It is indicated in the literature that the toe geometry affects the fatigue properties of butt welded joints in structural steels. In an attempt to study the above effect with respect to stainless steel sheet metal welded joints, butt welded joints having two bead geometries were fabricated using AISI 304L stainless steel using gas tungsten arc welding and gas metal arc welding processes. The objective of the present work was to predict the fatigue life of AISI 304L butt joints failing at the weld toe, using a local stress approach (a two stage model). The notch root stress method was applied to calculate the fatigue crack initiation life, whereas the fatigue crack propagation life was estimated using fracture mechanics concepts. Constant amplitude fatigue tests with a stress ratio R=0 were carried out using a 100 kN servohydraulic Dartec universal testing machine at a frequency of 30 Hz. The crack initiation points were determined using strain gauges, and crack propagation gauges were used to obtain the crack propagation data during the fatigue process. The predicted lives were compared with the experimental values. © 2005 IoM Communications Ltd.