When we visited White Industries back at the beginning of March of this year, we got a lot of photos different parts at various stages in their manufacture, but one process that stuck out for us was that of making chainrings. Walking around the factory floor we would come across bins full of silver discs in various sizes and thicknesses, and when we got to talk to Alec White about them, he was kind enough to gather up samples of various stages in the process of making a TSR chainring so we could show them to you.
Looking at the various steps, we were struck both by how impressive it was that an enormous aluminum bar could be turned into such thin and intricate parts, but also by how many steps it took.
The chainrings start out as a giant bar of aluminum, then they're cut into flat rounds and trued up to prepare for all of the steps that follow. Next, they get a hole bored in them and are given a long taper (there's more of a taper on non-boost chainrings too). In the later steps, the outside of the tooth profile gets machined onto the disc, all of the cutouts get well, cut out, and the teeth get machined. Finally the splines and other small touches get machined into the chainrings before some are sent off to anodizing (one of the very few processes that doesn't happen in-house at White Industries) to get a black anodized finish.
Because many of the actual ways the parts are machined are proprietary, we couldn't show the parts getting cut into the various stages, but we found that even seeing the various stages helped us appreciate the work that goes into each of these parts so much more.
TSR chainrings are just one part of a super-modular crankset system, and we're big fans. Seeing how they're made just made us like them even more though because while we know that they work great and have a huge amount of options, seeing them get made before our eyes, as it were, just made the fact of their superb function that much more impressive. These aren't made in some mystery factory; but instead in a small machine shop where some dedicated folks work every day to make durable parts that work, and as such it's kind of amazing that they're an inexpensive as they are!