Brojects - Floating Bowling Alley
Time Required: A long weekend (3 days)
Unable to decide whether to build a new bowling alley or a new dock for their cottage property, Andrew and Kevin decide to do both, combining two ideas into one. The Browling Alley is a fixed wooden boat dock that also doubles as a ten-pin bowling lane, complete with gutters, a mechanical pinsetter, and a ball return system.
A dock is essentially a bowling alley waiting to happen. For The Browling Alley, we want to start by making a multi-section dock that can be converted into various shapes. Each section of the dock will require a set of gutters to keep the balls from falling in the water. At the end of the dock, we’ll need to build a table that will house the pinsetter and ball return mechanism. For the finishing touches, we’ll want to add a lounge area with seating and a solar nacho table to heat up a tasty treat while we’re bowling on the lake.
Kevin and Andrew are just regular joes, learning as they go. They’re not pros by any means and don’t know how to do everything so they are always asking others for help and conducting extensive research. For this project, they took a trip to Pins Bowling Center in Antigonish, N.S. to learn how the pinsetter and ball return mechanism works. They also called on Walker, a geotechnical engineer, to help trouble-shoot the ball return. Parts of this project are tricky so don’t hesitate to check out our web forums for tips or to ask a specific question. As with any Brojects project, The Browling Alley is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. To fire-up your creativity, we’ve curated a “bowling alley dock” board on the Brojects Pinterest page. You might want to have a look here first before you set-up your work station and mock-up the design.
Make a run to your nearest building supplies store and pick up the materials required including:
• Dimensional pressure-treated lumber
2-by-8’s for the framing and joists — don’t make the mistake we did by going with 2-by-6’s instead.
• Dock hardware
Floats, aluminum round posts, anchor plates, dock connector clips, dock cleats, hinge kits, outside corner brackets, pipe sleeves and side leg holders.
• Small hardwood trees
Two or three small hardwood trees cut into sections and left “au naturel” to make the bowling pins.
• Hardware for pinsetter
Eye hooks and nylon rope.
• Lumber for the table that will house our pinsetter and ball return
Since we’re building this with our best guess, a good amount of lumber on hand is a necessity.
• Bowling balls
If you can get them, candlepin or five-pin balls are best as they are smaller and lighter than standard ten-pin balls.
• Clear acrylic plastic
A sheet measuring 18″ by 24″ and around 3/8″ in thickness, to serve as the top of our Solar Nacho Table
• Aluminum foil trays
To hold our solar nachos.
• A large insulated cooler
A cooler with at least 48 quarts of cubic volume is more than enough to hold ice and beverages for down on the dock.
We built the dock sections first but made a special allowance that will allow our dock to easily convert into a bowling alley. The sideboards will flip up to become a barrier that keeps our errant rolls from landing in the water, with the opening becoming the gutters. We decided to off-set the gutters, which made them large enough so the bowling ball could travel freely and not get stuck.
Next came the “bowling alley” section of the browling alley: the pins, pinsetter and ball return mechanism. To build the pins, we visited a nearby hardwood slash pile left behind from a logging operation, grabbing small, straight trunks that were between two to three inches in diameter. Using a borrowed bowling pin as a reference, we cut ten of these to 15.75 inches or 400 mm tall. At the top of each pin, we just took a little eye hook and drilled it in.
One of our major components obviously is the pinsetter as it’s the biggest thing in any bowling alley. We began by framing out a box using cedar two-by-fours and decking planks.
Next, we drilled ten holes directly above where we want the pins to sit, in the familiar triangular bowling pin formation.
We attached little strings to the eye hooks of the pins and ran one through each of the drilled holes, which is going to help us guide and reset our pins. The strings are routed through more eye hooks on the top and back of the pinsetter, and connected to a larger rope that can be controlled by a large reel located at the other end of the dock.
The ball return proved a bit more difficult until Walker suggested the idea of a tray system to lift up the balls and get them out and back down into the gutter. If you can’t get your balls up, around, and back to where they started from then you might have to be content with a nice dock as seen in Step 4.
Now all that was left was to launch our dock, float them into place and anchor the sections together. We placed our pinsetter/ball return table at the end of the dock and connected the ropes to the reels: one for resetting the pins and another for operating the ball return.
Adding some finishing touches will put the ‘bro’ in this project: lounge seating, a Solar Nacho Table with hidden beverage cooler, and a Sixties era bowling sign. Time to give your building ‘bro’ a high five for a job well done, and enjoy some hot nachos and cold beer.