AbstractThis study investigated the effect of drying on moisture content (MC) distribution through ash lumber thickness, as well as the effect on wood surface and bonding at the interface. After the drying of lumber, the wood surface contact angles and free energy were collected over 6 days, and the MC difference (between surface and core) was measured. At the same time, the isocyanate adhesive strength, as well as the elemental composition of carbon (C1s), nitrogen (N1s), and oxygen (O1s) on the lumber surface and at the bonding interface, were tested daily. Both the wood surface contact angle and free energy changed with a change in MC difference. The O1s concentration at the bond interface decreased with increased MC difference, and the adhesive strength declined accordingly. To attain the best bond interface, the MC difference between the surface and core should be controlled within the range of 0.5 to 1%.