The neutron diffraction technique is used to investigate and compare the residual stress characteristics in fully restrained samples with different numbers of beads. The aim of the research was to characterize the residual stress distribution which arises in a welded component with increasing the number of passes or beads. The resolution of the measurements carried out in this work achieves a new level of detail and reveals significant features of the residual stress pattern in multi-bead welding. The findings have important consequences for the design of welding procedures, demonstrating the effects of placing new beads on prior welding. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.