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HQ 963655

February 3, 2000

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 963655 jb


TARIFF NO.: 4407.10.0015

John B. Pellegrini, Esq.
Ross & Hardies
Park Avenue Tower
65 East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022-3219

RE: Classification of core grade fingerjointed lumber; heading 4407

Dear Mr. Pellegrini:

This is in response to your letter, dated November 12, 1999, and subsequent submission of November 23, 1999, on behalf of your client, North Pacific Lumber Co., wherein you request a classification ruling under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) for what you refer to as “certain door jambs and door stiles” manufactured in Canada. A sample was submitted to this office for examination.


The subject merchandise, which you refer to as a “core grade fingerjoint article of wood”, is kiln dried with a maximum moisture content of twelve percent. It is precision end trimmed and is surfaced on at least three sides. The submitted sample measures approximately 38 mm in thickness and 68 mm in width (1.5” x 2.5” actual and 2” x 3” nominal). One end of the board has a rough cut rabbet 8 to 10 mm deep and 6 to 7 mm wide. Although sizes imported may vary in width and length, the thickness appears to be the same for all the boards.

In your letter dated November 12, 1999, you state that the “actual use of the product is as center door stiles or in door jamb applications.” In your subsequent letter of November 23, 1999, you state that

The subject merchandise is used primarily by door manufacturers to make door stiles, door frames and flat jambs. In many cases the finished article is a prehung door in a frame.The quarter inch rabbet may or may not be used as a dado for the headpiece on a frame or the crosspiece on a door.

It is your opinion that whether or not the end-working on this merchandise is functional bears no significance to the classification of the subject merchandise. You stress that this merchandise must be classified based on the tenet of “principal use” as heading 4418, HTSUS, is not an “actual use” provision. Furthermore, you state that “the fact that an imported product may have a feature added for the sole purpose of minimizing duty or to avoid restrictions does not permit the Customs Service to ignore the feature in classifying the merchandise” (Seebergs v. Farwell, 139 U.S. 608, 610 (1891).

Finally, in defense of your position you refer to two New York Rulings which you claim held that similar merchandise with endworking was properly classified in heading 4418, HTSUS.


What is the proper classification for the subject merchandise?


Classification of goods under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRI's taken in order.

Chapter 44, HTSUS, provides for, among other things, wood and articles of wood. This chapter is structured so that less processed wood appears at the beginning of the chapter followed by more advanced wood in later headings within the same chapter. Thus, for example, heading 4403, HTSUS, is a general provision for wood in the rough, whether or not stripped of bark or sapwood or roughly squared, and heading 4421, HTSUS, is a basket provision for more advanced articles of wood that cannot be classified elsewhere in the chapter.

As heading 4407 resides at the beginning of Chapter 44, HTSUS, it reflects coverage of a relatively basic category of lumber products in relation to heading 4418, which, residing closer to the end of Chapter 44, HTSUS, reflects coverage of a relatively more advanced category of products. Heading 4407, HTSUS, provides for wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled, whether or not planed, sanded or finger-jointed, of a thickness exceeding 6mm. The Explanatory Notes to the Commodity Description and Coding System (EN) to heading 4407, HTSUS, state in relevant part:

The products of this heading may be planed (whether or not the angle formed by two adjacent sides is slightly rounded during the planing process), sanded, or end-jointed, e.g. finger-jointed (see the General Explanatory Note to this Chapter).

Heading 4418, provides for, among other things, builder’s joinery and carpentry of wood. The EN to heading 4418, HTSUS, state in pertinent part:

This heading applies to woodwork, including that of wood marquetry or inlaid wood, used in the construction of any kind of building, etc., in the form of assembled goods or as recognizable unassembled pieces (e.g., prepared with tenons, mortises, dovetails or other similar joints for assembly), whether or not with their metal fittings such as hinges, locks, etc.

The term "joinery" applies more particularly to builders' fittings (such as doors, windows, shutters, stairs, door or window frames), whereas the term "carpentry" refers to woodwork (such as beams, rafters and roof struts) used for structural purposes or in scaffoldings, arch supports, etc., and includes assembled shuttering for concrete constructional work. ...

Additional U.S. Rule of Interpretation 1(a) provides that in the absence of context to the contrary, a tariff classification controlled by use, other than actual use, is to be determined by the principal use in the United States at, or immediately prior to, the date of importation, of goods of the same class or kind of merchandise.

In E.C. Lineiro v. United States, 37 CCPA 10, CAD 411, (1949), the court stated that "a designation by use may be established, although the word 'use' or 'used' does not appear in the language of the statute." As such, it is the use of the class or kind of merchandise to which the imported article belongs which must be determined, not the use of the instant merchandise.

Although the introduction of the HTSUSA changed the concept of use from chief use to principal use (chief use requiring that the use exceed all other uses combined, and principal use requiring that the use exceed each other use), it is still informative to see how courts interpreted the former statute since the wording regarding class or kind is nearly identical. In United States v. Colibri Lighters (USA), Inc, 47 CCPA 106, CAD 739, (1960), in discussing the concept of chief use the Appeals Court stated that in addition to the characteristics of the merchandise itself, classification should be based on the chief use of the articles of that class generally and not on the basis to which the individual articles should be put. In Pistorino & Co., Inc. v. United States, 67 CCPA 1, CAD 1234 (1979), the court therein also observed that what has to be determined is the chief use of the class or kind of merchandise.

Further support comes from United States v. the Carborundum Company, 63 CCPA 98, CAD 1172 (1976), in which, in determining whether merchandise is encompassed by a particular class or kind of merchandise, the court considered the general physical characteristics of the merchandise, the channel of trade, and the economic practicality of the "use" of the imported merchandise.

It follows that the pivotal question in the correct classification of the subject merchandise regards the identification of the actual merchandise, that is, to what specific “class” of merchandise does this merchandise actually belong? From the information you have submitted to Customs, and additional information obtained by the port of Blaine, it appears that the principal use of the subject merchandise is as sawn wood that is, general lumber, a product with multiple uses. This is further corroborated by your statement that the end-working on this product (i.e., the rabbet) may or may not be used, and documentation regarding this merchandise which refers to this same product not only as “door jambs” and “door stiles”, but also as “bedframe stock”, “moulding” and “pallet stock.”

We do not dispute the fact that this merchandise must be classified in its condition as imported. Nor do we hold issue with the fact that lumber may be significantly processed into merchandise classifiable in heading 4418, HTSUS, a provision which provides for legitimate products of “joinery and carpentry”, resulting in acceptable “tariff engineering.” However, that being said, this is not the case with the subject merchandise. The fact that this merchandise features a rabbeted end signifies that such end-working should serve a functional purpose, that is, it should be specifically adaptable to some other component. Customs request for additional information with respect to this merchandise is thus not aimed at any efforts to ascertain the “actual use” of this merchandise, but to determine the single use or function of that end-working in terms of the commercial reality of the “class or kind” of products in the United States in which the subject merchandise travels at the time of importation for purposes of classification. In other words, based on the physical properties of the merchandise at issue, which heading most specifically describes the class of merchandise to which this product belongs?

In the case of the subject merchandise, in its condition as imported, and pursuant to your description of this merchandise, no single term referred to by you (nor any of the documents you have submitted) adequately describes this product. Although you refer to this merchandise as an “article” of wood we find that this merchandise is best described as general lumber, classified in heading 4407, HTSUS. With respect to your claim that this
merchandise is used as a “door jamb” or “headpiece for a door frame” we find that the measurements you have cited, both in the case of the sample submitted, and for the wider sizes, do not correspond to measurements normally used in the trade for door jambs. The width on the merchandise at issue (varying between 64.85 and 89 mm, i.e., approximately 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches), would be considered too narrow for use as door jambs. Additionally, the thickness on this merchandise, 38 mm (corresponding to 1-1/2 inches) would be considered too thick.

Furthermore, we find that the rabbet feature neither dedicates the subject merchandise to any specific use nor is it a commercially relevant feature for any of the products you have stated which might change the merchandise’s “class or kind” from general use lumber classified in heading 4407, HTSUS, to a product of heading 4418, HTSUS.

Additionally, although you liken the subject merchandise to the products which were the subject of New York Ruling (NY) B80908 (incorrectly cited in your submission as NY B90908), dated February 6, 1997, and NY A82523, dated May 9, 1996, we disagree. In NY B80908, the door jamb moulding at issue not only had one end cut out or dadoed, but it also featured a shallow cut out for a hinge along a portion of the length. The merchandise in NY A82523 was continuously shaped throughout the length, and may or may not have been imported with dadoed ends. As such, the merchandise in these rulings was more processed and more dedicated to its claimed use than the merchandise imported by your client, and thus classification in heading 4418, HTSUS, was proper.

Accordingly, as we find that the subject merchandise is not in the form of assembled goods and does not qualify as recognizable unassembled pieces, the subject articles do not serve a structural purpose within the meaning of the EN to heading 4418, HTSUS, as properly understood.

Thus, classification in heading 4418, HTSUS, is precluded. The appropriate classification for this merchandise is in heading 4407, HTSUS.


The subject merchandise is properly classified in subheading 4407.10.0015, HTSUS, which provides for wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled, whether or not planed, sanded or finger-jointed, of a thickness
exceeding 6mm: coniferous: other: not treated: mixtures of spruce, pine and fir (“S-P-F”). The applicable general column one rate of duty is “Free”.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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