Hi - I've done two solid dodgers - one out of wooden and one out of aluminum. The wooden one started out as the "buck" for the aluminum one but was on the boat for 5-years before we finally switched to aluminum.
Making a wooden "buck" is a smart way to go as you can do it very quickly (we did ours in 2 days) and it lets you see what an aluminum one will look like. You can also see if you can really fit under it and that there is clearance between the boom/mainsheet and the dodger
It is really important to make sure the dodger looks "right", like it is part of the original design of the boat. This is where making it out of wood really helps - wood is cheap
and very easy to work with so you can make any needed changes easily.
If you are not putting in safety
glass windows, you can - if you have a person who can weld very well - use only 1/8" thick aluminum. We put in 1/4" safety
glass windows, so used 1/4" marine
grade aluminum for the entire dodger.
We went with safety glass as it doesn't discolor or scratch and can be easily cleaned.
Needless to say, the finished didger is unbelievably strong and very heavy.
To have the full aluminum one made, with custom made glass windows and a modified Lewmar
opening hatching for the "front" window, the cost was about $3500 and it ended up weighing about 170-lbs. I did some of the fabrication, but most was done at a shop.
I got a quote for a stainless frame/fabric dodger and it was close to $4000, so price
wise - eventhough you are dealing with apples and watermelons - the cost's are very close. However, you will never have to replace an aluminum model.
We totally love ours and think it is worth every penny we spent on it.
Send me a PM with your e-mail address and I can send you pictures of the whole event and the story that goes with it.