Beautiful Table Made From A Bowling Alley


For a workbench, desk, or even a dining room table, there’s nothing quite like a massive piece of laminated maple put to use as the surface of a table. Whether in the form of butcher block, a shop class table, or in [Dillon]’s case, a reclaimed bowling lane, laminated maple provides one of the best possible table surfaces.

A while back, [Dillon] found someone on Craigslist willing to part with an eight foot section of a bowling alley for about $300. After trucking this two and a half inch thick, 250 pound monstrosity home, work began on converting it to a dining room table.

Bowling alleys are constructed by workers laying down maple strips and nailing them together one row at a time. This provides a stable surface when mounted on a concrete platform, but is completely insufficient for a table. To keep his bowling alley table from sagging, [Dillon] routed out three slots for aluminum bars going across the width of the lane. These bars were then screwed into each individual maple strip in the lane, resulting in a very sturdy surface.

The strengthened lane was then resurfaced with the help of a huge industrial belt sander and finished with a satin polyurethane. The legs of the table are made out of CNC’d 18mm Baltic birch plywood held together with metal fasteners.

The end result is a beautiful table ready to last 100 years. Considering [Dillon] spent less than $1000 on this table – and the price of eight feet of 2.5″ butcher block – we’re going to call this a win for [Dillon], his kids, and grandkids.

29 thoughts on “Beautiful Table Made From A Bowling Alley

    1. Then veneer it if you wish. But know that plywood glued-up and finished in such a fashion is much more dimensionally-stable than milled timber. It may be of little consequence in this particular project, but he likely made that choice with purpose.

  1. The routed grooves to keep the strips aligned are a nice touch but perhaps you should reconsider screwing each strip to the bar. The wood WILL expand and shrink with the seasons bowing the strip as they expand and pulling the strips apart leaving ugly gaps as they contract. Maybe just screw down one strip letting the table top expand and contract with the weather.

  2. Looks awesome, although a bit confused that he chose plywood for the legs, looks completely out of place under the awesome maple wood. Maybe after a few years when the plywood starts chipping and falling apart he’ll replace it with some nicer looking wood or something.

  3. Nicely done!
    On a side note since HaD mentions butcher blocks- I have never seen a useful butcher block in anyone’s house. They are always antique and have the “bowls” chopped out of them from use. Most I have seen actually just hold bills or a precariously balanced basket of fruit lol. Anyone else have the same experience with butcher blocks?

    1. I just a butcher block countertop out of church pews they were getting thrown out. Although they are white oak not maple,so not as dense, they hold up very wel as long as you keep them sealed. I use teak oil.

    2. You use them because they are easy to remove for cleaning/replacement, and you can pour bleach on them and let it set to kill the *** out of anything remaining on it. Wouldn’t do that with wood, or really any synthetics either.

  4. I can’t imagine there’s a ton of people who would look at a metal dowel slightly too big for a plywood hole and think that lathing down the dowel would be easier than enlarging the hole.

  5. I don’t intend to be negative, but as a woodworker I take offense to this:

    ‘This provides a stable surface when mounted on a concrete platform, but is completely insufficient for a table. To keep his bowling alley table from sagging, [Dillon] routed out three slots for aluminum bars going across the width of the lane. ‘

    Not only is 2.5 thick maple plenty strong for a 8 foot expanse (and more like 13 if it has excellent grain characteristics) without sagging, that aluminum will resist sagging about as well as leaving the maple alone. Nevermind it is going in the wrong direction to do it’s job. It wont sag, but it s weaker now than leaving it alone.

    Birch? Under maple? Metal fasteners? This is not fine woodworking. This is a disaster. It will work fine for it’s intended purpose, but it wont last long enough under normal use to ever become an heirloom.

  6. Wow, nice! And for all the people ragging on the plywood I have to say I like it, the layered look of the wood plys visually echo the table top, mabye varnish the plywood though. Now all it needs are a pair of bowling pin candlesticks.

  7. My dad used to install bowling alleys in the 1960’s. Everything in our house was made of that maple flooring. It was Virgin never been varnished. My mom had a cutting board, hebuilt a wood lathe using it. That wood is hard. When we moved from that house in the early 80’s I’ll bet he threw away 100 lbs of it!

  8. Meh, it is nice and all but if you step down a couple grades, you can get all this wood (the maple for the top, not the rest of it) for around 200 bucks in 1×4 rough cut planks.

    If you buy larger planks and cut them down yourself, it can be done even less… And if you have a lumberyard with bottom piles of bottom shelf lumber you can pick through and find suitable boards with clean enough edges for this for even less.

    Yes, the various inset pieces (I am assuming they are inset) would be a little more tricky to work out, but the guy clearly has some skills in a wood shop. The only thing he really saved on here by buying the surface was labor, but as any hobbyist woodworker knows, doing it yourself is 100% of the appeal. Had he gotten the top for a great deal less than the material cost, I would find this interesting. However, this is something that I could build myself with the right motivation, and I wouldn’t have used plywood or aluminum anywhere on the thing. Well, maybe aluminum for an accent or something…

    But then, he clearly is NOT a woodworking hobbyist, so to that end I will say that it is some damn fine design and implementation. Beautiful table, and barring all of my elitist, purist comments, is something I am jealous not to have!

    I do love this part though:

    “Next time I would just let the glue be until it was dry and then remove it with a sharp chisel. This would have saved me lots of sanding time. Oh well.”

    One of the very first things I learned in school (I spent all three years of middle school and all four of highschool in the woodshop) xD A very important tip for all aspiring woodworkers!

  9. I should note that I have no idea the thickness of those planks, I counted 38 and just guessed at 1″. You can get 5/4 rough lumber for only slightly more cash, but 2″ doubles the cost… However, adding a couple extra strips would make the (I just looked this up) 39, 41 or 42″ width or whatever it is for a bowling lane.

  10. Its too bad bowling alleys have used a formica on plywood construction since the 1990s. The top layer of formica actually makes an excellent bench/table top (go into the technicians shop at most bowling alleys, and the benches are almost always discarded lane panels) but at just over 3/8″ thick, and 10-14′ long, they aren’t cut out for this sort of project.

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