Composition of a Koushudai 絞首台


Occasionally people have asked about how I built the suspension frame that I use. Well really, just an idea, lots of unnecessary research and investigation, other peoples knowledge and experience, and sweat.


My first step with these things is to look at classical documentation for ideas of how it was done. I’m personally adverse to loud noises and power tools, so I like to look at old manual ways to do things. So my first stop is Wasada Universities library, and that resulted in four sources regarding general wood splicing, the manufacture of the Torii, and ideas borrowed from shrines and temples. The sources included:

Some of the material involved in the investigations of wood fixtures. Sources included “daiko shoshin zukai” (1882), “shinpen miyahinagata” (unknown year), “shōka higata” (1875), and the “taishō hinagata taizen” (unknown year).

This methodology was chosen as these kinds of wood-joins allowed for an absence of nails, screws, or spikes, which made the structure flexible instead of sturdy. This meant that it was earthquake and tsunami resistant – more than suitable for hanging humans from.


The next step was planning out what I was looking for, and considering the space I had to work with. So some early prints were drawn up.

Early plans for the frame (We have since simplified and diverged from this one). 

However, after discussion, review of resources, and consideration of height and practicality (removed the lower of the two beams, simplified the joins and fixtures, and experimented with the base:height ratio), and the below design was the result:

How the frame plans look in my notebook.


Because of my aversion to power tools, much of the work was done by hand, with saws, chisels, and a plane (though some of the bigger ends were cut with a skill saw, and the doweling holes were drilled wit ha power drill – I had little to do with that part).

The fittings for the frame, hand done as I don’t like power tools.

Eventually the results were packed up and brought to the studio for installation. It was designed with the ability to be broken down and moved in mind.

Frame Specs from the Side.

It has since been well loved…

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” ― Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park (Last nights session with CutieTie