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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just bought a Manning case for my bari, and am disappointed. It's a good, functional case. The horn fits well. The case fits in the overhead bins of a Lufthansa A350 and an Austrian A320. The backpack straps make carrying the horn simple, even on narrow stairs and over longish (>500 m, < 2 km) distances. The latches are secure and robust. Fabrics, both lining and carbon, look good. Look closer though, and the craftsmanship falls short of the price. The design is cobbled together. Pertinent details of the order were missed. Delivery timing was terribly mismanaged. If you can accept the cobbled design at the premium price and are willing to manage your case build like an industrial project (pay the deposit, then withhold the final payment until completing your "acceptance testing"), Mr. Manning is a good option. Here's what I experienced.

1. The order.
Two independent professionals inspired me to replace the (then six year old) original case with a custom case. A brief chat with the elder artist led to choosing the lighter carbon option. I paid the deposit in December 2019 after reaching out to Mr. Manning. Photos of material options made selection of the case and lining fabric easy. (I live in Austria, which makes visiting Daly City, California, a significant logistical challenge.) The case was ordered to be smooth and polished, include some new design features said to be lighter and stronger, be made without wheels, and include harness storage in the lining. The finished case has wheels, a randomly textured surface, is missing the harness storage feature, and is missing the promised lightening/strengthening features. It turns out that the ideas for lighter/stronger construction failed initial "prototype" testing. Fair enough; I would have liked to learn this earlier in the 18 months leading up to case delivery, rather than two hours before I needed to be at the airport for the flight home.

2. Timing mismanagement.
Mr. Manning's claim was 24 hour turn around once he had the horn to fit the internals of the case. I gave 6 weeks notice of the trip timing, then confirmed the trip twice - three weeks out, and again one week prior to flying. He got the horn on a Monday (before noon), and agreed to deliver the case Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday he e-mailed to say the case was delayed. He agreed to make a special trip to drop off the finished case Friday morning, appearing to provide customer friendly service. However, 96 hours is more than the 24 claimed.
In August 2020 I got nervous about the cost and timing, and asked about the possibility of cancelling the order and getting a refund. (I had paid >75% of the case up front.) This was declined, as the shell was reputedly already laid up. When the case was delivered at the end of May 2021, the epoxy was still hardening. This became clear when the case stuck to my t-shirt, leaving traces of epoxy on my clothes and impressoining the shirt's weave in the case as I carried it through the airport. It's hard to understand how a shell that was laid up in August 2020 would still be hardening at the end of May 2021.

3. Craftsmanship
I expect a smooth, polished surface to look something like this:
106499

The case looks like this:
106500

The adhesive attaching the seal/moulding strip to the case is sloppy, unevenly applied, and full of voids.
106501

Sewing machine thread tension on the backpack straps clearly needed adjustment:
106502

Lining fabric seams are prominent around the various blocks, and the fabric is wrinkled where the shell curves:
106504

Preload on the case wheels was set so high that the bearings felt crunchy. Reducing the preload corrected this, but that's a surprising oversight for a repair technician/case builder with a good reputation.
These features fall short of my expectations for a premium case builder with decades of experience. Cut the case cost in half, and it's acceptable. Charge over $2000, and the craftsmanship needs to be masterful.

4. The Design
Engineering principles have not been applied. Mr. Manning's practical experience as a repair technician shows in how/where the case contacts and secures the horn. The wheel attachments look like nuts with attached bolts were embedded in the carbon, rather than using purpose specific threaded inserts.
106505

Wheel axles are bolts cut down with a hacksaw. They are 1/2 inch heads, which means 13 mm wrenches fit them fine. (My toolbox has been full of metric wrenches for bicycle work for more than 3 decades.) These could be standard ISO shoulder bolts chosen to properly fit the bearings. One of the wheels looks like it was used elsewhere prior to delivery with my case.
106506

Specifying standard catalog parts is a good practice. Choosing the right parts improves quality and costs less. The wheel axles and case inserts are made with inappropriate parts.
The case is reputed to use 5 different types of foam and several glues to properly hold, support, and isolate the horn from shocks. I feel two, maybe three, types of foam in the lining, and can't find any evidence of materials which recover from normally expected loads. I expect the horn's fit to deteriorate over time, as the normal jostling permanently deforms the foam. I hope to be proven wrong, and hope is misplaced at this price - the design should be obviously good.

Glancing from a distance, the case looks fine. It's stiffer than the original that came with the horn, holds the horn snugly and carefully, and has the chosen fabric. It's a good, overpriced case. If I were to do it again, I'd manage the payment terms, specifications, and acceptance carefully. When considering this case, remember to take the full cost into account: taxes and transportation add significantly to the bill. Attributing half of the flight cost to the case, the total came to about 150% of Mr. Manning's price tag.

106507
 

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I won't claim to be an expert in cases but for the price you paid, the finishing seem to be poor indeed.
 

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YAS-875EX, YTS-61, YBS-52, YFL-677, YCL-SEVR
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That's horrendous.

I've been looking for a good case to put my recently acquired YBS-52 after it gets overhauled, and Manning was on my list. I can firmly say it is not anymore. That craftsmanship looks horrendous and I would rather make my own case than trust one of those. Have you reached out to Manning at all about the case?
 

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some one needs to restart berkleyof london cases again. i have the very rare bari sax case. it fits both low a and Bb
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I think he can make a good case if you can afford to invest the project management time and energy. I have no inclination to reach out across 9 time zones, so I haven't reached out. That's a lesson for me. I also don't think Mr. Manning is interested in paying my consulting fees for improving his manufacturing system, nor is he likely to dive into the nuts and bolts of his case philosophy with a customer who happens to be a mechanical engineer.

Mr. Manning was stressed and busy when he delivered my case 2 hours or so before my flight home, and I was jet lagged and fighting a cold. He still took the time to explain the latch function and how to place the horn in the case. He also would have forgotten to return the original case, containing harness, mouthpiece, reeds, swab, and cork grease, if I had not mentioned it. The situation was not condusive to making an improvement plan.

Perhaps he will reply to this thread.
 

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Perhaps he will reply to this thread.
I'm sure you talked to Mike Manning about your complaints after you came home and before you posted your case :) here on SOTW (?)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
How confident are you in the mechanism that connects the straps to the shell?
Belt and suspenders. One shoulder straps would be enough, and there are two independently fixed. The hardware connecting the backpack straps to the shell is also either oversized or redundant or both.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I'm sure you talked to Mike Manning about your complaints after you came home and before you posted your case :) here on SOTW (?)
Nope, not enough. But no one can make time run backwards, and Mr. Manning's California shop is too small to physically change a case residing in Carinthia. I stand by the fact that I'm disappointed with the details of this good case. Cost/benefit strikes me as too high.
 

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That sounds like a very frustrating experience. What did Mike have to say about it all?

I ordered a bass clarinet case (fiberglass shell) from Mike a couple of years back and I have been extremely happy with it since. It was done exactly to the spec that I wanted and fit exactly what I asked him to fit in there.

The case definitely does have a bit of an "industrial" vibe to it, which I expected and don't mind at all. There's some exposed glue around the weatherstripping, which I prefer to see over weatherstripping peeling up around the edges. With a textured finish, scraping/wiping glue off seems borderline impossible. My case does not have any issues with the fabric covering the foam on the interior.

My old Selmer 33 does not fit well into any stock cases that I've encountered. Before I got this case, I usually needed to get my bass clarinet adjusted every 6 months or sometimes even more frequently, even with the very expensive Wiseman case that I picked up initially. I take public transit a lot and my bass clarinet has always been a challenge to keep in adjustment. The Manning case has been a godsend for me. The horn really just stays in adjustment better now that it's in a case that is actually immobilizing it.

I don't mean to minimize your frustration with your experience, I just want to point out that it didn't match my experience. I am not saying that your situation is the same as mine. Hopefully you have a chance to talk to Mike about it.
 

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I spent around $1100 on the bass clarinet case and I calculate that I saved a few hundred in repairs during the time between getting it and covid stopping me from actually taking the bass clarinet anywhere. That horn is a special case (har har) though, since nothing else fit it and that was causing me to need repairs.

For horns where a stock case fits fine, like my Mark VI tenor, the value of the custom case is a lot lower, IMO. If I were regularly flying around the world with that horn, the value proposition might be different. But I'm not.
 

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when i was doing elvis shows we could not take my bari to do return to sender as i had no airline certified case and the airline refused to allow it as carry on in a gig bag
 

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Hi Mike Manning here.
Nice to meet some of you. I almost never respond to post on the internet. As the above post might indicate I just don't have time. But this post deserves a comment.

First thing I'll say is that I really need to do a much better job explaining exactly what we do here. What makes our cases different and why we do things the way we do it. It hasn't been much of a problem in the past living in NYC. The average customer travels hundreds of days a year and their expectations for a case is a bit different.

The reason our cases are so popular among professionals is the fitting. I don't travel any longer for work but the people who buy my cases do. And we listen. A lot. One side note I should mention is that cases are a small part of our business. Overhauls make up the lions share of my work. That gives me an additional and very valuable perspective to the life of a musician and his or her instrument. Its a war out there and the saxophones are the casualties.

I should have mentioned I tend to ramble.

So now to the specifics of this case. The ripple texture is intentional. The finish on our cases has been the part of the case work that I personally have done since the days of working in my apartment on 9th ave in nyc. The textured finish is there for a few reasons. It's something that I figured out how to do many years ago with the painted cases but something that took considerable research with the clear coated carbon cases. From experience the texture holds up a bit better and scuffs less. We have done a couple smooth satin finish cases but we charge extra. Its not an option for the blue and black weave on this case. The blue is actually Kevlar. side note, any multi colored "carbon" weave will be half kevlar and half carbon. They can color the Kevlar. The great thing about Kevlar is that it can not be torn and when used in combination with carbon it reduces cracking potential. The big negative is becuase it cant be torn it also is nearly impossible to cut and for us it is unsandable To put a smooth finish on this blue and black case would have required about 3 extra coats of clear and then we would sand that smooth and put a light lacquer on that. Extra coats mean extra weight. And since almost all of my customers like the textured finish (It looks cool in the sunlight) the extra weight doesn't make any sense.

So here is the point where I should list in order the priorities for our cases. Fiberglass or carbon.

* first and the absolutely most important concern is will you get to the gig with an undamaged saxophone. For that there is not compromise for me. That doesn't mean we are perfect. But it does mean we make every attempt to be perfect on every case. in over 3 thousand custom cases most of which fly and average of 50 flights per year I've only received a few phone calls regarding damage in the case. And for those few I have sleepless nights. Thankfully I sleep pretty well for the most part.

* Second is the weight. With fiberglass that is a little less of a concern. There is only so much we can do with a fiberglass case to reduce weight and still make a case that is very strong. But with carbon fiber part of the reason you are spending the extra money is the cut the weight in half. This requires a lot of precision in the carbon laying process. Specific materials and techniques to get it light but stiff. One thing we do is use a lesser amount of clear coat or gel coat to make the exterior look like a fancy car or some other thing you think about when you think carbon fiber. We use 3 coats of gel coat applied in a way to leave the texture. This is a pretty good compromise between weight and experience.

* The third concern is experience. This part is never put over the first 2. For any reason. If we did you might as well buy someone else's case. Because as I stated before you getting to the gig is an absolute.

* Lastly is price. That is why I mention that cases are only a small portion of my business. Because they are grossly unprofitable. Even at $2000. We make everything in house. I hate purchasing anything for the case. I want to control every aspect of the case. And becuase we don't outsource any part of the production there is a very high labor cost. There are "custom Case" makers who purchase the shells from china for instance.

More specifics regarding this post. The trim. Yes I will agree with you there. The trim has been the bain of my existence for nearly 20 years. It is the one thing, other than latches and we are working on some very cool carbon kevlar latches, that I have had to outsource. But although it is the one thing about the case I wish I could change I will say our trim is better than most cases out there. It doesn't come off. It is epoxied and glued on. Unlike and old berkeley case that has undersized trim that falls off, Ours doesn't It is even heated and formed in place for the specific case and instrument. And unlike the metal trim on an old Walt it doesn't bend.

Like he mentioned in an earlier response there is much redundancy in the case. Double straps. Connected with 4 points. Not 3. With stainless still links that will not break and steel not aluminum or plastic d rings.

The wheels in my humble opinion are my favorite part of this case. They are custom installed by either myself or my head case fitter. And internally reinforced with carbon fiber. The hole does have the occasional blemish on the exterior. but the wheel socket in its current configuration will never fail. I say current configuration becuase for a short time at the beginning of the wheels we did it differently. And are in the process of retrofitting those cases. At no cost to the customer of course.

The comment about the case still hardening is incorrect. It takes about 5 days from start to finish to make a case. The shell is laid the very first day. It is an epoxy based composite. (not polyester like most cases). Unlike polyester with epoxy there is a specific drying time. It's not drying it is a chemical process. There is almost nothing I can do to change that timing. It was well dried by the time I dropped it off. My mistake might have been spraying a clear lacquer uv coating the day before. That can be tacky for a day. I do this just to make it shine a little more at the end. The shell takes a beating during the build process.


Lastly, You mentioned I seemed rushed when I dropped it off. I had to get back to pick up my kid. I did stay for a second to chat but had almost no time. And to repeat your comment. I seemed rushed when I dropped it of... Let that sink in for a second.

As someone already mentioned our cases do have an industrial look. A hand made look. Because they are hand made.... by me....In my properly sized shop.....with the molds that I made myself.

But all of this could have been explained with a simple email......

I hope you enjoy your groovy case as much as hundreds of other baritone players love theirs. It was a pleasure to make and I have complete confidence your gorgeous keilwerth will be safe in your travels. That instrument is a very rare one. And I would hate it as badly as you would if it were ever damaged.

God, mother earth, inner spirit, there is not god, or whoever you prefer, bless you in your art.

Mike

Ps Sorry for the long windiness and poor grammar.

[email protected]
9175138140

Don't go to the website. Its years out of date and a bit of a joke at this point.
I got to up my internet game.
 
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