The Quarter Trick

This is a little trick that I picked up from my friend Jordan Taylor for throwing platters. I find it extremely useful so I thought I would pass it on to all of you and maybe you’ll find it useful too.

The quarter trick solves three problems that arise from throwing platters:

  • Instead of having to both wedge and center one large mass of clay, you can break it down into two pieces which reduces the strain on your body
  • It helps you more easily judge the thickness of the floor of the platter and adds consistency if you’re doing multiples.
  • And it allows you to compress the floor of the platter REALLY well so you don’t have to worry about any future problems of cracking.
So here is the quarter trick
Wedge up and center your first lump of clay. This piece is going to be the floor of your platter. I used 8 lbs of clay which gives me a slightly narrow but thick foot (great for putting holes into so you can hang it). You can vary the weight depending on the ultimate size of your platter. But I find that the 8 – 9 lb. range works for a variety of sizes of platters since the size foot isn’t necessarily that different.


Center your clay and compress the heck out of the floor. Place a quarter in the center of your centered clay (I use a 1974 quarter). 
Wedge up your second piece of clay and place it on top of the quarter. I tend to use between 8 – 12 lbs. of clay for this second piece, depending on the ultimate shape of the platter. 
Open up the platter and establish the curve.
And clean it off so it doesn’t become part of your reclaim. (I speak from experience on this one.)  

Then finish off your platter as usual and be aware of the thickness of the floor.

This platter isn’t actually the platter that is throw above. That platter is sitting in my studio waiting to be trimmed. But this platter was thrown in the same way.

9 thoughts on “The Quarter Trick

  1. Thanks for this post! As a pretty new potter your blog has been the most valuable one ever; I find myself saving information from each and every one!

  2. Dear Emily;
    I found you through a postcard that you left at NCECA this last week… I am very impressed with your blog and look forward to keeping in touch over the coming year!
    I, too, am a full time ceramicist supporting a family of four and I’m always trying to step in front of the curve so that I can continue to feed them well.
    We have decided to participate in an Artist Relocation Program in Paducah, KY and I’ll be without clay for the entire summer as we re-hab a 3400 sq. ft. 1907 brick building into studio, gallery, living quarters, and Kookie Bar (a joint business venture between my 13 year old daughter and my wife!)

    You are just north of me and I’d love to connect and pick your brain about the opportunities of the region sometime…

    Blessings, Michael

  3. I can’t figure this one out.
    What practical purpose does the quarter have?
    Why would you not just centre the second lump straight on the top of the first? I’ll give it a try, and see if I can figure out a benefit, but right now it just looks like an extra, unneccessary step.

    1. Good question- The reason for putting in the quarter as a marking point is so you know how far to open up the clay. Ideally, the first centered lump of clay is the base/foot of the platter. The 2nd lump is the walls. By centering the first lump as a smaller piece, you’ll get better control and compression (less of a chance for one of those annoying S cracks). Then when you put on the 2nd lump, you might lose track of how think your base is and go down too far. One of the big problems that I noticed from teaching throwing over the past decade was that students consistently go too thin on the bottom of plates and platters. This is a good tool to help avoid that. Plus, it’s kinda fun finding the quarter in the middle of your clay!

    1. It’s been a while since I made this but I think it was probably 16-18 lbs. The rounded lip was pretty big! I’m sorry I can’t be more precise, but it’s been several years since I made this piece!

  4. Hi Emily. I’m a ceramist and have never needed to use a Quarter as I have always used a needle to determine the thickness of a base.
    I’m always ready to learn though so could you please tell me what a quarter is?
    Regards, Peter Norris

    1. Peter, I just found this article and see that no one responded to you. A quarter is a US coin worth 25 cents. It is about the same size as a 10p piece in England.

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