Holdfasts are wonderful devices. Their ability to secure wood to the benchtop with a single mallet tap can seem almost magical some times. However, they have a tendency to dent the surface of your workpiece, especially in softer woods. I’ve tried gluing on leather pads, but found that they tended to come loose after a short period of time. A block of wood works well, but a piece of the right size can sometimes be difficult to locate when you need it. Plus, a scrap off the shop floor can have a chunk of “something” imbedded in it, the impression of which can be transferred to your work.
My solution is a pair of dedicated holdfast pads. You’re probably wondering what makes these different from the nearest piece of scrap. I’m glad you asked!
Functionally, there is no real difference. The biggest difference is in what you do with them when not in use. These pads were cut from a piece of offcut from a pine tenon cheek, so they are basically non-mar. The piece was thicknessed carefully to ensure that two of the pads, when placed together, would fit in a slot in the French rack on the back of my bench. They were sized to this end, with a modified “T” shape to keep them from slipping all the way through the slot.
So, when not in use, the pads reside in a slot in the back of the bench, taking up little room and not sticking up far enough to get in the way. When needed, they are close at hand to be grabbed, used, and then replaced in their slot.
If you don’t knock them off on the floor and lose them in the shavings that you haven’t swept up, that is.