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HQ 963728

June 6, 2001

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 963728 AML


TARIFF NO.: 7013.39.60

Mr. Peter Weinrauch
Import Commodity Group Ltd.
121 East Merrick Road, 2nd Floor
Valley Stream, NY 11580

RE: Glass and wood knife block

Dear Mr. Weinrauch:

This is in reference to your letter of December 13, 1999, to the Customs National Commodity Specialists Division in New York, requesting, on behalf of Excel Importing Corporation, the classification of glass and wood knife blocks pursuant to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Photographs and a sample were provided for our examination. We regret the delay in responding.


The article consists of an upright, u-shaped wooden base that measures 11” in width, 10 1/2” in height, and 3 1/2” in depth. In addition, both of the upright, wooden components feature a vertical center slot intended to hold other implements. The wood frames four parallel panes of glass that, in exposed surface, measure 6 3/4” in width and 8 1/8” in the case of the front panes, and 9 1/4” in the case of the back panes. The sets of panes are embedded in the wooden frames such that the front panes are approximately 1/8” apart and the back panes are 1/4” apart to allow for knives to be suspended between the panes. The top edges of the four panes are covered with plastic edging. The photograph provided depicts a total of seven knives being held by the glass lanes and what appears to be a pair of scissors and a knife sharpener in the vertical components described above (the photo is for illustration purposes as we understand (and assume for the purposes of this
ruling) that the articles are imported without any cutlery or other implements). You state that the articles exceed $5.00 in value and that the wooden frame comprises the most expensive component of the article.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

4419.00 Tableware and kitchenware, of wood: 4419.00.80 Other.
7013 Glassware of a kind used for table, kitchen, toilet, office, indoor decoration or similar purposes (other than that of heading 7010 or 7018): Glassware of a kind used for table (other than drinking glasses) or kitchen purposes other than that of glass-ceramics: 7013.39 Other:
7013.39.60 Valued over $5 each.


Whether the glass and wood knife block is classifiable under subheading 4419.00.80, HTSUS, as other tableware and kitchenware of wood; or under subheading 7013.39.00, HTSUS, as other glassware of a kind used for table . . . or kitchen purposes, valued over $5 each?


Classification of imported merchandise is accomplished pursuant to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Classification under the HTSUS is guided by the General Rules of Interpretation of the Harmonized System (GRI's). GRI 1, HTSUS, states in part that “for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes[.]”

When interpreting and implementing the HTSUS, the Explanatory Notes (ENs) of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System may be utilized. The ENs, while neither legally binding nor dispositive, provide a guiding commentary on the scope of each heading, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the HTSUS. See, T.D. 89-90, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

The General ENs to Chapter 44 provide, in pertinent part, that:

This Chapter covers unmanufactured wood, semi-finished products of wood and, in general, articles of wood.

Articles of wood presented unassembled or disassembled are classified
with the corresponding complete articles, provided the parts are presented together. Similarly, accessories or parts of glass, marble, metal or other material presented with wooden articles to which they belong are classified with such articles whether fitted thereto or not.

The ENs to heading 4419 provide, in pertinent part, that:

This heading covers only household articles of wood, whether or not turned, or of wood marquetry or inlaid wood, which are of the nature of tableware or kitchenware. It does not, however, cover goods which are primarily ornamental in character, nor furniture.

The General ENs to Chapter 70 provide, in pertinent part, that:

This Chapter covers glass in all forms and articles of glass (other than goods excluded by Note 1 to this Chapter or covered more specifically by other headings of the Nomenclature).

The ENs to heading 7013 provide, in pertinent part, that:

Articles of glass combined with other materials (base metal, wood, etc.), are classified in this heading only if the glass gives the whole the character of glass articles [emphasis in original].

The knife block is prima facie classifiable in headings 4419 and 7013, HTSUS, which provide for table and kitchen articles of wood, and of glass, respectively. Neither heading, however, is broad enough to include articles of both materials. GRI 2(b) states in part that goods consisting of more than one material are classifiable under GRI 3. GRI 3(a) states in part that when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in regard to the goods. Finally, GRI 3(b) states in part that composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components are to be classified as if consisting of the material that gives the good its essential character. The knife block at issue is made up of glass and wood components that form a practically inseparable whole. As such, it is a composite good for purposes of GRI 3(b).

The term “essential character” is not defined within the HTSUS, GRIs or ENs. EN VIII to GRI 3(b), p. 4, gives guidance, stating that:

[t]he factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the
role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

Recently, there have been several decisions by the Court of International Trade (CIT) which addressed “essential character” for purposes of GRI 3(b). Better Home Plastics Corp. v. United States, 916 F. Supp. 1265 (CIT 1996), affirmed, 119 F. 3rd 969 (Fed. Cir. 1997), involved the classification of shower curtain sets, consisting of an outer textile curtain, inner plastic magnetic liner, and plastic hooks. The Court examined the role of the constituent materials in relation to the use of the goods and found that, although the relative value of the textile curtain was greater than that of the plastic liner, and that although the textile curtain also served protective, privacy and decorative functions, because of the fact that the plastic liner served the indispensable function of keeping water inside the shower, the plastic liner imparted the essential character upon the set. See also Mita Copystar America, Inc. v. United States, 966 F. Supp. 1245 (CIT 1997), motion for rehearing and reconsideration denied, 994 F. Supp. 393 (CIT 1998), and Vista International Packaging Co. v. United States, 19 CIT 868, 890 F. Supp. 1095 (1995), in which the Court also looked to the role of the constituent material in relation to the use of the goods to determine essential character.

For the glass knife block with wood base, the indispensable function is the retention and display of the knives it encases. The glass is the primary constituent material that accomplishes this function. Although the wooden frame is the most valuable component, it merely supports the glass and provides an aesthetic effect and an ancillary function. As such, the glass appears to be of more importance to the function of the good since the glass houses the knives and allows a clear display (this aspect differentiates the article from a conventional (opaque), wooden block – one may see the actual implement in the glass panes, an aspect that enables the selection of a particular knife from the article). Thus, we conclude that essential character of the product is imparted by the glass components.

This decision is consistent with the following rulings: HQ 961471 dated May 4, 1999 and HQ 961004, dated May 5, 1999 and related rulings. The products covered by these (and other) rulings consisted of glass boxes with metal framing or channeling, glass storage articles on metal stands or racks, glass decorative articles on metal stands, glass articles with metal lids, and glass plates on metal trays or stands. In all of these cases the products were classified as glassware under heading 7013, HTSUS, not as articles of metal, despite the fact that the metal components were greater in value than the glass components.


Pursuant to GRI 3(b), the glass knife holders with wooden frames are classified in subheading 7013.39.60, HTSUS, which provides for other glassware of a kind used for table . . . or kitchen purposes, valued over $5 each.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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