Last year sometime, 360 Woodworking purchased a few slabs of bowling alley with the idea to turn them into workbenches. If you’re not familiar with bowling allies, which I was not, you may be in for a couple of surprises.
Surprise #1 is that a bowling alley is not solid, as in one big-ass piece or block. These lanes were like accordions; they bowed in and out depending on where you applied pressure. Each stayed together, except for small pieces at the cut ends. That leads me to surprise #2, which is that these allies were nailed together, but still they could move. Some of the nails were fully in place, but others were driven in a bit then bent over as if it were a bad hit that wasn’t straightened out or pulled.
Surprise #3 is that the nails are some of the nastiest nails I’ve ever encountered. They’re a twist nail, but damn are they hard. So hard that when cutting the alley Ron Herman (woodworkingwithron.com) says he went through many blades, including a blade that was designed to cut anything – he got a free replacement blade from an astonished store owner.
The base I made using 2 x 6s from a home center. Pieces were cut and screwed together. It took about 1-1/2 hours to get the base completed.I was after a bench that could be broken down and moved when necessary.
To make my bench, I adhered the bowling ally to a piece of 3/4″ construction-grade plywood using a couple of tubes of construction adhesive. I applied weight to the assembly and let the glue dry.
Hoisting the top up onto the base was a bear. Once in position I used pocket screws to join the two tight. Screws, again, allow me to break the bench down when I need to. I wrapped the edges with walnut after cutting a rabbet around the entire perimeter of the top to hide the beaver-like end cuts. I’m not blaming Ron, here. There was no logic to nail placement, and even when routing the edge I hit a couple that were buried just below the surface. All I need to do now is decide if and/or where I’d like to install a vise. That I’ll ponder for a while.
As I mentioned above, I have two more of these five foot slabs. If you live anywhere near Cincinnati and are interested in having a bowling alley bench, please give me a shout. No reasonable offer will be refused!