This isn't 100% woodworking related, but.... anyway, last year I made a down payment to a well known toolmaker for a dovetailed smoothing plane. Soon after taking $250 from me, he closed up shop and went radio silent. This guy had a good reputation, came recommended by the likes of Chris Schwarz. So, what happened? I don't know. I was one of six or seven customers who paid good money and got swindled. (No, Mr. Schwarz is not to blame in the least!) The planemaker in question took advantage of the goodwill given him by some of America's top woodworkers.
Fast forward to this year. The other way in which I occupy my time is by tinkering with old British motorcycles. I built my 1967 Triumph Bonneville, and I built a '71 Bonneville for a friend. Between the two bikes, I have hundreds of hours of work and several thousand dollars invested. My labor on my friend's bike was FREE. His engine tried to eat itself, so another friend and I covered the cost of the rebuild (aren't we nice). I like to hot-rod and show off, which lead to me breaking a valve and destroying my engine. So...off to the engine builder that I've worked with for a few years. Sent the parts, related my budget, got an estimate, and sat and waited. Four months later, still no engine, the estimate doubled and here I am without a machine. The kicker? I was informed in May of that everything was ready to go, and the price was "X". Well, a week later, it wasn't done yet...then it was ready...then it was not (and so on). When I confronted the builder on it, he said my attitude was bad and blah blah blah. Oh yeah, and the price doubled!
Longer story longer, here's a bit of advice. No matter who you're dealing with, get everything in writing. Get a hard number and delivery date. I don't care how awesome their reputation is, there is a chance that all they want to do is take advantage of your trust. Don't waste your money on crooks.
(i had to rant a little, and it doesn't actually make me feel that much better)