“Changing of the Pit”

I am always looking for ways to improve the design of the bowling lane. One thing I haven’t been satisfied with is that the ball sometimes rebounds back onto the lane (or hits the back of the tail plank or back edge of the gutters) when it is rolled very hard. I have a lot of cushioning on the back wall of the pit, it is wrapped in black vinyl and looks good and feels good, but I’m finding it isn’t always practical with bowlers who roll the ball harder than normal. I don’t want to have to be that nervous bowling lane owner who has to tell people (like my own dad, who rolls it really fast) to slow down, etc.

One option is to deepen the pit (it currently extends 16 inches behind the lane) but that would involve removing the rear wall and back end of the sidewalls and i really don’t want to have to do that. Also, I am concerned with the pin boys and pin girls being able to comfortably reach up to the headpin spot on the pin table when setting pins if they are moved back further. And finally, I really don’t have any more room in my basement to extend it anyways so that’s not really an option.

Although I have 16 inches behind the tail plank, the padding (pit cushion) on the back wall was around 4 inches thick when I surrounded it with vinyl so it was really more like 12 inches or less.

So, last night I removed the vinyl and padding from the back wall of the pit and I am playing around with a hanging pin curtain. It is basically a stiffer floor mat with black carpet on one side and a rubber backing on the other. I am thinking this will absorb the impact of the ball and pins without rebounding the ball back onto the lane when it is thrown hard. I am working on this now and will update it when I finalize it. Initial results show that it works great when the ball is rolled so it stays on the lane and hits the curtain, but when the ball goes into the gutters and exits into the back corners the curtain isn’t “catching” it and it loudly hits the corner of the back wall. I have an idea and made another trip to Home Depot today so we’ll see how that goes.

I have such a love for bowling, the nostalgia that surrounds it, and the way the equipment and pinsetters work, but I have absolutely no experience working in a real center or on real machines. I am trying to learn all I can online and I am spending more time at www.bowltech.com trying learn all I can and soak up info like a sponge from all of the knowledge and know-how that goes on there. I still have a dream of coming up with a fully automatic half-scale pinsetter to go along with my lane.

I am also still working on my AMF Magic Triangle style (with Pindicators) masking unit and am excited about it and will also share pics of that project soon.

That’s all for now bowling fans. Thanks again for reading and if any one has any ideas on improving the lane or other good resources for me to expand my knowledge of pinsetter design and operation please share it with me.


6 Responses to ““Changing of the Pit””

  1. Slash Says:

    On my basement alley I used 2 cut black rubber floor mats as pit curtains with plastic ‘dock curtains’ behind them. The ‘dock curtains’ are a rubber material used on truck docks at warehouses to keep the heat in/out while the bay is open. They sell it at home depot. That combination should be heavy enough to stop those candlepin balls you’re using. It works on my full scale 1/2 lane really well, even when someone throws a fast ball.

  2. Chad Says:

    Thanks Slash. I have a new black rubber hanging curtain that I am playing around with but I hadn’t thought about the dock curtains behind them. You should post a vid on YouTube showing them in action. 🙂

  3. Randy Brown Says:

    I sent you a private note congratulating you on this project. I built a lane in the garage for my son back in the ’80s, which I thought was pretty cool at the time (and I still do), but it pales in comparison to the technological wizardry of this thing.

    One area I think I can help you on is the question of the ball (and pins) bouncing back out on to the lane.

    I remedied that problem by simply angling the backstop downward, so that when the ball hits it, the ball ricochets DOWNWARD, instead of having it perpendicular to the ground, forcing the ball to bounce back toward the pins. (In the case of the lane I built, we were dealing with hollow plastic pins and softballs or croquet balls, not the solid pins and larger balls you’re dealing with, but I also had a “curtain” — made out of carpeting — that absorbed much of the energy of the ball and the flying pins, so they wouldn’t have any hard surface to bounce off of and back on to the pin deck. Plus, I had slanted the floor of the pit area so that everything would funnel back away from the pin deck and toward the back of the pit. The curtain came down (it was sort of curved so that it bulged toward the pins but was tucked father from the pin deck the lower you got), and then it ended (tacked on to a 2×4) with just enough clearance for the ball to roll underneath…another step that helped keep he ball from coming back out on the lane.

    We would occasionally see a pin bounce out (rarely, but it did happen — about the same frequency as on a real lane). But the ball NEVER came back out.

    Here are a few videos so you can see it. Some clips are before the masking unit was finished. Some were after it was put up.






  4. Chad Says:

    Hi Randy,
    I have been a fan of your videos for quite a while now. It’s great hearing from you.
    I have redesigned the pit curtain and the pit floor now slopes away from the bowler. Since I made the changes I have not had 1 ball or pin rebound back onto the pindeck. Thanks again for your message and suggestions.

  5. Andy Says:

    Now I like bowling but I’m no expert on the mechanics of them so forgive me if this sounds stupid. One thought that springs to mind might be to angle the back wall so that balls are deflected down into the pit rather than straight back towards the lane. The strip curtains idea sounds good as well.

  6. Chad Says:

    Thanks for the input Andy. I redesigned it so that the pit floor slopes away from the bowler and the pit curtain is now heavier and also angles slightly away from the bowler. It’s working great now.

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