I have long thought that steel/metal was a great material for boat building. The main reason I’m not building in steel is the different set of tools and skills required. I already have most of what I need for wood construction, but not for metal working.
I also have some knowledge of woodworking, but welding isn’t a skill I’ve ever had the opportunity to learn. I’m sure I could, but do you want to be learning on the hull of your boat? Might be ok, but…
Anyway, one of the things I’ve looked at over the years are the advances in materials bonding (gluing). The automotive (and some marine) industries have used more and more types of chemical adhesives to bond metals over the years. One problem with welding is the heat distortion that occurs, especially with thin sheets. How about if you could glue it?
Gluing would also solve some of the tooling and experience problems. Of course if the glue process is so complicated or resource intensive (specialized tools, etc.) then it would have its own set of problems.
Regardless, over the years I’ve kept my eye out on some of this technology. Recently I was pointed to a BoatDesign.net discussion on Adhesives vs. Welding. The opening post is an article concerning Lord Structural Adhesivesand their use with metal.
Another site you might check is ITW Plexus, a structural adhesive manufacturer. Their web site covers a lot of different technologies and applications, including marine use.
I know that welding makes two peices of metal one, in essence, but I think that some of the bonding techniques are going to overtake the use of welding in some applications. Aluminum, for instance, which can be difficult to weld and doesn’t seem to always have the same mechanical properties in the joint (hardening issues, etc.) as with steel looks like it might be a good place to consider.