Spinning Plate Tricks

One of the most popular props in a Circus Skills workshop, especially for the younger ages! The hardest trick is learning to spin the plate to begin with. Once you have learned this, all the tricks are quite easy. so go on, give it a try!

Steve the Plate Spinner! Photo courtesy of NorthantsNews. No resale.

How to Spin a Plate

The following video clip shows you several ways to spin a plate and the first lot of tricks you can attempt. More details are provided on this page.

DO NOT USE NORMAL PLATES! Spinning plates have a large rim on the underside, and then it slopes towards the middle to allow gravity to help you with your plate spinning! Spinning plates are among the cheapest toys  to buy, so there is no need to attempt with normal plates!
SPIN TIME: A spinning plate once spun on the stick will maybe stay spinning for around 20-30 seconds. It is in this time that you can try a few tricks before having to stop to spin the plate again. Tricks become very difficult when the plate is spinning slowly!
THE EASY WAY TO SPIN ONE PLATE: Balance the plate on top of the stick. With your spare hand, spread out your fingers so that you can grip the top of the plate a little, and give it a spin by flicking your wrist. Do not spin it too fast or it will fly off the stick. Don’t spin it too little as you won’t be able to do many tricks. Using this method of spinning a plate is fine when you are just spinning one plate, but if you intend to spin more than one plate, then you won’t have a spare hand, and will need to learn the more difficult one handed method (below!)

THE BEST WAY TO SPIN A PLATE – ONE HANDED SPIN: Place the stick on the rim of the plate (just like a jacket hanging from a hook). Slowly let your plate circle the stick, so that the rest of the plate is not touching the stick. Steadily increase your circular wrist motion, so that the plate speeds up. Do not lassoo the plate (the stick should go round the plate, it should not stay at the same point on the plate). Keep gradually increasing the speed and you will see the plate become horizontal. All you need to do at this stage is to stop spinning your stick. The underside is sloped towards the middle, so the stick will gravitate towards the middle of the plate.
HAVING PROBLEMS? Spinning a plate is far harder than you might think. As I mentioned at the start of this tricks page, please persevere with it, as I guarantee that once you have managed to spin a plate, you will be able to learn a load of tricks on this page in absolutely no time! The main problem that people have is lassooing the plate (where the stick is staying in the same position on the underside of the plate and therefore not speeding up and being flung around in a circle). To stop this happening, get the plate started and then use your spare hand to grip your arm and stop it moving completely! The wrist should be the only part of your arm that needs to move. The wrist should speed up the plate till it looks horizontal, then just stop your spinning, and the plate will float to the middle.

Plate Spinning Tricks

You only have a limited amount of time before the plate grinds to a halt, which is why most spinning plate routines do not last long. If you find these tricks don’t work, check how fast your plate is spinning and try again!    You will  become an expert at just spinning a plate by the time you have learned a few of these tricks!

Throw and Catch Just do low throws, and you can slowly build up to higher throws. When the plate is about to land, bring the stick down (to lessen the impact).
Australian Catch You are now going to throw the plate straight up in the air, turn the stick over and catch the plate on the other end of the stick! This trick requires a different hand grip on the stick. You may also want to sharpen the other end of your wooden stick or borrow an extra point from another plastic stick. Experiment with various hand grips, so that you can turn the stick over quickly to make the catch.
Under the Leg Pass the stick under your leg to your other hand. You are then free to start up another spinning plate! Best to hold the stick up near the plate end so that you don’t have to lift your leg really high!
Flourish When you throw your plate high in the air, you have plenty of time to do a fancy flourish (movement) with your stick (or even flip it like a club). Remember to finish your cool move in time to catch the plate though!
Suicide Throw your plate in the air by pushing up and letting go of the stick also. Both props will go up in the air and separate, and you can catch one in each hand and take a bow!
Spin on Finger Once the plate is spinning, you can replace the stick with one of your fingers. Be sure and make it a clean swap – don’t be scared, it doesn’t hurt! This is the kids favourite trick!
Spin Other Items Try spinning a shoe (just make sure that your shoe doesn’t already have a hole in it)!
Spin on other items In my Circus Skills Workshops, I do something really fun called Toothbrush Twirling. This means that there are plenty of toothbrushes lying around and you can pass a spinning plate from a stick onto a toothbrush. If you haven’t tried it already, get yourself across to my toothbrush twirling tricks page!
Go for Numbers Try to see how many plates you can spin at the same time. I can have 6 plates spinning at the same time. What I do is start one in my left hand and pass the stick and plate over to my right hand, and then immediately start another one and do the same. The hardest part is being able to put a plate on a stick (as your other hand is in use!). Practice trying different ways of holding numerous plates in the other hand until you find a way that leaves part of your hand free to hold the plate until it fits on a stick. Remember you have a time limit (as plates spin for relatively short periods of time), and that the plates in one hand should not collide with each other or the other sticks or else they will slow down or fall off. You might also be able to stick a plate stick into your shoe (it rests against your shin). If you can get people passing you plates, then this is easier than trying to do it all by yourself!
Juggle Combine spinning a plate in one hand with juggling 2 balls in the other! Not as difficult as you might think!
Chin Balancing Get the plate spinning fast, and then place the stick onto your chin. This trick may take a while to get used to, and can be very dangerous to your face! When you balance, try looking at the centre of the plate (where the top end of your stick is). Once you have mastered the balancing, you have two spare hands in which to juggle or do something else with!! Safety tip – keep your mouth shut when you balance objects on your face.
Other Balancing Moves As well as the chin balance (see above), you could try balancing the spinning plate stick (while having a plate spinning on it) on other parts of your body such as… palm of your hand, one finger, forehead, foot etc! (tip from Becky)
Curls Hold the stick near the plate end once you have got it spinning. Now curl the plate and stick under your arm. Pass the plate and stick behind your back to your other hand, and then curl them back under your other arm. When you are building up to spinning more than one plate, this can be a good way to pass the first plate to your weaker hand, then return to getting the next plate spun.
Two Plates Routine Get a plate spinning on a stick in each hand, then try throwing them both and catching on opposite sticks. You should throw one slightly higher than the other one to achieve this! Try throwing them and turning the sticks round so that you catch on the opposite ends of the sticks.
Throw Start Grip the underside of the plate around the lipped rim of the plate using one hand. Toss the plate into the air with as much spin as possible and catch on the stick. This is the really fast and impressive way of starting a plate spinning.
Start a Plate Using your Weaker Hand More difficult than you think and I have never mastered this, but it leads to many possibilities such as starting up two plates at the same time or synchronising your act, so that you then throw both plates onto the opposite sticks etc!
Throw, Tap and Catch Toss the plate from the stick, tap the side of the plate lightly (so as not to knock it off balance or alter its course), then catch back on the stick. Now try throwing and tapping twice or even three times! Not as easy as it might seem!
Have a Drink! Start the plate spinning then pick up a cup with your spare hand. insert the stick into the handle and tilt the cup towards you whilst holding the stick and the handle of the cup (so it doesn’t slide down) then slowly take a drink of the contents of the cup. very simple trick but looks very impressive (misc, UK)


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Amy showing us how to hold 4 Spinning Plates!

Routines for you to try out

It should only take 20 seconds to perform.

Spinning Plate Animation
  1. Spin one plate,
  2. pass it under the leg to the weaker hand.
  3. Get another plate spinning
  4. work both your hands up the sticks so that you can spin the plates on your fingers at the same time
  5. drop the sticks and let the plates spin on your finger
  6. take a bow while the plates are still spinning (they won’t spin for long so you need a quick bow!)

Unicycle Routine Fix some plate sticks around the stage area, and then start up a spinning plate and ride your unicycle to the first stick and place the plate on it, then go back and start up another plate. See how many plates you can have spinning around the room. it could be quite a comical unicycle plate spinning routine!

Steve the Juggler spinning several plates at International Boat Festival

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