THE FOLLOWING Q&A WERE TAKEN FROM DARREN'S WEBSITE:
Q. When did you get started in luthierie and what prompted you?
A. Aug 1994 is when I first made a guitar. Prior to that I was just tinkering around, doing odds repairs like refrets, setups and refinishing. I was searching for a way to construct an affordable instrument with good playability and sound quality.
Q. Did you go to any schools?
A. No, what I have learned has been self-taught.
Q. What is your favorite tonewood? Why? Backs/sides? Tops? A. My favorite tonewood is Brazilian, for its beauty and bright metallic flavoring. For tops, I prefer German spruce for the wide rich and lush tonal spectrum it offers.
Q. In your opinion what makes a good sounding guitar?
A. In my experience, a good sounding guitar is made primarily from the quality of materials chosen, followed by design and workmanship. The wood itself must speak to the builder in a way that delivers self satisfaction, like a chef adding spices to the pot, the builder shaves a little here then a little over there. I build guitars to enjoy myself primarily, its not only a job but a way of life and like a marriage one could say. the design is the second aspect of delivering a fine instrument, one could get carried away with this subject but lets keep it simple and say I prefer traditional fan bracing in the Torres/Hauser manner. I've concluded the more one sways from tradition the more one loses the spirit of building. lastly is the workmanship , which can be looked upon by the client at the primary candidate for a lifetime keeper, today's world of high factory gloss and dramatic grain figuring and coloring is all about show, not that I don't admire those traits but to keep that as the first objective is downright unorthodox to the nature of this wonderful little creature we call the classical (Spanish) guitarra.
Q. What do you look for when you buy tonewoods?
A. I look for a sounding board's appearance. I prefer a fairly even grain spacing, not too tight so it chokes up the sound, but more along the lines of 20-24 per inch. Color is also important. I try to avoid too many streaks. The boards also need to be very stiff when flexed across grain, as this allows for the thinnest plate with minimal bracing for optimum sound output/quality.
For backs and sides I prefer the old chocolate or bright orange Brazilian. It doesn't have to be all quarter sawn, just the center part 3-4". I like the look of slab sawn on edges, as it makes for a really distinguished looking showpiece.
Q. What are your finish preferences? A. Nitro lacquer with French polish on top.
Q. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently in regards to learning the craft?
A. I would have attended a luthierie school, not just for guitars but for other string instruments, such as lutes, mandolins and violins.
Q. How many guitars a year do you produce?
A. That¹s a tricky question to answer. When I began making guitars, I made between 12-16 instruments each year. Now, after 10 years, I have become proficient enough to average approximately 48-52 guitars. The average for my 10 years of work comes to 32 completed guitars per year.
Q. What models do you offer?
A. I offer mostly classical guitars, in several models. For flamenco guitars, I make a Blanca and a Negra. I made 3 steel string models--the Parlour, OM and Jumbo.
Q. Do you have a favorite model? A. Personally I have a deep admiration for the work of Hauser I. His guitars are definitely the crème de la crème.
Q. What is your backlog?
A. My backlog is 8 months.
Q. Any advice to new builders?
A. My advice is, if you're in this for the money, then quit while you're ahead. I¹ve maintained day jobs as a short order cook, construction worker, grocery clerk and meat cutter in order to support my guitar making. It's truly a labor of love, encouraged by family and the players who own my instruments that makes it all worthwhile. I am happy to be of service for any particular requirements desired.
Q. Your prices seem much lower than the average for the level of building. Can we expect your prices to increase over time? A. Most certainly. I make them affordable for all classes of society, not just the doctor or collector. Don't worry they wont go the way of Fleta or Smallman.
His base price is $2,000.