Sash Cord & Chain Renewal, weights & pulleys

Removing & installing sash, temporary boardup, frame & sill repairs, wall sealing, frame & trim painting.
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Sash Cord & Chain Renewal, weights & pulleys

Postby johnleeke » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:22 pm

Here is the basic procedure to replace broken sash cords:
(update: 5/21/15 added link to side stop adjuster discussion, 4/4/13 added link to shared weights discussion)

-- Remove the lower sash, by taking off one of the interior stops at the side of the window that holds it in place.

-- Remove the upper sash, by running it down to the bottom of its tracks and removing the parting beads. If the sash will not run down, remove parting beads first.

(See the Save America's Windows book for detailed directions and a tool list for removing sashes: ... tm#Windows)

-- Check the pulleys, clean, oil, repair or replace the pulleys as needed.

Tools for Sash Cord Renewal:
- Screwdriver
- Dikes (diagonal cutter)
- Pointed Pliers
- Hammer
- Utility knife
- Vaccum cleaner
- Fish scale (for weighing sash)

- Light Machine Oil for pulleys
- Paraffin wax (candle wax) to lubricate the sash tracks
- Wood screws for pocket doors if they need to be replaced
- Sash cord or chain, to match the size of the pulleys
- Sash weights, if not still in the pockets
- Sash pulleys, if not reusable

Here is the discussion on sash cord types and suppliers:

-- Remove the weight pocket cover, which is located in the track of the lower sash. It is usually held in place with two screws, one at the top and one at the bottom. It may be held in place with brads or small nails.

Here is a discussion on what to do if there is no weight pocket cover:

-- Remove the old weight and cord through the weight pocket opening. Cut off the old cord and clean the weight. If necessary, clean debris out of the bottom of the pocket with the vacuum.

-- String in the new cord. To string the new cord into the pulley, first run a narrow chain (or string with a narrow lead fishing weight) over the pulley and down into the pocket. Keep hold of the end of the chain or string so you don't loose it down the pocket. When the chain or string appears below, inside the pocket opening, pull it out. Fasten the upper end of the chain to the end of the cord with tape or a hook on the end of the chain. Keep loose hold of the end of the chain and cord going over the pulley, and pull the chain coming out of the pocket opening, which will draw the chain and end of the cord from above into the pulley and down through the pocket. Unfasten the chain from the cord and set the chain aside.

-- Tie the end of the cord to the weight. I usually tie the same knot I found in the old cord, since I've never seen an old knot that failed so they are usually good to use. If in doubt use a bowline knot or a square knot that is "tumbled" on the standing part. Do not use a granny knot, a slip knot, or a half-hitch or a bow. Trim off the tag end of the cord close to the knot with the dikes or the utility knife, so it does not get tangled with the other weight.

--Test and service the pulley. Put the weight in the pocket. Pull on the cord coming out of the pulley to test the cord, knot and pulley. Keep the cord in line with the pulley so the cord does not get jammed in the pulley. Oil, repair or replace the pulley as needed.

-- Fasten the other end of the cord to the sash. Determine the length of the cord (see below). Tie a simple half hitch knot in the correct position along the cord. Cut off the remaining cord with the dikes or knife. Put the knot in the knot hole in the edge of the sash, and run the cord up in the groove in the edge of the sash. Be sure the knot goes all the way in the hole, and none of it sticks out past the surface of the edge of the sash. The knot can be held in place with a screw, small brad or wooden peg. Sometimes the knot does not have to be fastened in, especially when the hole is deep and drilled on an angle.

-- Lubricate the sash track by rubbing it with paraffin wax. Be sure to rub some on the edges of the stops and parting bead.

-- Put the sash back in it's track, then fasten the stops back in place to hold the sash.

Tune up the sash for easy operation. Adjust the side stops so the sash is held loosely and runs up and down freely and then fasten them in place. Side stops are fastened to the frame jamb by brads, small nails, screws or stop adjusters. Stop adjusters are metal fittings set into the wooden stop that allow the stop to be moved closer or further from the sash and then held in place with a wood screws. Lubricate the sash track with beeswax or paraffin, including the outer edge of the stop and rubs on the face of the sash.
Here is a side stop adjuster discussion:

Window Specialists described their methods for determining the length of the cord:

"My process is to pencil mark on window frame jambs where the sash knot will be when sash are in closed position, send end of cord down through pulley (sometimes weighted with a piece of sash chain), tie cord onto weight outside of the pocket, pull on cord to lift weight into pocket, let weight drop a few times to tension knot and stretch cord, pull on cord to hold weight up off the bottom of the pocket a few inches, mark cord to correspond with pencil mark on jamb, making sure it will not bottom out (upper sash) or hit the pulley (lower sash) , cut cord a little past the mark to allow for knot, tie knot at cord mark, trip end of cord close to knot and insert knot into sash knot hole, sometimes I nail the knot to hold it in the hole with a 3d nail on upward angle if hole is shallow." -- Steve Swiat

"I take the end of the rope from the hank or reel and use sash chain to pull the sash cord over the pulley to the bottom of the weight pocket. I then knot the end of the cord to the weight. I then reach up beside the pully and pull the rope taught until the weight is just off the bottom of the pocket. I grasp the rope where it exits the pulley and cut just past where my fingers are grasping the rope. KNOT the end and I'm done. No measuring, marking or pre-cutting. The only time I found this method did not work was in some rather heavy windows with extra tall weights in which I had to leave a couple inches of extra cord to ensure sufficient travel of the sash. Try it, you will like it." --Dave Bowers

"If you still have the old cord, or both pieces of a broken cord, you can make your new cord the same length and it will usually work just right." -- John Leeke

Working with Chain

If the spiral that holds the chain in the hole in the edge of the sash is wedged or rusted in here's a method to get it out. Use heavy-duty needle-nose pliers. ( It's OK if you gouge up the wood around the hole a bit, in fact, you can drill a 1/8" hole in the wood right outside the spiral at the bottom of the hole to make a space for one side of the nose of the pliers. Grip one loop of the spiral with the pliers and twist the spiral as you pull. The twist should make the spiral slightly smaller in diameter so it "peels" right out of the hole and you continue to twist and pull.

Fasten the chain to the weight by running the end of the chain through the hole at the top of the weight, then fasten the free end of chain to the standing part of the chain with clips, hooks or hog rings. Special clips or hooks are supplied along with the chain. Experienced window specials have seen the clips and hooks fail, so they use hog rings. Hog rings and the special pliers to apply them are available at automotive and fencing suppliers.

Sizing Weights:

If the weights are missing, weigh the sash, divide by two, and that's the working weight for each weight. For the lower sash round down to the nearest pound, to make the weight a bit light and help keep the sash down and closed. For the upper sash round up to the nearest pound to make the weight a bit heavy and help keep the sash up and closed.

An angler's fish scale is handy for weighing the sash. I use one that weighs up to 20 pounds, the
WestonGear Spring Scale, Model No. 14-0302-W, about $20.
Old Will Knott Scales ... ns-20.html

Read more: ... z1lT9wxKyD

Depending on the type of weatherstripping used at the sides of the sashes there is usually enough friction for the weights to be plus or minus 1.5 pounds from the working weight without causing any problems.

Weight Sources:

New weights:

The Architectural Resource Center - Northwood, NH
Patented Stackable Cast Window Weights In Iron & Lead.

Hern Iron Works
Coeur 'd Alene, ID
(a recent order for 24 weights cost about $3/pound, plus shipping)

Barry Industries, Inc.
New York, NY 10011

Architectural Iron Company
104 Ironwood Court - PO Box 126
Milford, PA, custom cast lead weights

Here are typical local sources for second-hand window weights:

- within the walls of the building you need them for
- junk yards, scrap metal dealers
- architectural salvage stores
- Habitat for Humanity, Re-Stores
- vinyl window pirates, be willing to pay a ransom of $5-10 each

When we can't find what we need, or what we need is unusually large or a strange shape, we have them fabricated out of mild steel bar stock at the local welding shop or machine shop. Another possibility is custom cast out of lead. We got the idea for this when I was teaching a windows training course at the Enfield Shaker village in New Hampshire, and we took apart a couple of windows to find lead weights with wood-grain pattern on the lead surface. Usually a local old-fashioned welding shop can cast weights out of lead. Sometimes we can talk the local arts-sculpture school into doing it, which will be setup to use a casting pattern.

Shared Weights
Discussion on two windows sharing a weight: ... =8778#8778

Click on "post reply" to leave a comment or ask a question.

Site Admin
Posts: 163
Joined: Thu Aug 29, 2013 8:21 pm
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

Sash Cord & Suppliers

Postby johnleeke » Sat Aug 16, 2014 3:16 pm

Sash Cord
Be sure to use true sash cord, not clothesline, or ordinary cord. I have seen cord made in China labeled “sash cord”, but it was low quality cheap goods not suitable for hanging sashes. Keep in mind that it is common practice in corporate manufacturing to sell a brand name or product name at any time to be stuck on a product of unknown quality. Be sure to save samples of products you know and use, so you can compare new purchases with your samples of known quality.
Sampson and Aetna have a very tight and compacted "lay," Hercules and Buffalo seem loose and somewhat "stretchy" by comparison. Hercules and Buffalo take a tight knot easier. All of the cords listed below hold up the sash just fine.
Hercules, made in Canada, is the only all cotton (no synthetics) cord I have found.

Sash Cord Sizes
No. Dia. Inch
6 3/16
7 7/32
8 1/4
9 9/32
10 5/16
12 3/8
14 7/16
16 1/2

Samson Spot Cord
This is a brand and product you can trust.
Recognized as the strongest, longest lasting
of all sash cords. Look for the red spots
woven into the cord, which are a “brand" or "trade mark."
High-tenacity nylon core adds strength and
reduces stretch, braided cotton exterior; coating provides
chemical, weather and heat resistance.

Samson Aetna Sash Cord
An all white cord (no spots) with a balanced interlocked
solid braid that retains smooth round construction.
Features a durable composite cotton cover, and a
synthetic core. The outer surface is polished to resist rot,
mildew and wear.

Supplier for No.7 & No.8 in 50’ & 100’ hanks, will
Boston Building Materials Co-op
100 Terrace Street
Boston, MA 02120-3418
Tel: 617-442-2262

Rigging Equipment & Supplies
1 Tomsons Rd #100
Saugerties, NY 12477
877.331.3280 ... %20Results

Suppliers for No.8-16, 1200’ reels:

Peak Trading Corp.
43 Basin Road Unit #1
West Hurley, NY 12491
845 338-1325

Columbia Basin Knot Company
PO Box 322
Valleyford, WA 99036-0322
509 291-3024

Hercules Cotton Sash Cord
Made of 100% quality cotton yarn (no synthetics or cheap fillers) with a somewhat loose lay, slightly stretchy, takes a knot especially well, with a polished surface. ... 1-03-01-01
Maker: Cancord
Canadian Location: 193 Elgin St. N., Hamilton, ON, L8L 4Y2
US Location: 2316 Delaware Avenue #606, Buffalo, NY, 14216
800 879-0079

Buffalo Sash Cord
An all-purpose sash cord, synthetic core limits stretch and increases strength, cotton outer braid polished smooth for moisture resistance. ... _1065.html
Maker & Supplier:
T.W. Evans Cordage Co.
custserv @ twevans . com
55 Walnut Grove Ave
P.O. Box 8038
Cranston, RI 02920 US
401 944-2121

Southgate Cotton Sash Cord
Cotton braided exterior with synthetic core. This Wellington brand product name has recently been sold and resold several times so the quality is questionable.

Site Admin
Posts: 163
Joined: Thu Aug 29, 2013 8:21 pm
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

Bicknell Sash Cord Guide

Postby johnleeke » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:59 pm

The original 1868 glass sash cord guide that substituted for a metal pulley wheel:

Scientific American article:
Image ... ey&f=false

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