Facebook tells employees, 'build something' -- with a table saw

With its new woodshop, Facebook hopes employees will chomp at the bit to build things that won't crash

By , IDG News Service |  IT Management

In a sense, the shop also symbolizes the end to a period of transition for Facebook -- it is housed in the last building to open its doors since the company moved its headquarters in 2011 from Palo Alto to nearby Menlo Park.

The woodshop also fits squarely into a movement popular in Silicon Valley known as "maker culture." It's a kind of do-it-yourself philosophy geared toward engineering-oriented pursuits like software development, robotics and 3-D printers, but there's no reason why good old-fashioned woodworking can't be included too.

The shop opened just under four months ago, and Facebook has some bigger plans for it. In addition to giving employees a new outlet to express themselves, the company wants to use the shop to quickly build things for events such as sales meetings, press mixers and internal gatherings, said spokesman Slater Tow.

"We hope that the woodshop will be helpful here when we need to create collateral for these [events] on the fly," he said.

To use the shop, employees must first complete some basic safety training. They can then sign up for classes to learn how to build things like household furniture items such as cabinets and drawers. The classes are usually small, with about six employees attending.

About 80 courses have been taught so far, and Facebook expects to expand the offerings as the end-of-year holiday season approaches.

Employees can use the machines for free, but they must purchase their own lumber, finishes, glues and other supplies -- at wholesale prices, Facebook said -- from the shop's in-house store.

For their first project, employees are encouraged to smart small, with a ballpoint pen. For these, the shop has boxes filled to the brim with small blocks of Brazilian rosewood, which were supplied by the local woodworking tools and supply store Woodcraft Supply.

Eric McCrystal is co-owner of that store and leads many of the classes at Facebook's woodshop. Employees have so far made 30 to 40 pens with the wood, he said.

Facebook's Tow also sees the shop as a recruiting tool to woo prospective job candidates.

It has good reason to open a woodshop for that purpose. Google, one of its biggest rivals, is located just down the road in Mountain View, and they have a workshop too. It's unclear what their pen output is.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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