I've been so preoccupied with other things that I've hardly touched my torch all year.
Monday night I made these seven duos of beads which I hoped would be good pairs for earrings. Now on closer inspection, I'm not so sure they are balanced enough to be called pairs. Of course, the difference is a question of millimeters, but you'd be amazed how the disparities can jump out from finished jewelry. These beads are somewhere size-wise from pea size to soy bean size - not very big.
This glass is Moretti, Effetre and Lauscha, and they all melt somewhere in the neighborhood of 1700 degrees F. These glasses are soda glass, and the addition of sodium carbonate lowers the melting point of glass, thus making it easier to heat and work with.
One of the prettiest types of glass is borosilicate, which is basically pyrex (a teeny bit of boron in the mix makes the glass more resistant to thermal shock), but you need a bench burner that goes well up into the 2400 degree range, which mine does not. I'm using the fat baby-pencil of torches, by the way. I'm embarrassed to say I've never stepped up my game, there, but what I'm making is not that complex, either. The plain old soda glass with the colors I like melts incredibly quickly in a very hot torch, and can be a different kind of challenge to work with on the super-hot bench burners.
The stainless steel rod is called a mandrel, and before making beads, it must be dipped in a liquid ceramic medium to keep the molten glass from permanently adhering to the rod (called bead-release). I prefer to do one pair on a mandrel together rather than separately, best to judge the size and shape of the beads are as similar as possible.
The 24K gold leaf I use is backed by a sheet of vellum and is used for gold-leafing domes in a windy environment, and with very clean scissors I cut the sheet up before turning on the torch. When the hot bead is the size and shape I want it to be, I roll it onto a little slip of the gold leaf paper, with the gold next to the glass. The bead is so hot that the paper burns off instantly. I prefer these papered leaves of gold because they don't wad up and go flying on a thermal if you breathe in their direction from the other side of the room.
I dunno, the more I look at the photo of these beads, the more I think they are useless as pairs. It's funny the flaws you notice in a frozen photo that you don't see with the article right in front of you. There's a metaphor in there somewhere, but it's too late for me to sort it all out.