A well-made bowling lane dictates the scoring and the overall bowling experience. It is important that these lanes are durable and that they last long to avoid downtime because of repairs.
These 60ft long lanes are made of wood, wood with overlays, and/or synthetic materials. Because these lanes need regular oiling to endure the friction from heavy balls, what they are made of plays a crucial role in their lifespan.
Just think about it—16lb balls are air-dropped from at least five feet on these lanes day in, day-out. Lanes are constantly subjected to physical abuse and are supposed to withstand it all.
Have you ever wondered what materials make a lane so tough? In this article, you will learn what exactly these bowling lanes are made of.
Bowling Lane Composition – 5 Materials Often Used
1. Hard Rock Maple Wood & Pine wood
The majority of bowling lanes are made of maple and pine.
Specifically, the front and back portions of the lane are made of Northern Hard Rock Maple wood. The portion where the ball glides, the center portion of the lane, is made of soft Southern Pine.
The reason why pine is used from the deck to the landing area is because of its strength and durability. It is also very resistant to shrinking and decay.
Maple is used in the front until the foul line as well as in the pin deck because it can be sanded and finished multiple times. Maple is also very resistant to shock and constant badgering of the ball.
In short, wherever the lane faces extraordinary traffic and abuse, maple is used and where it faces less traffic and abuse, pine is used. Pine cannot withstand repetitive sanding and finishing.
Both pine and maple wood are laminated side by side with at least 2.5in thickness. This kind of lamination results in resilient and strong wood for the lanes.
To make a 60ft long 42in wide bowling lane, it approximately takes 22ft of maple and 41ft of pine.
Inlaid as markers, the dark-chocolate colored walnut wood is used in some bowling lanes.
Walnut’s dark color contrasts with the lighter tone of maple and pine and makes the lane look stylish and interesting. However, it is important to note that these smaller pieces are very difficult to reuse and not very popular, despite the value they add aesthetically.
3. Wood Overlays
You must have noticed that some bowling lanes have an overlay on the middle section where the ball glides generating great friction.
These overlays increase the life of wood and protect the lanes from the ball’s force. Overlays save a lot of maintenance costs for lanes that are heavily used.
As bowling evolved in the 1980s, making lanes purely out of wood was phased out. This is mainly because of the high maintenance and lower durability that they come with compared to synthetic materials.
If you visit a rather old bowling alley, there is a good chance that the lanes are purely made of wood.
4. Synthetic Materials
As wood wears down, it gets more difficult and expensive to maintain.
So, majority of the modern stunning-looking lanes are made from reinforced synthetic composite materials. While these synthetic materials give a wood-like appearance to the lanes, they are much harder and tougher.
Though synthetic lanes are harder, the new evolutionary technologies in bowling balls ensure that the scoring isn’t impacted. Synthetic lanes use lesser oil and provide smoother slide actions to the bowlers.
The best aspect of a synthetic lane is the maintenance.
Except for cleaning and oil application, synthetic lanes don’t demand a lot of care. This helps them look brand-new all the time, despite being years old.
5. Oil-based Polyurethane
Once the bowling lane is built, the wood is often finished with multiple coatings of oil-based polyurethane. These finishing coats boost the strength and toughness of a lane and give a sleek shine to the wood.
The only downside to this finishing is it is very difficult for the oil-based coats to be removed when it is time to recycle the lane wood.
Recycled Bowling Alley Wood is considered to be of superior quality compared to the local lumber yard wood. These lanes, after their tenure is done, are uninstalled and repurposed into tables, benches, specialty furniture, and countertops.
Modern builders now use a combination of laminates, synthetic materials, and fiberglass to engineer a bowling lane. These lanes don’t yield the same quality upon being re-purposed.
The wear-out and splinters of wooden lanes pushed the bowling alley owners to consider other options. While several materials including aluminum were considered at certain times, wood and/or synthetic remained the favorite choice, for the seamless bowling experience that they offer.