Kaiser Permanente puts Berkeley carpentry shop to use making face shields

In just two weeks, carpenters who usually make furniture delivered 11,800 face shields for doctors and nurses to use immediately at local medical facilities.

Kaiser Permanente cabinet maker Ismael Soto puts face shields in an oven to mold them into place.

Facing a shortage of face shields for their nurses and doctors, Kaiser Permanente has converted a carpentry shop it runs in Berkeley into a factory to make its own.

The 16 carpenters who work in the shop usually make furniture and cabinetry for hospitals and medical offices across the region. But when supplies of the critically important piece of protective gear started to run low, and were hard to find on the market, Kaiser management wondered if the carpenters could pivot to making face shields

It took just a couple of days to create a prototype that was quickly approved by a nurse and a physician.

Within two weeks, the Berkeley carpenters and others they trained had delivered 11,800 face shields that went into immediate use. (The photos here show the production in action.) And the effort has expanded beyond Berkeley: carpenters across Kaiser’s 15 service areas are now developing their own production lines.

Kaiser’s is not the only workshop in Berkeley producing face shields for those on the front lines. On April 1, Berkeleyside reported that former Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and his workshop mates and family had started making face shields for nurses and doctors, and, since then, the effort has taken off. About 40 new volunteers are now combining plastic and baseball hats to make the shields, including members of Girls Garage, a maker space for young girls in Berkeley started by Emily Pilloton and a group of teenagers in Los Gatos. Three companies — Kreysler & Associates in American Canyon, Sila Nanotechnologies in Alameda and Metro Lighting of Berkeley — are also putting together the masks. The Giants, Warriors and Red Sox have all donated baseball caps for the effort, Bass told Berkeleyside.

Kaiser Permanente cabinet maker David Li, foreground, puts together disposable face shields for Northern California clinicians at a carpentry shop in Berkeley. Photo: Doug Oakley
Kaiser Permanente cabinet makers Domingo Campos, left, and Ismael Soto, center, ready reusable hard-plastic face masks for molding in a heater at the Berkeley workshop.  Photo: Doug Oakley
A stack of completed disposable face shields awaits distribution in the Kaiser Permanente Berkeley cabinet making shop. Photo: Doug Oakley
A Kasier Permanente cabinet maker puts together a face shield for Northern California clinicians at the Berkeley carpentry shop. (Photo by Doug Oakley)
Kaiser Permanente cabinet maker Travis Ellison shows a piece of a face shield cut from large sheets of plastic in the Berkeley workshop. Photo: Doug Oakley
Kaiser Permanente cabinet maker Fernando Melo discards material from cut pieces of plastic used to make face shields. Photo: Doug Oakley
Kaiser Permanente cabinet maker Christopher Aguirre puts together a protective face shield for clinicians who are facing a shortage of them in hospitals. Photo: Doug Oakley
Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.