A countertop made out of a bowling alley

My local Re-Store was offering some maple flooring from bowling alley – and some handy homeowner re-purposed it into the most excellent countertop. Isn’t it great?!

…Right up there with the Teacups Chandelier we looked at a while ago.

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  1. San Diego Amy says

    That’s so great that the lanes were listed for anyone to grab! My boyfriend was lucky to get a bit of a lane from the old Aztec Bowl in San Diego. He made a bar out of it. He and a friend helped deconstruct the bowling alley – they were allowed to take some of the bowling alley flooring, and an entrepreneur took the rest and apparently has some really cool floors in his loft now.

    The picture shows some neat textured cabinets, what is that? metal?

  2. says

    Hi Amy, I don’t know what the cabinets are for sure – but yes, they look like a wood frame with a tin ceiling or metal inset – then all painted up. Cool.

  3. Kelley Rose says

    We are putting bowling alley flooring in our kitchen as counter tops. We have sanded and ready to put a finish on it. Do we just use oil or can you stain and then oil it? What are people using-Oil or Water Lox. Any suggestions?

  4. atomicbowler says

    Hi, Kelley–
    IF you can find it, you will be very happy with a product called ‘Gymseal’. It is harder and harder to come by and taht’s a real shame…very durable, self-levelling, flows out flat and resists everything. Yep, it’s old-time gym floor finish.
    You might also have good luck with any of the many commercial-type epoxy bar-top finish products..self-levelling thick film, resists nearly all.
    There are also commercial coatings made by Sikkens/Cetol that are quite good for interior woodwork, but I don’t know about the suitability for a countertop.
    You won’t find any of these products at the Home Depot or Lowe’s, etc. Trying to do this kind of job with a product (and advice) from that kind of outfit is a recipe for disappointment like trying to cater a wedding from McDonald’s. Seek out a good commercial paint and coating house who will put you on the right track.
    A quick word in general about recycled bowling lanes–the maple part like Kelley has is great for lots of re-uses. Of course it sadly signifies the demise of another great Midcentury palace in most cases. Sigh.
    Sorry…I digress. So…the first THIRD or so of a bowling lane is maple. The very last bit (the pin deck) is maple. The majority of a lane is either fir or pine…which is not any too good for a bench or countertop. Just to bear in mind for anyone wanting to do this…
    (The maple section at the head is to resist denting by lofted balls and balls laid down with a thud in general. Maple at the pin deck for the same reason. Fir or pine in between for less weight and less expense. Look down a lane carefully and you can see the “splice” where the sections are finger-jointed together.)
    AB Dave

  5. Kelley Rose says

    Thank you so much for posting your comment. We do have access to people who are experts here in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My biggest concern is bacteria. I don’t mind some nicks and scratches. We live in a 100 year old home and have been renovating for I swear 20 years. I am not into the “oil” as some people are for wood countertops. We are going to use maple for the edges. Thanks again!

  6. atomicbowler says

    Some sort of Bar-Top or Gymseal would probably be best.
    Oiled maple gets awfully dark and the oil can tend to soften the wood over time. Bacteria-wise you would be no worse off than a wood butcher block or cutting board…I know that is supposed to be bad juju but we all grew up eating food that had touched wood utensils and surfaces and most of us lived thru it–lol!
    My principal concern is prolonging the service life of your wood…I think some sort of (hard) finish film would be advisable as it would be a good sacrificial layer. Bar-top is the toughest and thickest (look what it is meant for!), albeit not as cosmetically pretty as Gymseal. If you can FIND gymseal, by all means use it! Otherwise, Bar-top finish would be the way to go. ‘Twill be very pretty either way. Make sure and sand out well to 220-240 grit, wipe back with turps and clean white t-shirt material (available as bulk bags or boxes of rags from your paint dealer) until no dust comes up, let dry VERY well, tack rag and go!
    If you simply must have an oiled-look finish on maple, use Daly’s Sea-Fin Teak Oil. Much less an oil than a very thin phenolic resin, you apply about a million coats sanding in between. Doesn’t really build much film thickness to speak of but seals the wood very well. Final coats can be “oil-sanded” (like wetsanding but with the seafin) at 400 grit for a VERY silky surface.
    Sea-Fin also makes an excellent sealer coat on mahogany before varnishing and there are no adhesion problems, should you be at some time refinishing mahogany trim or mantles. Mahogany needs a grain filler, but much less (or non, depending on the mahogany) is needed if sealed with multiple coats of seafin after staining and before filling or varnishing.
    Look forward to hearing how it works out and seeing some pics!

  7. Kelley Rose says

    Pam-Ok that was pretty funny! We have actually been married 27 years. It has not always been bliss when you work with a perfectionist! You know, no one is going to see ten feet up on the one spindle on the corner, on the porch that you gotta a little green on the white. Can’t wait to never, ever sand, stain or paint again!

  8. Kelley Rose says

    AB Dave-

    One more question. Could you use a stain and then an oil? Won’t the Gymseal or Bar-Top darken that wood up a bit anyway? My husband said we got the maple end (beginning/first part) of the flooring.

  9. atomicbowler says

    Good-FWIW, the arrows are in the maple…pin deck maple section has 10 black dots on 12″ centers where the pins are spotted. Just mentioned the issue with the back end of the lane in case anyone else was going to do this and went a-lookin’ for the raw materials.

    You COULD stain, sure. I would say, though, that the lane will darken a bit anyhow with time and UV’s. If you want some idea how it will look finished, wet a spot with solvent alcohol or turs/paint thinner…that will give some indication. You could also always try a test patch of your finish on the back side or on an offcut scrap piece of the material or similar (say, offcut from your trim). Personally I don’t think I’d do stain but do not know what the aesthetic is you are after.
    Remember that the stain is just color and has no protective value. On maple you COULD Seafin over stain or just Seafin on its’ own if you want oil. The oil will darken, too..but given what a kitchen countertop is subjected to in terms of liquid spills (some quite colorful…and color-FAST) I do think you are better off with a thick-film, impermeable finish. Again, Bar-top in particular comes to mind as all manner of things end up on a bar top, including bleachwater and other cleaners that would really raise havoc with an oiled surface.

  10. atomicbowler says

    I should also add…having just estimated damage repairs for remediation of water damage (a simple rainwater leak) to a VERY large and expen$ive motor yacht…that few woods will blacken and discolor as badly from water damage…nor will many other hardwoods begin to “spalt” as readily (a black, low-grade rot that will remain solid for years but look really, really ugly) as readily as maple. An oil-type finish, even a phenolic resin oil like Daly’s SeaFin…will only protect as long as the surface film is intact. Once that wears thru or fails (say, at a gap in a trim joint where there is a small void in the glue line, even-) you may likely see some rapid discoloration. If attended to early it can be remedied but only by stripping (usually by abrasive means–sanding, choke, hack, clean for weeks even with aggressive ‘bagging’ of the work area and dust-control measures) and then sanding out the blackening if it is not TOO deep…acid bleaching if it is, which breaks down and softens the wood fibers…
    I am sorry not to have put this forth with much clarity in earlier responses, but thought I should add it here as it is the most compelling argument against the oil finish that I can see.
    Whatever you do it can be very lovely and a project worthy of pride…it is just difficult to see a great deal of effort be expended to create something beautiful…and have that result rapidly degrade. As always, please do not ask how I come by this opinion–:)

  11. Kelley says

    That is exactly what my husband thought regarding the oil discussion, with regard to the water. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to hear someone agree with your gut feelings on a project. Not too many people can appreciate salvaging, antiques, etc. We have paid lots of money over the years to have stain made up to match the old pine in the house. I personally think the color of the flooring is fine the way it is. We have had our share of disappointments as you can imagine with the constant renovation. I am grateful for my handyman. We don’t always agree on color schemes, etc. but eventually he comes around :). I have been to other websites asking questions, but no one seems to answer. It is awesome when you can utilize the help of friends, neighbors and people like you on the internet. Thank you for your thoughts and advice. When we get the project complete, I will send before and after pictures. Or who knows, I may have more questions during the project! Take care!

  12. atomicbowler says

    If you are looking for a more aged (darkened) look to compliment your stained pine, you might want to surf your way to Stewart-MacDonald Guitar Shop Supply or Luthier’s Mercantile International. Both offer liquid stain concentrates in many colors. You would want what is referred to as “amber” or “vintage Amber”. These stains will mix with solvent alcohol and will not raise the grain. YOU DO NOT WANT TO USE A WATER-BASED STAIN.
    You can mix the stain to any strength you want by varying the amount of alcohol. Do not use rubbing alcohol, of course. Solvent alcohol will do well, or you can buy a gagillion bottles of NAPA part #7100 ‘Thermo Aid’ which is a fuel drier containing 99% isopropanol. The Cadillac of alcohols for mixing stains and shellacs is Everclear, if you can find it.
    You will of course want to test and practice on scrap or on a reverse side that will be obscured. It’s best (and recommended) if you practice on wood of identical age and grain to the actual part…hence the suggestion to prep and utilize the backside of the part. It’s best to use a lighter color than you think you will need by a fair bit…you can make additional passes as needed, but it’s awfully hard to ‘un-stain’! Let the alcohol evaporate completely and then wipe off excess with your virgin t-shirt rags (white only!) until they come away clean.
    Another very nice vintage stain is one you can make for yourself with alcohol, coffee grounds, cigarettes and a percolator. I cannot stress enough that alcohol vapor is EXPLOSIVE and the fumes NOXIOUS…so the 100-foot extension cord is indicated. In other words, do this only OUTDOORS and WELL AWAY from anything you would not want to set afire. DO NOT approach the percolator until it has had adequate time to cool.
    In a large, urn-type percolator combine 1 to 1-1/2 gallons alcohol with one week’s worth (or so) of saved coffee grounds and 3 packs nonfiltered cigarettes, crumbled. Brew away. Let cool, check to see how much alcohol you need to add to keep the fluid level from going too low, brew again. Repeat until you have something close to the color you want once it has been reduced/stretched with more alcohol. You’re making your own stain concentrate, here.
    Gibson guitars come in a color called ‘tobacco sunburst’…it was originally created in the early 1900’s by a Gibson designer named Lloyd Loar, who made it in a percolator with cigarettes, coffee and alcohol. The stain was ragged onto the wood and repeated more and more towards the outside periphery of the guitar’s top to get the “sunburst”.
    Have fun, be careful, and good luck!

  13. Kelley says

    Yikes, I think I will phone my friend who owns a guitar business. Very interesting. He may know the story. Thank you!

  14. Vanessa says

    Hi. We have a lived in our home for 27 years. We moved in and our countertops are bowling alley. They have been great but are now beginning to wear . There are a few spots wear the water near sink has worn through the wood. How can we fix that?
    Thanks and I hope you get this:)

  15. dani says

    What color is the walls in the kitchen? I’ve been searching for a color like that for a long time. Thank you :)

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