140 years of skill – handed down from father to son

Ever since I was 13, I knew I was born to work with my hands. After Meccano, I discovered the metal-workshop at school. I soon moved from welding and brazing to machining and alloy casting.

My father Michael was a civil engineer who built more than 50 factories across the globe.  I studied at my father’s work bench, soldering, filing, and cutting metal for hours building my first cycles and motorcycles. We rebuilt his beloved Lotus Europa together. Lifting out the engine the first of many motors I have stripped, tuned and rebuilt.  

Mike Dean building oil-seed plants in Helman Province

I moved on and learnt how to fit bathrooms and central heating – renovating my first house from top-to-bottom at the age of 23. It was a stone-built terrace house with 3ft thick walls on the banks of the Tyne.

There was initially no bathroom. I still remember building the stud walls, plastering, tiling and fitting the cast-iron bathroom suite – boy that was heavy to lift up stairs. I have moved from house-to-house renovating homes of all eras, shapes and sizes ever since. That is 30 years of experience.

Plumber and golfer – Herbert Dean poured lead into golf clubs he made

I am proud to be the fifth generation of Yorkshire craftsman in the Dean family. My great-great grandfather Isaac Dean was one of three brothers who built the Crescent Hotel in Ilkley. Now that is a landmark building. They were master craftsmen. They built scores of homes in the Victorian spa town as well as a bridge. Dean Street in Ilkley is named after them. Isaac Dean’s son, Herbert, was the first to become a plumber – later a golf professional and golf club maker.

I still have his championship-winning putter and many of his original plumbing tools – his soldering iron is more at home in a museum these days (not much use for joining 22mm pipes).  My hobby now is restoring vintage cycles. 

I have always been involved in creating things all my working life. In my last job I was a global health and safety manager for a firm which refurbished power stations, gas turbines and built wind farms in 63 countries. The company had a turnover of $17bn. Now, I have returned to life on the tools as a small-time contractor. And I mean small!

Craftsmanship is in the blood.

In 30 years I have learnt you can either work with your hands, or you cannot. And if you can – you enjoy it. And if you enjoy something, you usually do it well. I have one guiding principle – if it’s not good enough for my home – it is not good enough for you. In the gallery section you can see some of my non-plumbing work – tiling and painting.

The Dean’s built the Crescent Hotel in Ilkley