same here - never met one that didn't come off with a few nuts or bolts.
You really do want to get to the pulley itself to do it right.
Knots are only going to drive you crazy, even if there is enough to tie onto.
I'd suggest youtube. There are a LOT of great how-to videos out there - probably for the very mower you're working on.
Do it right and I think you'll be surprised at how easy it was. The starter assemblies are designed to allow for cord replacement.