AbstractThe joining of dissimilar hard metals such as high-strength steel and nickel-based alloy is required for shipbuilding and offshore applications to enhance the strength, fracture toughness, and corrosion resistance of the exposed parts. However, the joining of these dissimilar alloys has remained a major challenge due to the limited solubility of Fe and Ni in each other, which commonly results in the formation of brittle intermetallic compounds. We present here a novel investigation on the joining of overlapped nickel-based alloy 625 and marine-grade GL E36 steel plates by friction stir lap welding (FSLW). The interface microstructure and its influence on joint strength are rigorously tested. The main bonding mechanism is found to be the mechanical mixing of Fe and Ni along the interface. The interface thermal cycles are computed by a three-dimensional numerical heat transfer model and their effects on the microstructure are examined. Multiple micro tensile specimens are extracted from the stir zone to examine the through-thickness variation in the stir zone properties. The welded joint is characterized further by evaluating the interface microhardness distribution, lap-shear strength, and surface residual stresses.