As designers, we tend to spend a LOT of time sitting at our desks. Because of that, I’ve made it a priority to spend the majority of the time I’m not working doing more physical activities, such as running, photography, and making things. For the latter, I decided to make the time I’m at my desk a bit more enjoyable by creating a working space that is creative and welcoming. And I did so by building my own desk out of a reclaimed bowling lane.
Having close to zero woodworking skills, this project was actually really simple, and the result is a completely unique conversation piece that I’m actually quite proud of. I have to give credit to my girlfriend, who came up with the idea, and who might have been even more excited about this project than I was. She kept this project on track and had some great thoughts on the little details that make this desk one of a kind.
We sourced the bowling lane from a place in Queens, NY called Build It Green. It’s a scavenger’s paradise full of reclaimed everything from doors, fireplace mantles, kitchen cabinets, chairs, and more. We were amazed at how diverse and reasonable their selection was, and absolutely recommend checking it out.
When we got the bowling lane, it was in pretty rough shape. The bottom was coated in a black paint and overall it was just filthy. So first things first, we got to work doing a quick sanding of the bottom of the table to clean up and smooth some thing out.
Now, when bowling lanes are built, they’re nailed together in place on the lane. They don’t use glue, so when they’re removed, they tend to be a bit wobbly. This slab was fairly bendy, so we had to brace it somehow. We debated using metal straps on the underside to support the slabs of wood and keep everything level, but were worried about the thickness of the strap catching my knees under the desk when in use. We found an awesome Instructables by hoda0013 that suggested using a router to create channels, and placing steel bars inside the channels for support. I was a bit wary of using a router (for the aforementioned reasons of experience using any woodworking tool), but we bit the bullet, purchased a fantastic plunge router, read the manual VERY carefully, and got to work.
We hit some snags, literally, in the form of hitting a few nails with the router bit, but the channels came out fantastic overall. We purchased some 1/2 ” square steel tubing, drilled some holes, and fastened the tube inside the channels with some heavy duty wood screws.
Next, we needed to do some heavy duty sanding to remove the rest of the black from the bottom, as well as the old finish from the top. We ended up renting a belt sander from Home Depot, which saved a ton of time.
Once the major sanding was done, we decided to get fancy and add a bit of detail. You can get pieces of bowling lane with pin markers, but they’re usually more expensive or harder to come by. So we decided to add them ourselves. Since we had the plunge router, we bought some 3/4 inch walnut plugs, mapped out some pin markings using “math” and routed the holes. We then used wood glue to secure the plugs, and sanded them flush with the table. (Side note: I know this isn’t ‘regulation’, but it looks great so who cares?) (Second side note: Always measure twice. If you look closely, one of the plugs is not quite in the right spot.)
Once everything was gone over with a 220 grit sanding one final time, we gave it about 5 coats with Danish Oil, and sealed it with 4 coats of a polyurethane sealer. We used some old Ikea legs for the base, and the desk was complete. The end product is a completely one of a kind desk that I’ll enjoy for quite a while.
The key takeaway here is that we all need a hobby. I know that sometimes we tell ourselves as web designers that our job is our hobby. But you need a break from the screen once in a while. I had an amazing time building something physical with my hands for a change. It’s extremely rewarding, and I recommend doing something a bit more physical to connect with the tactile world every once in a while.
How about you? Do you have any projects that you’ve built in your spare time?