Processes for friction stir welding, typically for comparatively thick plate materials using multiple passes and multiple layers of a friction stir welding tool. In some embodiments a first portion of a fabrication preform and a second portion of the fabrication preform are placed adjacent to each other to form a joint, and there may be a groove adjacent the joint. The joint is welded and then, where a groove exists, a filler may be disposed in the groove, and the seams between the filler and the first and second portions of the fabrication preform may be friction stir welded. In some embodiments two portions of a fabrication preform are abutted to form a joint, where the joint may, for example, be a lap joint, a bevel joint or a butt joint. In some embodiments a plurality of passes of a friction stir welding tool may be used, with some passes welding from one side of a fabrication preform and other passes welding from the other side of the fabrication preform.