The Invention and Reinvention of the Plastic Spinning Plate: Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, I detailed the creation of the plastic spinning plate by John Hyatt and his company, The Whirley Corporation, in 1958 and it’s great success. In this conclusion to the article, we’ll examine the many copycats that popped up to try to mimic the Whirley Whirler’s success, some unsuccessful variations on the design, it’s lasting legacy, and the recent reinvention of the plastic spinning plate after almost 60 years.

The Whirley Whirler spinning plate from 1958

With the enormous sales of the Whirley Whirler, numerous copycat spinning plates appeared on the market very quickly.

The biggest competition that the Whirler Whirler faced was from the maker of the Hula-Hoop, Wham-O. Wham-O introduced the Whirlee Twirlee and even had television commercials advertising their spinning plate.

The Wham-O Whirlee Twirlee spinning plate

Below you can see some other copycat spinning plates.

The Spin-A-Reeno spinning plate

A Werllee Whirlet spinning plate

Twirl N Toss spinning plates in their original packaging

A Twirl N Toss plate from the Museum of Juggling History

A Spin ‘N’ Twirl spinning plate

A Pepsi Swirl spinning plate

A Teeter Platter spinning plate

A Superior Spinning Saucer

A Spin A Plate spinning plate

A Twirl A Plate spinning plate

As you can see, these are just copies of the Whirley Whirler with different names and minor variations on the shape so as to not infringe on the original’s patent. They are, however, extremely similar. A couple of companies went one more step and tried to change the design a bit, turning the outer rim downward instead of upward, creating a spinning “hat” or saucer.

The Duncan Koo-Lee Spinning Hat

The Duncan Koo-Lee Spinning Hat

The Duncan Koo-Lee Spinning Hat, bottom view

Knickerbocker Official Twirling Saucers

Knickerbocker Official Twirling Saucer

Knickerbocker Official Twirling Saucer, bottom

A Juggling Saucer

These inverted-rim spinning plates never caught on, but the basic design of the Whirley Whirler and it’s copycats has been the standard juggling spinning plate ever since. A Whirley Whirler and a modern plastic spinning plate look pretty much exactly alike. However, a new design has finally been found that revolutionizes the prop.

Japanese juggler and physician Masayuki Furuya, better known as Masa, bought his first spinning plate in 2005. It was a usual plate from Mr. Babache. In 2011, he started to focus on plate spinning. He noticed that by using 2 sticks and 1 plate, many new tricks were possible. He tried using Dube aluminum spinning plates, but found that while they were stable enough, they were too heavy and too noisy. In 2012, Masa performed his Japanese modern plate spinning for the first time. It was successful enough for him to focus on plate spinning even more. Masa qualified a 3 plate cascade in 2013 for the first time, but decided that plates needed to be smaller, safer and more stable in order to progress further.

Many of Masa’s followers started to put a tube around the outer rim of the plate to help with stability and extended spin time, but this solution wasn’t enough for Masayuki. He continued experimenting and pushing the limits on what was possible with plate spinning. He invented plate spinning versions of grinds, vertax, stacks, rolls, and many other tricks. For those tricks, plates needed to have a smooth surface and small dimples in the middle.

In May 2015, Masa ordered the first prototype of  his custom designed spinning plate, called the INNE, from an online 3D printing service. It costed 30000 yen, but Masa broke it in 3 minutes, including 2 minutes just staring at it. Japanese juggling manufacturer PM Juggling helped him find a good factory to make prototypes, and after 16 prototypes, the final version of INNE was created. INNE is different from normal spinning plates in a variety of ways. The outer rim makes INNE more stable and and makes it spin longer. It makes many tricks easier. The outer rim also makes INNE lighter than other plates of similar stability, making it possible to toss it up to siteswap 9 or even higher. The face dimple makes stacks and turn overs possible. The lower rim is smaller, making it easier to grab. The smooth surface make grinds possible. The plates are also very hard and thin, yet extremely durable.

A cross-sectional diagram of the INNE spinning plate

In November 2016, PM Juggling started to sell INNE. More than 140 plates have been sold through summer of 2019. While they are much more expensive than standard spinning plates, costing around $140 or 130 Euros each, many tricks can be achieved with them that can be done with no other spinning plate. A testament of how innovative their use can be, Masa won the IJA Individuals Stage Championships in 2018, becoming the first plate spinning act to win a gold medal.

Check out his use of this new prop innovation in the following videos.

As you can see, Masayuki Furuya wasn’t satisfied with the plastic plates that jugglers had been using since 1958. While it took a lot of effort, innovation, and money, he has revolutionized the spinning plate. In doing so, he has opened up a world of possibilities for jugglers to explore with the prop. You can visit https://pmjuggling.com/en/product/inne/ to learn more about the INNE spinning plate.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-four books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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