This post actually covers a few days worth of stuff, but since it's kind of all part of the same story, I decided to consolidate it.
I received in the mail the laser etch samples from MK Engraving, and they are great. Katie sent me three different tests, showing the varying depths that their laser can etch.
The next thing to do was to test out my planned process. The goal is to have a big sheet of this etched, the mold it, then cast it, and use the castings to build up the boots. The reasons are many. First is that I am not good at dealing with leather. Second, having molds of the stuff will allow me to make as many copies of it as I want, without the expense of having leather etched each time I want to take a stab at it. Third, it will allow me to offer the materials to other enthusiasts who may want to build their own pair of boots.
I'm going to use a Smooth-On product called "Body Double" to make a mold of this leather. It's a two part, very rapid cure silicone product. I have never used it before, but I have heard very good things about it.
Here's a link to the Body Double product on the Smooth-on Website.
The Body Double mixes up very quickly, brushes on nicely. I'm not really sure what the work time is, though I hear it's pretty short. Just a few minutes. Here's the leather after I gobbed on some silicone. Accuracy wasn't really at stake here. All I really wanted was to be sure that the three little samples were covered.
I let it cure for about an hour, though I'm quite sure it was ready for de-mold after five or ten minutes. Here's the mold!
I then poured up a little batch of urethane, just as a test. It didn't really matter what the color was, and yes, this is too pink.
That's where things stand as of right now. The goal here is to have a urethane sample that will represent what the final product will look like. From there, I will choose which etching depth is right for the project, and place an order for a large sheet of the stuff.