Carpentry grad finds tools for success while following in father’s footsteps

Miguel Arpin, Lou-Mig Custom Woodwork

Miguel Arpin is cut from the same cloth as his father — and you can bet that cloth was measured twice.

Arpin is the owner of Lou-Mig Custom Woodwork, a finishing carpentry company his dad (the Lou in Lou-Mig) started in 1993. With his father now semi-retired, Arpin has been taking over the reins of the family business.

“Ever since I was a little boy we always worked in the workshop and I helped build our cabin at a young age,” Arpin says. “It was always ‘swinging a hammer,’ as they say, always wearing a tool belt to help dad out. I always loved it. And the way I was taught was, ‘If it’s not perfect, redo it.’”

Arpin finished Red River College’s Carpentry program in 2003 as a Level 4 apprentice carpenter. Coming into college, Arpin already had carpentry capabilities from following in his dad’s work boots, but he says the program helped to refine and enhance his skills.

“The course is amazing because it’s all the theory behind the knowledge,” Arpin says. “You can know how to do things, but what’s the theory behind it? Why is it done that way?

“The teachers were great. They have prior experience before teaching and I think that makes the difference. They’ve seen the real world. They didn’t just finish school and then go into a school to teach.

“I think you only learn that from being in the trade and doing the work. It’s that type of experience you get from Red River: a little bit of schooling, then go work, then more schooling, then back to work. That to me is the best way to learn, and it should be a part of all higher education.”

Arpin performs woodworking and general contracting services for several residential and commercial clients. Two of Lou-Mig Custom Woodworking’s biggest repeat customers are Nav Canada and the Royal Canadian Mint.

“We’ve been in business for 25 years now and we’ve never really picked up a phone to look for work. It’s always word of mouth that keeps us going, because of the quality of our work and what we stand behind,” Arpin says.

Usually it’s just Arpin and his dad on the job, but sometimes an extra employee is brought on for big projects. Arpin says whenever he has a helper on a job site, he does his best to instill in them the same ‘measure twice, cut once’ logic his father imparted to him.

“If it’s not good enough for you, if it’s not perfect, redo it,” Arpin says. “People are paying you to do the work. If they didn’t want to pay for it, they’d do it themselves.”

“It (finishing carpentry) is not for everyone. You’ll never do detail work well if you don’t have patience. You can’t get mad. If a piece got cut, well, cut another piece and hopefully you have enough. I was installing some baseboards and casing the other day and I said to my helper, ‘You cut it too short.’ They said ‘Oh, what do you mean?’ I said ‘Well, look, it’s an inch too short. I’m not mad, but we only have so much material. You have to take your time.’

“Measure twice, cut once, you always have to emphasize that. But you can’t teach somebody if you’re yelling. You must stay calm and explain how to do it and show them the right way. I love doing that.”

— Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)