Sax on the Web Forum banner
Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 12 of 12 Posts

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
I have learned a lot about Lance over the last 3 years both from having read all the threads by and about him during that time and from having bought 2 of his mods myself: the Martin comfort thumb hook and the basic modded LH pinky table that he used to use as his avatar. My own experiences were basically positive, with only minor sidetrips into the area of gross business malpractice and dishonesty that he has unleashed on Environguy,Conn-Hunter, Walter Webb and a number of other members, but at the time I didn't know about their experiences, for if I had I would never have risked doing business with him.

I think I only avoided their fate because I didn't send him my entire sax for the pinky key table, although as you will see in one of his emails he tries to entice me into doing just that even though he was willing to do the basic pinky key set for me with only the keys themselves. I'm sure that my sax would have been up there on that top shelf right next to Walter's if I had sent it to him. Right after he did my job, he changed that policy and said he would only do them with the horn sent to him. I pity anyone who does that because it is clear as day what will happen to your sax, not just from what has been explained and shown on this and the earlier thread but from his very own words in one of the emails he sent me about "chopping the bodies in half and off-setting the lower stack 25 degrees, ala Mk6." At the time he wrote me that I didn't realize exactly what that implied for the poor sax and its owner, but now just the thought that he might have done that on my horn if I had been in a position to send it to him makes me shudder.

I will describe my two transactions below, using lances own emails, so you can see that even with his basic stock mods (advertised on SOTW and EBay) he is incapable of giving the customer what they think they are ordering even when it is what he himself actually promotes with photos, descriptions and ad copy.

The reason for this IMO is that he very clearly considers himself THE expert on saxophone acoustics and mechanics and a pioneering visionary in the field of mechanical redesign and perfection of the instrument. You only need to read some of his longwinded argumentative posts (and ranting attacks on others) on various acoustic and tech threads to see that. What you think your horn needs, or what you want him to do, has little bearing on what will actually happen to it because as the true illuminated seer of saxes, in his mind you don't really know what it needs whereas he knows everything there is to know and more.

For this reason, when people send him their horn for modification, it does not matter in the least what they themselves have said either verbally or in writing they want done, because he is going to give you what he feels that the horn needs. This of course may also have less to do with your particular horn than with some specific "improvement" in fabrication of parts or of remodelling technique that he suddently wants to try out or perfect as he goes along, because his work method involves making much of it up as he goes along like some type of action painter or collage artist, working in the moment. He is an INVENTOR and follows his inspiration. That would be fine and dandy if the saxes were all his own and not the property of clients who think they are getting a specific job done in a specific time frame. So he starts to work, remodelling it as he sees fit, sometimes following the customer's plan, but generally not, because as he goes along he constantly changes his own advertised mods an habit that he considers and justifies as "perfecting" them.

This is what happened to me.

Round 1 (small potatoes):
About 3 years ago the thumb hook on my The Martin tenor was killing me. I searched around for a way to replace it that wouldn't involve altering the body tube of the horn by soldering on one of those modern 4-way adjustable ones with a flat plate. I surmised though that one of those Selmer, Music Medic or SG ones could in fact be soldered to a bar of metal that could then slide into the slot where the original Maring thumb hook bar goes. That's when I discovered Lance and his website. On his site it said that a modded thumb hook was a future project, but was not in fact yet available. I wrote him and asked if he could do one and he agreed that that he could and that my idea was what he could do and even sent me a photo of the Selmer style adjustable hook as the type he would attach to a brass bar to fit into the Martin socket.

Several days later he sent me a photo of the finished hook and it was nothing like the above discussed one, but rather a modified copy of the original curved Martin hook minus the convex underside, which after all was the cause of all the pain. Basically he just used the same martin design and made the underside flat and smooth, but other than being able to slide up and down like the original there is no side to side or off axis adjustment available. His proud description in explanation of this "prototype" hook was that it maintained the look of the original sax and didn't look like the typical ugly add-on mod. Nothing about not having given me what we had discussed beforehand and nothing about the lack of full adjustability that we had talked about.

To be honest, I didn't protest or question him about it or complain that it wasn't adjustable like he had led me to believe it would be, the reason being that it only cost me $25 and I liked that fact that it matched the horn and didn't look like one of those ugly mods I had seen done on some 10M's. When I received it it definitely eased my thumb problems and looked original, so I was happy enough and forgot about his change-up on me. Soon after he began advertising it as his "Comfort Thumb Hook" and I must admit that I even posted about my satisfaction with his work since mine was the very first one and he did in essence come through and very quickly too. Little did I know the truth about him or what he was doing meanwhile to others, and I am sorry if my endorsement of him caused anyone who has gotten screwed to decide to deal with him.

Round 2 (His famous bigger/better enchilada):

I was dissatisfied with the original flat LH The Martin pinky table and after reading about the benefits of his modded ones on SOTW and on his website, and after PMing back and forth to another member who had posted about the one Lance did for him, I decided to get the basic unarticulated model. Since I live in Europe there was no way I was going to ship my horn to him but he said that all he needed was the keys themselves to do the job. I didn't even want to chance shipping those from here, but since we go to the USA every summer for July and August and this was in the spring (of 2010) I saw that I could take them with me on the plane mail them to Lance and get them back from him in the mail there, and then bring them back on the place on our return flight. The only question was whether he could do the job and return them to me in that time frame. He said he could and so I sent him the money which he asked for in advance to buy the stock and start making the keys even before getting mine.

Here are the pertinent emails during the discussion of the job:

Hi,

I prefer to fit the keys on the original horn, or at least do the work on the original keys. This way the work can be fine adjusted and the keys polished. If I just send the unpolished parts, then the end result, both functionally and cosmetically, which always reflects directly back on me, is up to the installing tech, and that has proven to be other than favorable, too often. I have seen rough, crooked, unpolished key picts, circulating online, and one can't help but get the impression that that is what MartinMods is selling. I can't afford that.

The best solution is, you send me your Bb, B C# and G# spatula keys, so I can modify them and fit/adjust them on my horn here. There would be no customs duty on such a "repair" shipment.

Lance
....Options: I have the original Vintage, ala my avatar, a Deluxe Vintage model (adds articulated C# and tilting Bb spatula), and a Contemporary (Mk6 adaptation) version. The Deluxe and Contemporary are much more complex designs, and require that I have your horn here and take quite a bit more time. The Vintage is still a dramatic improvement over the original keywork. I'm certain you will be happy with it.

I'm no longer offering complete key sets. The modded keys double the value of the instrument. There's no reason to go back to the original.

Time required - 2 to 3 weeks once I start. If you want to pay now, I can start now and have all the spatula, roller, and arm parts ready to attach when your keys get here. I could then send them back to you in NY within 1 week. Let me know and I'll send you a Paypal invoice. I like to avoid ebay fees if possible.

I'm happy you are going for them! You are in for more comfort!
....You say you would go for the Contemporary.....why don't you just bring your sax with you to NY as Carry-On luggage? Once in NY on the 4th, you send it to me (without the case, bubble-wrapped and double boxed, it is a very light and smaller package and very safe (and cheaper) to ship. I can have most of the parts ready when your horn arrives. When it's done (before Aug. 29th), I ship it to you in NY, so you get it before you leave. No duty.

I"m also chopping the bodies in half and off-setting the lower stack 25 degrees, ala Mk6. Other options: silver solder all tone hole rings, Delaquer with raw brass or dark brown/black patina, special engraving.

The Contemporary is about 10x more parts and work than the Vintage. It costs $600. Chopping and offset - $100.
Since I didn't have that much to spend and since I had no other need or desire to bring my tenor on the flights to and from the US both because of new international baggage restrictions and because my wife would have killed me, I stuck with the original plan. In hindsight: Thank God I did, because I'd probably still be waiting to get my sax back.

Anyway, he had the money by July 1st and once in the US I sent him the keys, very carefully packed, and he started on the job and by mid-August he wrote that they were almost ready to be shipped out. Most of our emails by this time were about shipping payment and methods to ensure I would be get them in time because we were flying out on the 29th of August and living in a rural area, receiving packages was more problematic.

All set to go and then he send me a photo of the finished table. !!!!! Unfortunately that jpeg is no longer in the original PM because of upgrades to the forum platform, but suffice it to say that it didn't look at all like the table advertised on his website or in his SOTW avatar photo, and that was a big unexpected surprise. Whereas his advertised design had a upcurved bottom edge to the Bb key, touted in his ad as giving better leverage than the original flat key, this one was flat as a board with some kind or raised rippled surface to it.

Here is our email exchange about it on August 19 with only 1 week to go and my keys still in Seattle:

Lance,
Looking at the photo, one question I have is about the Bb key. In your avatar photo it has that curled bevel, and mine appears to be flat like the original. I'm just wondering about the reason for the design change and the difference in fingering ease between the two. I was under the impression that the upward curl improved the leverage and action of the key and helped keep the pinky from sliding off the bottom of the key (and is more like modern Bb keys). Maybe I'm wrong about that but in any case I'm sure you'll understand that I'm a bit curious about it since I was assuming that the way it is in your avatar is how you always make them.
As you see, I was being diplomatic to avoid getting the guy's back up.

His Reply:

I went to using thicker (3/16" instead of 1/8") brass for the spatulas, as there just wasn't enough material to support the roller screws after filing and buffing. The thicker brass just won't bend when the pieces are that small. Instead, I grind the surface of the spatulas down 1/8", giving them a contour. It's not visually as dramatic as my avatar, but still feels very nice.
Looked flat to me! And definitely not what I had ordered! His excuse was that he had changed his material and the thicker brass couldn't be bent. This begs the question of how he had been able to fabricate the the earlier key sets and how good they had been. At this point it would be good to mention that my LH table set was only the 3rd one he had ever done of this style, so as you can see it was really a work in progress or an ongoing prototype and not really a product that should have been marketed as the "definitive" answer to problems using the original Martin table. Yeah, companies constantly upgrade and improve their products, but usually they have them pretty well perfected before putting them on the market as anything other than a Beta version.

Anyway, I was nervous as hell about not getting the keys back in time and was willing to take them as they were so wrote him that I understood, and that he should get them in to FedX asap.I was really worried at this point because we live in the country and the Verizon DSL connection kept going out and I had to drive around to find unsecured connections to use to email him. And I was on vacation with my wife and young son and supposed to be doing family stuff not hassling with a sax problem and shippìng deadlines.

However, the guy either has a conscience or it was just his tinkering nature to keep "perfecting" things because he emails me back:

But....thinking about it....I can put some matching silver solder on the surface of the Bb to build it up on the back edge some more. It is really more cosmetic than functional at that point (you have to be really sloppy for your finger to slide off the spatula) but it does look nice. Will take just a few minutes.
I guess being diplomatic was a good thing because it put a wild hair up his azz and next thing I know he writes me the next day, Aug 20th:

I spent all day trying to add that raised portion to the existing Bb spatula. No problem to get it there, but no way to keep the Finish perfect. So, now I'm going to make a new Bb spatula out of the 1/8" stuff, so it will bend and the upper surface will be one solid piece of brass, and I'll braze a smaller, 1/16" piece on the bottom so the roller screw holes have enough material in which to exist. You get the avatar look.
I added the bold to highlight that sentence because isn't that what he was selling in the first f#cking place and what I had ordered and he had taken my money to make????? It's like he's saying, "Well it's not what I was making for you (or where circumstances took the project) but if that is really what you want I've decided to bend to your wishes and give it to you because I'm such a nice guy (and you haven't complained and pissed me off).

So on Aug 22nd I get this mail:

Nice new Bb spatula with the same bend as my avatar is finished. Will send keys via Express Mail with "hold for pickup", so they won't be sitting in the public area.
On 8/23 when I was sweating bullets with just 6 days to go before we were going to be on the plane, I get the mail saying he has sent it and the tracking number. Two days before our flight I got the keys back, breathed a very deep sigh of relief and took a look at them. Unfortunately my camera wasn't working so I couldn't take pictures of it but one of the pads, which had still been in very serviceable condition when sent, was burned. I was shocked and could only assume that while he was soldering the keys the flame from his torch must have passed over it and melted and charred the leather and the inner padding. This guy is a self-proclaimed craftsman and he burns a pad while making his touted keyset and mails it back to me in that condition, neither replacing it nor even mentioning it to me???? ***? But I had no time to write him about it then and wasn't able to until we had been back here in Spain for a couple of days.

Lance, Sorry for the delay in writing to you....things were really hectic during our last days in the US and since we got back home we have been knocked out due to jetlag and getting back to the regular routine.

I got the package unscathed. The mods look excellent. I put the keys together so that the table was like it will be on the horn and it looks fantastic. The Bb looks simply great and I appreciate you reworking it. I know it is going to be so much better playing this table now than the overly-big awkward original one. I'm anxious to try it out but I'll have to wait till we're settled and I can get a slot with my tech to have the keys installed.

Also, while I am very satisfied with the Mod, I am really perplexed about what happened to the C# pad. I was kind of surprised to discover that it is partly burned to a degree that I'll need to replace it. I know those pads aren't the newest, but they were all still soft, never had problems with leaks, and still had life left to them. I understand that accidents can happen, but I don't understand why you didn't say anything about it to me and then replace it, since it happened while you were working on it. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt here, so I really hope you will address this issue.
As you can see instead of being angry I was still being cordial, why I don't know, but probably because he had done the job within the agreed on time frame and the keys were, in the end, pretty much what they were supposed to be, even if he had taken the project offtrack by himself. At that point I still thought that he was basically a decent sort, if just a bit less than clear and straighforward in his dealings.

Here is his convenient self-serving answer to that legitimate query/complaint:

Glad you made it back safely.

To tell you the truth, I didn't inspect the pads when the keys arrived. I never get the torch close to that end so I don't know how it happened. I noticed it when packing the things up, but by then, the package had to be leaving. No matter anyway. Those 3 pads should be replaced since the whole C#/B/Bb mechanism is being adjusted back to your horn.

They were seated on your sax originally, but since then, the keys were fitted on another horn, and no two horns are identical. The slightest bump against a post will cause a slight bend in the body, causing a much larger shift in alignment where the pad cup meets the tone hole rim. All I can do is align the keys to the horn that I have and that means little bends here and there. No worries. Bending is a normal part of key adjustment.

Your tech is going to have to realign the pad cups with your tone holes. The the adjustments are only minor, he will never get them back to the exact same place they were originally, so new pads need to have a fresh seating once things are lined up, for optimal results. The spatula placement and angle are good, but he will have to adjust the heights of the spatulas in relation to the key cups (by holding the key cup in one hand, the spatula in the other, and twisting them one way or the other a little), so the keys close with the spatulas at exactly the right height. This has to be done each horn individually. That also includes sanding the new corks. It's complicated to explain, but your tech will know what to do.

Yippee. New pinkie keys!
I love that gung ho Yippie. This guy really believes his own BS to the hilt with bells and whistles. Kind of reminds me of that other shyster down in NOLA, who really takes it to a P.T. Barnum level. What Lance was saying in other words was that, "it doesn't matter if I was sloppy because you would have had to had new pads anyway." This of course wasn't totally true because of the 4 pads, my tech only changed the Bb pad in addition to the burned C#, and that I think because it was not seating as well as it could have and he put in a thinner one than the original. In hindsight I see that at that point I probably should have told him to reimburse me for the C# pad--I mean he burned it--which cost me extra on top of the rest of my tech's fee for removing and reinstalling the keys. But I doubt now that he would have done it even if I had.

The other thing I found not very good nor like the originally advertised design, was that the surface of the G# key was lower than the level of the C# and B keys because of the thicknesses of the brass he used for it and the linkage piece under it. It meant that I couldnt easily slide my pinky back and forth between the G# and the other two and sometimes when I went for the B or C# I hit the top edge and my pinky tip would slip off and down onto the G#. To solve this problem my tech added a piece of MOP to the surface of the G# which brought it up to the same level, although it gives it a different look than you normally see. You can see this in these two photos.

Gas Auto part Metal Electric blue Nickel
Wood Metal Nail Natural material Fashion accessory


Correcting for this badly finished work naturally meant a new trip to my tech and a little bit more money than originally expected.

All in all, while I am basically happy with the mods I got--they have after all improved my sax--I think it was only through luck that it turned out that way and I didn't get screwed over like the other people he has bilked into giving him their horns. It was really a surprise and then a shock to learn well after the fact that at the same time he took on and did my job within the agreed on time frame, he was holding a number of other people's saxes hostage and perpetrating various types of barbaric operations on them and/or cannibalizing their parts for other projects. I feel really bad for those people and ask their pardon for ever having talked about Lance and his work in positive terms. I just didn't know how whacked out and unethical the guy really is.

I certainly hope Conn-Hunter and Eric and any other people whose horns are still in this guy's possession can find a way get either monetary or legal satisfaction to compensate for the hell he has put them through (if they can't just go there and get it with their fists). Perhaps an online campaign to alert the sax community on all the other forums and sites to steer them away from him would be a good way to prevent others from being bilked in the future because he still is in business as far as I can see and he really deserves not to be.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
It is clear as day to me that what Conn-hunter says, and has been saying for over a year now on this and the other LB threads, is true. He is not the only one who has had this happen, just ask Environguy and Walter Webb, and a couple of others--which is why Mike 86'd LOB (the SOB) from SOTW. Not for nothing, for sure. IMO the main thing to be focusing on here is not whether it is the same body or not but why CH got a mutilated cadaver back instead of his living breathing vintage sax. I'm not a tech but can see that a number of the keys are not the same in both sets of photos, but so what? As he just said, it doesn't really matter if this sax is not the same one that he sent because in that case LB played a switcheroo on him and substituted an abortion for his beautiful vintage NW after keeping it for years and years. Which is worse, doing that or taking the NW and butchering it beyond recognition? Does it matter?

I think LOB is the Dr. Frankenstein of saxes, with all the same finesse too. Just read what he wrote me that I posted in my post #55:

Options: I have the original Vintage, ala my avatar, a Deluxe Vintage model (adds articulated C# and tilting Bb spatula), and a Contemporary (Mk6 adaptation) version. The Deluxe and Contemporary are much more complex designs, and require that I have your horn here and take quite a bit more time.
...................

You say you would go for the Contemporary.....why don't you just bring your sax with you to NY as Carry-On luggage? Once in NY on the 4th, you send it to me (without the case, bubble-wrapped and double boxed, it is a very light and smaller package and very safe (and cheaper) to ship. I can have most of the parts ready when your horn arrives. When it's done (before Aug. 29th), I ship it to you in NY, so you get it before you leave. No duty.

I"m also chopping the bodies in half and off-setting the lower stack 25 degrees, ala Mk6. Other options: silver solder all tone hole rings, Delaquer with raw brass or dark brown/black patina, special engraving.

The Contemporary is about 10x more parts and work than the Vintage. It costs $600. Chopping and offset - $100.
You see how he tried to entice me into sending him my horn rather than just the keys so he could do the Contemporary pinky table on it, and God forbid, chop the body in half to offset the stacks? He said it has 10X more parts and work than the Vintage that I got, and that it takes quite a bit more time. Why do you suppose he wanted to do that when he couldn't do it for Walter? Walter knows what that means in Burtoneese, and so do I now. You don't have to be a linguist to understand that he gets to keep your sax so he can experiment on it and cannibalize parts off of it. On top of it in the same breath he told me that if I mailed the horn from NY after July 4th he could do that job and have it back to me by Aug 29th.

The man is hallucinatory because he barely got my keys back to me with the basic vintage mod done on them (on the 27th) after trying to give me a revised version of the mod he was advertising and I had explicitly ordered and paid for, which he had to redo twice to give me what he had agreed to. And when I got them I found that the C# pad was burned up, which when you think about it takes effort to do because that pad is some 34 cm away from the end of the rod where he had to solder on the new key. Did you read what he wrote me when I questioned him on that?

To tell you the truth, I didn't inspect the pads when the keys arrived. I never get the torch close to that end so I don't know how it happened. I noticed it when packing the things up, but by then, the package had to be leaving. No matter anyway. Those 3 pads should be replaced since the whole C#/B/Bb mechanism is being adjusted back to your horn.
Translation into English: You must have sent it to me that way because I never get the torch near that end so I'm at a loss to otherwise explain it. It wasn't me, but anyway, so what? You will need to replace the pads...end of story.

The gall of the guy to insinuate that I sent him a burned pad. I know how it happened: he works in a small garage where he no doubt has little space to lay out a job. He probably had my four keys on the workbench and while he was soldering on one of the other keys it was too close to the pad end of the C# which then got fried. So he is either sloppy and unconscious of his work habits or is a liar. Take your pick. For me, looking at the abortion of Conn-hunter's hermaphrodite sax, I'd say LOB is totally sloppy and no doubt has keys from numerous saxes lying all about on his work tables getting intermingled and confused, if not actually consciously used for other jobs.

He has sent people back saxes in the wrong case, so clearly he has no method of tagging or sepàrating jobs. I have spent enough time at my tech's seeing how he and his assistent work rebuilding horns of all kinds and I can see that when you have a horn stripped that is a lot of parts and if you don't keep them in a separate bin for each job you can easily intermix parts. Of course in Lance's case that may not matter to him since he is doing Frankenstein cutting, chopping and soldering anyway and having different size and make keys, rods and posts probably comes in handy when he cuts one of those new toneholes of his and has to invent the mechanics of the new position.

So I think we should stop doubting Conn-Hunter about his sax and focus on helping these people get their horns back and in putting this guy out of business by cutting off his flow of innocent prospective clients. In my case I am luckier than the others, but it is just due to lack of money and the inconvenience and lack of time to bring my sax to NY, that I didn't fall into his trap and go for that deluxe job. If I could have, and I know I would have done it, my Martin would still be in Washington on some mouldy shelf in his wet garage, stripped of its parts and not worth a damn.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
I'm sure everyone on here or one of their friends has had a bad experience with a building contractor where they paid a lot of money up front for materials and then either got totally shoddy work or the guy never actually finished the job but kept the money. I know of several people including my own sister who got taken to the cleaners, and guess what, getting a legal settlement in most cases never occured. It's a small claims court thing usually, which means that you have to pay a lawyer yourself beforehand and then you have to prove that you were taken. That isn't always easy, and then even if you get a favorable judgement actually getting the damages and the legal fees out of the guy is another story entirely. You can get non-payment judgement after non-payment judgement and the guy still is out there thumbing his nose at you, or just skips the state if the Sheriff ever actually is called into action on the case. What can you do? Zilch! which is what these guys know in advance and why they don't usually care. You can't get blood from a stone.

Auto mechanics are another bunch who can pull the same kind of thing, even at name dealerships. Most people don't know what is under the hood of their car and these guys can be changing out good parts for bad at will and you'd never know it. They tell you your catalytic convertor is burnt out just because the little light stays on and it's going to cost over a grand to get it replaced. You've already signed the estimate which is also a mechanics lean and you need the car and don't have time to look around for another shop, so you don't question it and give them the go ahead. After the job is done they show you the part as proof...See, here it is, the burned out CC....except it's the same old fried one they've already shown to lots of other fish, all of whom are none the wiser.

Dishonesty of this type is commonplace simply because it is so hard to legally prove. The only difference with LOB is that as Rory says, he probably is more deranged than just plain old dishonest. Some kind of meglomania most likely is my guess.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
No way to bring criminal charges? Think again...

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Mail+Fraud

Read the entire page...it's not that long. Any good prosecutor would be able to apply the expanded and amended Mail Fraud statute simply because what Lance is doing involves shipping instruments back and forth.

"In recent years Congress has amended the mail fraud statute twice. In 1988 Congress added section 1346, which states that the term "scheme to defraud" includes a scheme to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services. In 1994 Congress expanded the use of the mails to include any parcel that is "sent or delivered by a private or commercial interstate carrier." As a result of these amendments, the mail fraud statute has become a broad act for prosecution of dishonest and fraudulent activities, as long as those crimes involve the mails or an interstate carrier".

They got Al Capone for tax evasion. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that they could get Lance for the same thing if he failed to report any of the money he received from customers as income. Incompetence may not be a crime, but I'd be willing to bet that there are a variety of criminal charges that could be brought against Lance if an aggressive prosecutor had a mind to...Mail Fraud and possible Tax Evasion just for starters. Probably not likely to happen, but any eager or fledgling prosecutor trying to build a name for himself would probably love to have a crack at someone like Lance.
Al Capone was the head of an organized criminal organization making millions through criminal activity and violence...on top of being a murderer. Lance O Burton is a fly-by-night musical instrument tech who remodels woodwinds in a damp garage and doesn't have a pot to **** in to show for it. Do you seriously think the U.S. prosecutor's office is going to spend even a millisecond of consideration, let alone any money or time on going after him? Please!
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
In 3 years, he was unable to complete his Deluxe Pinky Table (not the Selmer style). When I discovered that his Selmer-style mod was really an open-ended research project, and after him keeping my horn for a couple of years, I canceled the Selmer-style mod, and retreated to the Deluxe mod, which he has actually done for people. After another 9 months, I pulled the plug. I got my horn back unfinished, but not butchered. We agreed that he would save and return my old parts, but he kept them. Not cool, nor trustworthy.
Walter, I'm curious as to the timeline on your horn. When did you send it to him and when did you finally get it back? I ask because I originally contacted him about getting the Vintage LH table in the Spring of 2010 and sent the keys to him in early July. Was your horn still in his possession at that time and could you clarify if he actually completed any part of the Deluxe table?

I ask because you say that had actually done that table for others before you, but my modded Vintage model table was just the 3rd one he had ever done, and that was in the summer of 2010. The second was for another member who got his just a few months earlier than mine. That table, as that member told me by PM, had one detail he found annoying in that the brass rollers were too loose on their shafts and actually rattled in sympathetic vibration at certain frequencies. So one of the issues I discussed with Lance beforehand was the material and design of the rollers, specifically to avoid that.

So this other guy's and my tables were really only the 2nd and 3rd of a series of on-going prototypes, although online Lance was already promoting them and the more complicated table mods like they were stock items. He had me pay in advance in June because he said he could then get the materials and prefabricate the keys to speed up the job, which only required a small number of similar steps on stock materials to fabricate. This was total B.S. as proven by his explanation to me in mid August, when he actually did the work, for having changed the design of the Bb key on my job and then how he tried to redo it 2X to make it be like the supposed stock mod he was promoting.

In sum, the idea that Lance is actually an experienced technician and creator of well designed, tested and proven sax modifications is, as I see now, purely the image that he himself has promoted on EBay and SOTW, but not actually borne out by facts. In reality he is a seat-of-the-pants experimenter and DIY tinkerer who tries out his ideas on other people's saxes under the pretense of selling them something that is a sure-fire and proven improvement. That is why he wants you to send him your sax even to do the basic LH table---he needs bodies to experiment and practice his inept rebuilding skills on. He tried to convince me to send him mine just like he got yours and Gilson's and it is clear to me now that that is why.

Burning a pad is usually a mistake done when the key is already installed on the horn and a post close to the pad needs to be removed/adjusted. If there is no protection for the pad the flame will hit without any doubt.
He said he had it on his own sax and then removed it for sending it to you (Jazz Is All). Still a bad procedure by someone claiming to be a horn technician.
Yes he did put my keys on his The Martin to fit them, but as I understand it that was to be able to align the keys to eachother within the table and not to adjust the keycups or the rods. There is no sign of any work being done on the lower end of my rods or on the arm that attaches them to their respective keycups. Furthermore, the C# pad, which is the one he charred, sits inside the bow curve well on the other side just above the C keycup. What post would he possibly have had to move near that on his own sax when all the posts for the table keys are on the other side of the body tube? Since he told me that my tech would have to bend and realign the keys to fit the table to my sax, why would he have to have moved any posts on his sax at all? And if he had to do it wouldn't it have been the ones at the table end rather than at the tone hole end? I'm not sure on how the procedure is carried out, so you'll have to clarify this for me, but I can't see how he would have had to have had a torch anywhere near the C# pad. Therefore I still surmise it happened because it was lying on his work bench too close to something else he was working on.

Wow! The saxophone in MartinMods hands looks the way a saxophone sounds in Ski Johnson's hands.
There is one thing that may be an Achilles' Heel: does he have a business license, and it is legal for him to repair horns. Does he pay business taxes in his town, county, state or Federal? Speaking of Al Capone... it was his failure to pay taxes on income that brought him down. Someone could inquire about his business license-- it's public record. The question is, who has the time and the burning desire to follow this up? It would help if they lived nearby.
If the Grammy Association and Billboard have not so far filed legal proceedings against Ski Johnson for falsely claiming to have been nominated for several Grammies and being a Billboard-Listed musician, and the District Attorney of Seattle hasn't prosecuted him for the sale of tickets for a fraudulent charity event, what hope is there that any of the above could have any effect on Lance's nickel and dime operation? In order to run a charity event (for the American Cancer Foundation no less) you have to be registered as a fund raiser, both in Washington D.C and Washington State. If there were any real teeth to those laws however, Ski would have already have gotten legal heat for his numerous phoney "charity" events.But the guy hasn't been touched and is still out there flogging all those phoney claims 24/7 on TV, in the press, and on internet.

Reality is that State and municipal governments already are overloaded investigating and prosecuting any number of dishonest retail practices among both licensed and unlicensed automotive repair shops and building contractors and can't even get to the tip of the iceberg. The fact that so many of these businesses are flagrantly run without a valid license is a sign of just how hopeless the situation is regarding consumer protection. Just going around controlling gasoline stations to prevent pump-rigging is a full-time operation for state agencies.

Ordinances and laws of that type are unfortunately little consolation in this case because the world is not run by the honest. I mean this sax fraud means a lot to us but put it in perspective: J.P. Morgan say they lost 2 billion dollars and don't know where it went. The FBI says it is going to investigate...naturally....what else can they say....but do you really think anything is going to get done? Sad to say if they can't stop bigtime fraud why would they even bother with petty fraud?
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
I am thinking of ordering the parts and having my own guy install them. Yes, I know. "What you are thinking?"
:shock::shock::shock::shock::faceinpalm::faceinpalm::faceinpalm:
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
So, JazzIsAll, at the risk of further brain damage from thinking about this too much, my time line is available for you to read near the end of the Dealer Evaluations/United States sticky called "Lance Burton won't return our horns" here on SOTW. Your point is well-taken that his Deluxe pinky table mod should have been routine by then. Others had this mod before me, and he was offering it on Ebay at the time. It looked really good, and I went for it. Now, I think that the Magna pinky table in stock form is awesome, among the best ever designed, and I was chasing rainbows like a fool riding an imaginary unicorn. Oops, poor me. All told, he kept my horn for 2 years and 3 months.
I found your post on that thread and found it clarifies the matter. Here i have excerpted the pertinent dates and info:

Lance got the horn in May of '09, which means he kept it for 2 years, 3 months........I consented originally to the DeLuxe pinky table and a repad/regulation job. After a year, it morphed into his Mk6-style fully articulated/linked pinky table (his ongoing research project), his Conical Tenon neck and body receiver upgrade, a neck "zinger" and 2 vent pips a'la Bonade design. As the seasons passed, I got the picture that this Mk6 pinky table was going to take forever, so I told him to cancel that, and just do the DeLuxe table, which I believe he has done numerous times and sold parts thru Ebay. ...........After several more months (Oct/Nov 2010), when it was obvious it was not going quickly like he said, I decided to demand he finish by Christmas. He emailed back: "OK, Christmas it is."

After Christmas passed, and New Year's 2011, I began to talk of pulling the plug wherever he was in progress. He persuaded me to wait longer.

......I got it on 7/8/11.
So when you sent your horn for the Deluxe LH table it was 14 months before he got mine for the simpler Vintage version.

I just looked at this 2008 thread http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?99782-My-horn-has-been-MartinModded!!!/page2&highlight=martin+mods+pinky+table and see that there were at least 4 people prior to you who he did the LH mod for between Dec 2008 and June of 2009. I have looked for that PM where I thought Lance had said he had only done 2 prior to mine but can't find it and now don't know where I got that idea. I must have been wrong about that and apoligize for that, for in fact he did at least 4 prior to mine...5 if we count him beginning on yours.

Whatever the case, when you initially ordered it in 2009 you were misled in thinking that he had done it "numourous times" when in fact it was only a handful. That is not much of a track record at any rate, and he clearly didn't have it down as the fact that he changed the design on me twice proves. In fact it shows that he was feeling his way and making it up as he went along. That bit he wrote me about the thickness of the brass being the reason he changed the form of the Bb key proves it, because why would he have to change the thickness if this was a well-thought out and proven design? The same goes for his next failed attempt to turn the sow's ear into a silk purse.

Nevertheless, on his website when I ordered it he was already advertising these as a "Product" with product photos and glowing descriptions. That is definitely not the same as giving each new customer a different version of a prototype you have made once or twice and are still actively redesigning on the spur of the moment every time you get a wild hair up your butt. A product is not an improvised solo, it's the head played exactly as written.

In sum.....[Cue Eddie Murphy's voice impersonating Mr. Rodgers] Can you say False Advertising children?

In your case clearly you were led down the garden path with all those other mods he induced you into getting. Those botched incompleted jobs are more than likely the reason he kept your horn long after he had done my LH table job. If the Deluxe table was all he had to, having already completed my keys in August of 2010 it should have been a snap, shouldn't it?

Personally, I think you'd be taking a big risk to even think of sending this guy one red cent for anything else he makes no matter how good it looks. IMO if you want those rollers you should tell him to give you them as compensation for the outrageous length of time he held your horn and for the damage he has done to it.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
I wanted to mention something that we all know, but seem to have ignored in dealing with Lance. When you go to a legit sax tech they write up a work order specifying what is to be done. Whether they know you or not, they do that. It serves as proof of the job for both them and you and as a claim check for you to get the instrument back, which in a busy shop where you are not a regular might be necessary. Each party has a copy and there is no question about what is to be done. The ticket also is proof for tax purposes for both parties. More importantly, no shop that I know of ever requires even one cent of payment up front.

Lance as we all know never does any of this and I suppose his excuse and the assumption we his clients made is that because he is dealing through internet and the mail, the emails and pms represented the aggreement. As we now know this is not so, especially when he is given an open-ended job to rebuild the horn as he thinks best. Perhaps people got their guard down and accepted this non-standard procedure because he was a touted tech-wizard here on SOTW, but that was a mistake because Lance isn't the first big name member on SOTW who turned out to be scam artist.

In addition, and even worse, we all fell for his poor-mouth story of being the starving artisan-inventor and needing the cash in advance to buy materials and thus insure your job's place in the workline. In my case, the story was that he could then actually get the materials and have the keys pre-fabricated even before receiving the old ones in the mail from me. Aside from how nickel and dime that sounds---imagine going to an auto shop and having them say, "we can't do your brake job unless you give us the money first to buy the discs for it"--it was B.S. anyway, because he got my money in late June but never began any work whatsoever until the beginning of August. In every case cited on here, having the money in advance hasn't speeded things up, it has slowed them down because already having all he's going to get from that sucker, he drops them to fish for more.

Anyway all of the above are non-standard business practice that people let him get away with and it has clearly been a BIG MISTAKE. But of course that's only come to public light in hindsight after the snow job he pulled here on SOTW for the first 2 years wore off and people came forward to wise everyone up to his game.

Not that I would ever send him anything ever again to work on or even buy anything from him, but if some people want to still deal with this guy (or anyone like him) they need to know that they at the very least need to send him a detailed written contract specifying parts and completion date for him to sign and date. It should be sent by certified mail and returned the same way before the job is even sent to him.

More importantly, no one should pay him anything in advance and only pay for the job when it is proven completed and in the shipping carton with full photos to confirm it's condition and shipping readiness. Lance needs to stop being coddled and exist in the real world just like all the other business people who get the work done first in order to earn his money upon delivery of the finished product. That should have happened years ago but unfortunately people were cutting him slack that he never should have gotton simply because he was a big name on the forum. The message is still Caveat Emptor no matter how and where you find out about someone.

Well just my thoughts on the matter for what they're worth, which in this case is too little too late.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
Not necessarily. If someone asks for a signed document as proof that I have their instrument I give them. If someone wants a document describing what needs to be done I write one (often this is not exactly complete because some of the repairs needed are discovered during the work). Anyway, I guess less than 3% of the people ask me for any of that. The other 97% just trust that it's ok. Some ask what is needed to be done, some only ask after repairs what was done and some don't even care. In years I've never had a problem. I give a receipt after payment when they pick up their instrument and this is also for tax purposes.
Well, o.k. I guess I was generalizing from the 2 techs I've been to and I imagine with techs who have long time regular customers there might be a more relaxed way of operating based on the trust developed. However, although as you point out, the work order might not be complete, but generally they put down the main items to be fixed, which is the reason the horn is there. My tech doesn't sign it of course, but it is in his handwriting and has his business info printed on the form, so I think that has legal standing (were that necessary, which it isn't). The other tech I went to in N.Y. gives a repair tag with the things to be done specified on it. They keep the duplicate and then they attach a computer receipt with all the important data printed on it: their company info, customer name address etc, work order number, date time, Sax model and serial number, and the overall type of work to be done. Both these places have your cell number and call you if anything arises. So when you go to p.u. the horn and pay, not only is it within the time frame they told you but there have never been any surprises of the kind we are seeing from LOB.

My whole point is that as the old saying goes, "Get it in writing because word of mouth is gone with the blast of hot air that creates it". (Actually that's not an old saying, I just made it up, but it's what millions of people who have gotten burned by a handshake contract learned the hard way).
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
Lance, on the other hand, may either be the ne'er do well that SOTW has in effect chosen to judge and portray him as or merely a really disorganized person consumed with perfection- and "perfection is the enemy of the good" is a trueism which is none the less true for being hackneyed.

Taking on the kind of work he did for a price which while several hundred dollars ( not chump change), probably also approached the complete value of the horn- was a bargain by any standard and is bound to be a proposition based upon love rather than considered business pricing. I don't notice any other techs undercutting or matching his pricing and offering to do the same conversion work.

But he may well be simply a visionary ditz rather than a malevolent criminal.
I used to think the very same thing. In fact a year ago on the first big LB thread where Enviroguy and Gilson were relating their similar horror stories. I at first was defending Lance as a victim of the "misguided genius" syndrome leading him astray that you are suggesting here. The main reason I thought that, at first, was that my two transactions with him had basically o.k. results, which made it hard to fully accept the disastorous stories they were recounting. How could this be the same guy, I wondered.

However since then I have looked back in less rose-tinted light at his emails and at the results I got, and realized I was surpressing the awareness that he had pulled the same routine on me, albeit to a lesser degree. That as I just realized on this thread was mainly because he didn't have my sax in his possession. As I have already outlined in previous posts, he basically exhibited the same disregard for what I, the customer wanted and had ordered and paid for in advance, as he has clearly done with everyone else.

And that's the problem with Lance--the customer doesn't even enter into the equation with him at all. For him it isn't a business transaction but a bestowal of his largesse and superior genius upon us in improving our instruments. For him what is supposed to be a service-oriented business where a technician fixes a customer's instrument, is all about HIM and what he can invent, create and give to the world. So it doesn't matter why the customer sent the instrument or ordered the modification, or even if he has already advertised the modification as a "product", because he retains almost total say over what you will get in the end. And if the customer says otherwise, he may either acquiese to them, as in my second experience with the LH table, or hold his ground and go off on even more of a tangent ignoring the customer even more, as with Gilson, Walter, Enviroguy and the others who have had their horns expropriated by him for his experimentation.

Excellent summary of the nauseous taste these endless threads give the average SOTWer who happen to read them.

Fascinating to see how the same arguments have been repeated ten times or more, countless members joining the pack to utter definitive judgement of people they had never heard of hours before. Public trial between, as Henry well notices, semi-anonymous parties attacking a perfectly identified person.

On another forum devoted to woodwind instruments, the same affair has been dealt with a cool advice warning to take precautions before dealing with the "defendant"; after one day or two open to interested parties to post an opinion, the thread has been closed; here it has been made sticky...

J
Well, I'd like to ask if you have done business with the person in question upon which you base these statements? And if not why is it you prefer to doubt the consensus of experience and opinion expressed over the past year on SOTW by those who have, and believe your own opinion based on.....??...what do you base it on? You haven't said and should, don't your think?

You say that some of the people condemning LB have done it having never heard of him until "hours before", but the fact is that everyone on SOTW over the past 4 years has heard of him quite a lot, mostly from his own self-promotion of himself on numerous threads. They have also seen his ads on Ebay and read the claims on his (incomplete) website. Yes there were others who praised him too, myself included at the beginning, but I wised up when he sent me photos of the finished pinky table he was going to send me and it was not at all what he was already hyping the benefits of, selling as a stock "product", had agreed to make for me, and had requred me to pay for in advance.

And speaking of that I have to ask about the crucial thing that puts the lie to any defense of LB as a legit sax technician. What is the justification for his taking money in advance??

Do you know of any sax tech who charges in advance for his work? I certainly don't and that begs the question of what is so special or different about what he does that gives him the right to demand it.

Do you know of a mechanic, or a dry cleaner, or a computer technician who makes you pay in advance for their services? The reason it is SOP to get paid upon completion is because they can keep your property until you pay for the work. So they don't need the money in advance--if you want your goods back you have to pay for what they did for you. The mechanic has a lean on the job and can legally keep your car until he gets paid. The computer tech has your computer, which presumeably you need, and the dry cleaner has the clothes and the legal right to keep them as his own after a specified period of time without payment. None of these people need or ask to be paid in advance and no one would think of doing it. Yet LB has gotten away with it and we have facilitated him in that totally non-standard business method.

So, adding that to the rest of the evidence it appears to me that Lance is not just an inefficient businessman, but a patently dishonest one who has gotten away with it for the very fact of being coddled and excused under the guise of being a poor misunderstood struggling genius. If he weren't, he would run his operation like everyone else, which means doing the job he was asked to do and agreed to do to customer satisfaction, completing it in a timely manner, and returning the customer's property after completion of the job and receipt of payment then, not before even beginning it.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
As said before, yes I've done business with "the person in question", three times, including the making of two pieces made upon LOB's suggestions and based on my own measurements. As also said before, punctual delivery, good communication and perfect results...but these were definitely not complex rebuildings as in the case brought forward by the OP.

My point is not, this has also been said, to take any position about the merit of the case; both parties bring their arguments and each of the SOTW's "judges" make his/her opinion. I simply observe that a near-consensus, as you said, has developed among the contributors to the thread that LOB is a good example of the worst that humanity has produced during the last two millenia (at least). And that the most vociferous of these posters have most certainly never directly dealt with LOB, even if a small number of them, apparently including yourself, have.
Well I understand your point but I can only speak for myself and not any other people who have commented, nor do I know the reasons for their opinions or if they are based upon personal experience with LB or not. What I think is that he is dealing with people dishonestly and under false pretenses and the cases detailed in the thread a year ago and since then and on this one bear that out. That is a far cry from your ironic inference that we are making him out to be the epitomy of evil-doing.

We have here a good example of how the Internet can work if unchallenged; do you think all posters would have made the same statements if they had to produce their real names and address after their posts? And let's remember that a near-consensus, even a consensus, is no proof of anything; Galileo might testify, if asked.
We have here a good example of how someone, who you don't know, have never seen and never met, can use the internet to scam people out of their money and property with the promise of working wonders on it. We have his name, but what good is that if you can't take him to court? This thread is the internet equivalent of writing a letter to the editor of the newspaper, and about as useful.

And the question of pre-payment: almost everything sold or traded on the Internet is now prepaid. I understand the OP and the Chu's next owner were in Germany when the deals were struck. An advance payment doesn't seem exotic to me under these conditions.
Sold is the operative word here because only part of what LB is doing is sales of sax parts. Obviously if you are buying a part from him you have to pay for it in advance. That goes without saying. But he is a saxophone repair technician, which as someone on the thread last year pointed out is a service business involving the repair of band instruments. Lots of people do that out of brick and mortar stores and they don't demand 100% up front. The customer is sending the instrument to him, not the other way round, so why should anyone pay until the horn is ready to be sent back? You're going to send YOUR valuable instrument to a stranger all the way across the country and on top of him having it in his possession for an unknown period of time you have to pay him beforehand? Sounds totally backassward to me. He at least gets to keep the instrument if the customer reneges, but what guarantee does the customer have? None.

When one is sending an item for service or repair where the tech has an item of some value that belongs to another, the usual practice is to pay upon completion but before the item is returned.

Those ways of doing business have developed over centuries.
Well, that's what I'm saying.

The behavior I have read about, leads me to wonder if there is a substance abuse issue that is occurring. No matter the reason, my sympathy goes to those who have been affected. Unfortunately, another of life's lessons learned.
Interesting that you think that, because it had already crossed my mind a couple of days ago. I'm 3/4 of the way through Bird Lives and something just rang a bell. No way to know of course, but it would explain a lot of things if it were the case.

I have read several times about the "paid in advance" issues with LOB. The examples given (auto mechanic, computer tech, dry cleaners, etc...) are not exactly the same situation. I am not defending what he has done. The examples given are usually employed by someone else.

We have done complete restorations and custom work for customers in the past with no money up front and have been burned every time! Some of them are other shops that we thought we could trust. We just finally sold the last custom job that we performed 5 years ago for alot less money than we had in it. We even had one tenor that we performed major repairs to and then to have the police show up and take it from us because it was a srolen instrument. Guess what, we didn't get paid. We can't tie up those kind of funds for long periods of time, we're not a bank. That's why we ask for 50% down and balance on completion.
Well, 50% down and the rest upon completion is not unreasonable and in fact World Wide Sax has that policy too. But they have it to guarantee one's place in their work line, which unlike LB they publish openly on their site and control very tightly so that no one's sax is in their possession for any length of time. However, I looked at Tenor Madness and they do all the same things that LB does, and nowhere on their site do they say anything about paying anything in advance. They also charge a whole lot more than LB, but guarantee a work time of not much more than 10 days for even for a total restoration.

In your case, I don't really understand why, other than with that stolen sax you mention, someone would send their horn and then not pay for the job and thereby forfeit the horn. But people are strange, so I guess anything is possible. I can see people burning you if you don't have their property in your possession, but you have their stuff so where's the advantage for them?
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
28,511 Posts
Wow. Thanks for that Mick, it certainly explains a lot and puts things in clearer more humanistic perspective.

Whatever Lance's demons are, they are prevented him from being the successful innovator and restorer that he would like to be. This is obviously pretty sad for all of us.
I agree and think that most of us would have preferred him to be the competent innovator that he aspires to be and we thought he was, because of what it would have meant for our vintage saxes. If it is a drug problem of some kind or some other psychological problem that has him pinned down, I sincerely hope he'll seek professional help so he can find the way to free himself and do better in life. I feel sorry for him, but the truth is that doing business with someone whose personal problems make them that unreliable is something most people are not willing or capable of doing.
 
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top