First, do not pick a one-man shop. If you do, discuss and plan ahead for the possibility that your builder might die or be otherwise permanently incapacitated. That means that your deposit is probably toast. Discuss this before paying!
Second, insist that you receive receipts for any parts delivered for fit on the new frame. Otherwise you have no proof that such parts are yours should you need to recover them for any reason.
I posted earlier regarding T.E.T. Cycles' worrying lack of any communication in the last couple months. This post doesn't mean that the builder is dead. It just means that I wish I'd considered these scenarios before having to go through my experience so far with this particular builder. Bear my experience in mind when commissioning a frame. I don't think many, particularly novice builders, are prepared for this kind of scenario, including putting some kind of continuity plan in place in case if they can't deliver on their commitments and their survivors have to deal with any existing business obligations.
Edit: I removed the last sentence of this post. After some good recent feedback I decided that it was too much. In general, I think the above thoughts are good things to bear in mind for any kind of commissioned work.
Last edited by carfart; 04-01-14 at 10:21 AM.
Reason: Second thoughts
Thing about custom builds and builders is that they will usually be built by one person and perhaps an apprentice.
My partner will be retiring this year and is planning to wrap up work in a few months... although I will take the torch when he hands it off it won't be his name going on any new frames because he won't be building them.
A good shop owner will keep proper records to makes sure things are taken care of in the event of an emergency and keep things well organized.
My dilemma with this one-man shop is that I have no one else to contact to find out what's actually going on. I finally had to track down a family member. And then what do I ask, "Is so-and-so dead?" That's a bit insensitive. I worded the email as delicately as possible.