow (Darts)

  3. Approach Dots

  4. Plain maple

  5. Plain Pine

  6. Pin Decks (although these can be pricey)

In my bowling lane collection all pieces are:

  • solid Maple.

  • 42” wide, resulting in a 43.5" finished edge table.

  • 2.5” thick although thickness varies by .25”- .5" from years of sanding and refinishing.

I have Darts, Dots, or Plain lanes in stock. Unfortunately when I acquired the lanes they did not have any transition pieces or Pin decks.

While I cannot economically recreate a transition piece for you, I can recreate Pin Deck inlays. Actual Pin Deck slabs are usually pretty nasty. The robots that resets the pins frequently dripped oil, grease, rust, etc causing stains that can’t be removed. If I add a Pin Deck inlays to a lane it's never had a drip on it.

In the next blog post I will explain step by step how I transform the raw slabs into tables.

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