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HQ 956931

April 18, 1995

CLA-2 R:C:F 956931 RC


TARIFF NO.: 9609.10.0000

Alfred F. Koller, Esq.
230 Central Park West
New York, New York 10024

RE: Tariff Classification of Pencil Sandwiches

Dear Mr. Koller:

This is in response to your letter dated August 8, 1994, requesting a tariff classification of imported pencil sandwiches.


Your letter describes the subject merchandise as "sandwiched pencil slats." These pencil sandwiches are made of wooden slats, prepared from sawn or sliced lumber. They are cut to size and grooved on both sides. The multiple grooves on one side are cut to accommodate "lead" graphite writing cores, while the grooves on the outside are cut to facilitate subsequent processing. After the graphite cores are emplaced on one grooved slat, the slat is glued to another similarly-sized slat.


Whether the imported pencil "sandwiches" are classified as pencils in Chapter 96 or other articles of wood in Chapter 44.


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). The systematic detail of the harmonized system is such that virtually all goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs are applied, taken in order.

The imported pencil sandwiches consist of graphite and wooden slats. We cannot classify them under GRI 1 because this product is not yet in a form described by the term "pencil" of heading 9609. This is because the sandwiches have not yet been cut into individual pencils, nor have the exteriors of the individual pencils been trimmed and painted or varnished. Therefore, we must look next to the provisions set forth in GRI

Any reference in a heading to an article shall be taken to include a reference to that article incomplete or unfinished, provided that, as entered, the incomplete or unfinished article has the essential character of the complete or finished article.

In understanding the language of the HTSUS, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes may be utilized. The Explanatory Notes (ENs), although not dispositive, are to be used to determine the proper interpretation of the HTSUS. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

The EN to GRI 2(a) states:
(I) The first part of rule 2 (a) extends the scope of any heading which refers to a particular article to cover not only the complete article but also that article incomplete or unfinished, provided that, as presented, it has the essential character of the complete or finished article.

You believe the pencil "sandwiches", as imported, are classifiable in Chapter 44 as other articles of wood in the statistical suffix for pencil slats. We disagree. The trade term "slat" is defined merely as a block of wood. A "slat," according to Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, (1972), is "a thin, narrow strip of wood, metal, etc. [slats of a Venetian blind]."

The imported pencil sandwiches are more than mere slats. The pencil sandwiches are already dedicated for use as pencils at the time of importation. By the time the pencil sandwiches are formed, every detail concerning the finished pencils has been predetermined; the number of pencils has been fixed (by the number of writing cores placed in the slat) and the length and diameter of each pencil is known. To produce usable pencils, the sandwich is cut to length in a milling machine. The pencil sandwiches have been worked such that they are fit only for final milling to remove excess wood and yield the finished pencils.

In sum, the graphite cores embedded in the wood slats impart the essential character of pencils. Accordingly, we find that the imported pencil sandwiches are pencils in unfinished form. The pencil sandwiches are properly classified under subheading 9609.10.0000, HTSUS.


The imported pencil sandwiches are classified in subheading 9609.10.0000, HTSUS, the provision for pencils and crayons, with leads encased in a rigid sheath. The applicable rate of duty is 14 cents per gross plus 4.3 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director

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