TYPEWRITER: Replacing The Drawcord On A Remington Portable.

The machine used in this article is a 1924 Remington Portable #1, but the drawcord mechanics are the same on the Portable #2 and #3, so, let’s start:

I’ve replaced several drawcords on different Remington Portables. Below is my method (not the method) for replacing the broken cord with a new cord. What you need is:

  • a magnetic rod to ‘lock’ the main spring, I use a flashlight with a magnetic bottom,
  • a cord to serve as a drawcord. I use thin black woven cord intended for venetian blinds,
  • a piece of wire to finagle the cord through the holes in the main spring. I use a dental hook for that,
  • a sharp screwdriver,
  • a thin wooden/bamboo stick, I use a ‘satΓ© stick’ for skewering meat, but as long as it’s thin and about 20cm long (like a thin crocheting hook/needle), it will do,
  • A soft cushion to put the machine on, I use a piece of foam.

First, put the Remington Portable upside down on the cushion with the carriage close to you. Holding the magnetic rod handy, you start winding up the spring in the main spring housing so it nestles tightly against the axle and the small round hole is exposed, then place the magnetic rod on the mainspring housing so it stays in position.

Main spring tightly wound and kept in place with magnetic rod.
Broken piece of cord visible in the hole.

Use the dental hook to fish the cord from the hole.

Broken piece of cord removed.

When you have removed the piece of cord, put a new piece of cord through the side into the main housing and pull it up through the hole.

New cord inserted through the side and out of the hole.

Tie a tight knot in the short part that comes out of the hole and pull the cord to push that knot into the hole next to the coiled spring.

Tight knot. If it’s nylon, you can heat it up with a lighter to melt the fluff.
The knot pushed into the hole next to the coiled spring.

Remove the magnetic lock and slowly let the spring in the main housing uncoil and press up against the knot. When the spring uncoils, keep the cord up so it won’t catch under the mainspring housing. When the spring is totally uncoiled, you wind up the housing 4 rotations. This is more than enough to pull the carriage. Lock the mainspring housing with the magnetic rod again. The hole with the cord coming out is at your side, the side of the carriage.

Mainspring housing rotated 4 times and locked, with the drawcord towards the carriage.

Pull the carriage all the way to your right (fully extended carriage), and lead the cord around the tiny pulley and hook the cord under the guide hook.

Around the pulley and hook the cord through the guide from below.
View of the pulley and guide hook with cord running through.

Tape the end of the cord to a stick to thread the cord underneath the carriage. Make sure the cord travels straight under the carriage (over the carriage now that the machine is upended, of course) to the far end.

Tape the end of the cord to a stick.
Guide the cord to the other side of the carriage.
This is the part you lightly unscrew, so you can remove the part that holds the end of the cord.
And this is the part that hooks behind the screw to clamp on the end of your drawcord.

The drawcord is pulled taut and clamped between the carriage and that little brass hook, screwed down tightly. Originally, the cord is clamped inside that little brass thingy, but that folded brass part is difficult to unfold and might break. So I hold the cord against the carriage over the screw, push the brass hook into position behind the screw and tight the screw.

Drawcord clamped behind the brass hook and screw tightened.

When you are sure the cord is tightly clamped, add a knot to the end for security.

The knot might not be necessary, but who cares?

And your Remington Portable is ready for use again!

1924 Remington Portable #1 with the typebars in the resting position.
1924 Remington Portable #1 with the typebars in the raised position.

8 Comments on “TYPEWRITER: Replacing The Drawcord On A Remington Portable.”

  1. RobertG says:

    Great write-up! And also a fan of these little Remington’s I guess πŸ™‚

    You can also not ‘clamp’ the spring, but unwind it by toggling the little escapement lever that pops out from under the drum. Winding again is simply with a screwdriver turning the centre slotted ‘tube’.
    For cord, I’ve used hemp, as was the original (waxed hemp cord). Then it can be threaded through without the skewer even, slide the carriage over the cord and then thread it through the little end-hook and knot πŸ™‚

    Great to see another RP repaired πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Robert.
      I didn’t want to mess with the escapement, which is why I used the magnet rod ‘clamp; to hold it in position. The good part about my method is that there’s the right tension on the draw string right when you are threading it around the pulley and the hook. Also, if you disengage the escapement and wind the spring up until you have room to remove the old string, how do you keep the drum of the main spring from unwinding without a clamp?


      • RobertG says:

        Getting / keeping the tension right can be good indeed. Having now 4 of these RP2’s I can say it’s fortunately not all that critical. I wind them so that at the end of the line it still reliably advances the carriage (with my typing speed), to get the lightest carriage return it can work with. Machines do vary in carriage bearing friction though, after 80+ years…
        Haven’t had problems taking out the old string (so far) – as it’s usually broken, it comes out fine also with an unwound spring.
        Note that toggling that lever that comes out from under the drum will not totally disengage the spring. It will only let it unwind a fraction of a rotation. That makes it fairly easy to adjust the tension on a machine – the lever ‘click-clack’ to unwind a bit, a screwdriver ‘tictictic’ the central axle to tension it πŸ˜€


  2. Billy says:

    Thanks for your step by step help. My Remington is a older model but it worked great. You saved me money and taught me a new skill. Thanks Billy


  3. ElodieZD says:

    Thank you for this very interesting tutorial !!
    A few days ago, I found a Remington portable typewriter in my grandmother’s attic. Overall in good condition, I realised the cord is broken and would like to change it.
    Although your article is explained very well, my level in typewriter repair is closed to zero and I didn’t understand the drum release part, so I cannot remove the old cord.
    I read that you are using a magnetic rod, what exactly is it for?And how did you do to enlarge the space and let the rope pass? Many thanks in advance for any help you, or anyone, could provide me.
    Hoping that this great machine can work again one day πŸ™‚


    • Hello Elodie,
      The spring inside the drum is wound-up spring. When you push the carriage to the right, the spring tightens around the central axle of the drum. Every time you type a letter or space bar, the escapement wheel under the carriage allows the wound up drum spring to pull the carriage one space to the left.
      To extricate the knotted end from the drum, you have to rotate the drum and wind up the spring, so the spring sits tightly against the axle. Then the hole on top of the drum will be clear and you can fish out the knotted end of the drawstring, as described in the article. While the drum is still wound tightly, you can insert a new drawstring through the slit in the side of the drum (where the old drawstring came out), pull the end out of the hole on the top of the drum and tie a knot, then push the knot back into the drum through the hole and pull the drawstring tight.
      I use a magnetic rod (a flashlight with a magnetic end) to block the drum from spinning when the spring is tightly wound, so I have two hands free to replace the string.
      I hope that will help you to do your repair.


      • ElodieZD says:

        Thank you very much for your great help and prompt feedback, it was really useful πŸ™‚
        I finally succeed to replace the drawstring (I’ve simply replaced the magnetic rod with a family member help, haha) !!!


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