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

The new Suspension Frame

So, two days ago, we finally got the suspension frame set up at the studio, and it is a glorious beast!

But being the silly bugger that I am, I’m overly concerned as to what to call it…

Torii gate at Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village

The things that inspired it was a combination, of the Japanese-styled Torii, European-styled gallows, and classical illustrations of what was used in Japanese suspension torture.

Initially, I was going to simply call it a Torii (鳥居), but the design itself eventually shifted towards something more like gallows, and being endlessly inclined towards the Japanese language, I turned to the dictionary, for which I found the term Kōshudai (絞首台).

Gallows in Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Tombstone, AZ.

The problem with Kōshudai, however, is that it literally refers to gallows and the activities therein:

  • ” (絞) means to strangle;  constrict;  wring.
  • Shu” (also read kubi; 首) refers to the anatomical neck.
  • Dai” (Tai or several other pronunciations; 台), is a pedestal; or a stand.

So this specifically refers to a pedestal for hanging or strangling the neck – not quite what we do or want to encourage.

There is also the late Yukimura Haruki‘s term kamoi (鴨居)[1], however, this is specifically the frame for sliding doors in classical Japanese houses, for which he made considerable use of in his work. Thus, this term is further away from what we are looking for than even the gallows.

A photo of a kamoi over a sliding door.

At this point, Kōshudai seems the closest to what were dealing with in regards to shibari and kinbaku, where the body is suspended by rope in various formations.


[1] Kamoi (鴨居) Means lintel. In traditional Japanese house it’s the beam where the top of sliding doors (fusuma; 襖) or paper windows (shoji; 障子) can be inserted and slide. It’s really easy to find pictures of people tied up to the kamoi.



Atemi self-suspending off the new suspension frame!