There's a guy in Brooklyn who has a huge stash of old maple bowling alley lanes that he says a person can make counter tops out of. The wood is actually pretty beautiful and some of it has inlaid pin markings.

I'm seriously considering doing it. The catch is that the lanes are wider than a counter is deep, so I'd need to split it. The lanes are made of panels glued and nailed together, which means a circular saw would be cutting through nails. Bowling Alley Guy says I just need the right saw blade.

Before I go much farther down this road ... does this all sound a bit right?

The whole project feels like it is within my wheelhouse. I have a circular saw and a sander. Does anyone have experience with this?

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    Here's someone else who did the same kind of thing: Reclaimed Bowling Lane Table. They already had a cut piece, so it doesn't address your question, but it might be useful for the next steps (including finishing). Note in particular the addition of metal crossbars, as the bowling lane is not designed to remain rigid by itself.
    – Kevin Reid
    Jan 9, 2013 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


I don't have direct experience but generally speaking while a circular saw blade can go through nails, it's dangerous as it increases the risk of a kick back.

Although slower, you will be far safer if you cut the counter using a reciprocating saw with a demolition or dual wood/metal blade attached. That will cut through nails without the kickback potential.

You should cut your pieces a bit wide, say 1/8" extra, since your initial cut very likely won't be perfect. After the initial cut, you can sand the edge down to fit.

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    And btw the idea of a bowling lane counter top makes me jealous. Although you probably should refinish it with a food safe surface. You can't be sure that the current finish is food grade. Jan 4, 2013 at 14:01
  • Right. It needs refinishing anyhow. And I ought to be able to borrow a sawzall, so that's good advice.
    – Amanda
    Jan 4, 2013 at 15:31
  • The surface is most certainly NOT food-grade: Here's a link to some Material Safety Data Sheets for some lane conditioners (the oil they put on bowling lanes). On top of that, think of how dirty a bowling ball is (how many unwashed and food-covered hands touch it in its lifetime) and how many of those balls have gone down the lane - not to mention people walking on the lanes, etc. Just pointing out that you should definitely refinish the surface and then seal it with something food-grade.
    – gregmac
    Jan 4, 2013 at 17:08
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    I haven't actually acquired the bowling alley lane yet but I did run all this by a contractor friend who also nearly fainted with jealousy and agreed that this is entirely within my wheelhouse.
    – Amanda
    Jan 9, 2013 at 16:37
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    You should take lots of pics through this process. We need new blog material. :) Jan 9, 2013 at 16:41

I made a large kitchen table from maple bowling alley with the arrows. 42" x 84" My alley boards were nailed together, but not glued. I cut it with a circle saw with a carbide tipped blade. When I made it 38 years ago, I was cheap, so I glued clear pine trim on the perimeter to cover the edges. I bolted some T-iron across both bottom ends to stiffen it. 10 years later I used PL400 and a 3/4" sheet of plywood on the bottom to finally solve the way the boards shifted with movement and the weather. It weighs a ton, so we never spill milk by bumping the table. It's in my 3rd home now, and will be refinished for the second time this spring.table toptable bottom

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    Cheap or not, the pine looks pretty good there, even 38 years later. Nice job! Apr 25, 2017 at 19:28

Although cutting through nails is dangerous, I find I have kickbacks only when using a regular saw blade. When using carbide tipped blades on a 7" circular saw, or a 3.5" cordless saw, as long as I go slow I do not suffer kickbacks. You'll hear noise when going thru a nail, but the carbide is much harder than common nails and screws and it can chew through them.

The keys to (relative) safety: * safety glasses, always * carbide tipped blade * go slow the entire cut, nails or wood.

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