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HQ 966668

November 3, 2003

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 966668 RSD


TARIFF NOS: 8203.10.30, 8203.10.60, 8203.10.90

Port Director
Customs and Border Protection
1901 Crossbeam Drive
Charlotte, North Carolina 28217

RE: Protest 1512-03-100141; Surform planes, shavers and blades

Dear Port Director:

This is our decision on Protest 1512-03-100141, filed by counsel on behalf of Stanley Works (Stanley) on June 5, 2003, against your decision on the classification of products called “Surform” tools under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The subject merchandise consists of five hand tools that Stanley sells under the trademarked name “Surform.” The products at issue are Surform planes, Surform shavers, and Surform blades. Stanley developed the Surform family of tools for shaping, finishing or forming various types of surfaces. These tools were given the name “Surform” to indicate their use as forming tools. The Surform tools come in various shapes and sizes, but they all use the same type of blade, which has many raised sharp projections or teeth on a flat surface resembling a cheese grater. The “Surform Plane” (Model # 21-296) is 25.4 centimeters in length and the “Surform Pocket Plane” (Model # 21-399) is 13.97 centimeters in length. These two tools combine a shaping and finishing function and have a handle that is similar to a woodworking plane which gives the user greater control over the movement of the tool on the surface to be finished. The third tool at issue here, the “Surform Shaver” (Model #21-115) is 6.35 centimeters in length and has a straight plastic handle and a smaller blade for smoothing smaller surface areas. The blades for the Surform tools are replaceable but they are not adjustable. The two remaining products that are involved in this protest are a “10” Replacement Blade” (Model # 21-291) and another “10” Replacement Blade” (Model # 21-393), which are both 25.4 centimeters in length. The Stanley Tool catalog lists the Surform tools in the finishing tool category. The catalog states that “Surform tools cut, shave, scrape, plane, form, file, smooth, sand and finish.” It also indicates that the Surform tools are ideal for end-grain work, automotive bodywork repair and sheetrocking.

This protest concerns two entries of merchandise made on April 24, 2002. The entries were liquidated on March 7, 2003, and the protest was timely filed on June 5, 2003.


Whether the Surform tools are classified in heading 8203, HTSUS, as files, rasps and similar tools or in heading 8205, HTSUS, as handtools not elsewhere specified or included.


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined 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 may then be applied.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While not legally binding, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-90, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

Files, rasps, pliers (including cutting pliers), pincers, tweezers, metal cutting shears, pipe cutters, bolt cutters, perforating punches and similar handtools, and base metal parts thereof:

8203.10 Files, rasps and similar tools:

Not over 11 cm in length

Over 11 cm but not over 17 cm in length

8203.10.90 Over 17 cm in length.

8205 Handtools (including glass cutters) not elsewhere specified or included; blow torches and similar self-contained torches; vises, clamps and the like, other than accessories for and parts of machine tools; anvils; portable forges; hand- or pedal-operated grinding wheels with frameworks; base metal parts thereof:

Planes, chisels, gouges and similar cutting tools for working wood, and parts thereof:

8205.30.60 Other (including parts).

EN 82.05(C) indicates that heading 8205, HTSUS, covers planes, chisels, gouges and similar cutting tools for working wood such as planes and routers of all kinds (smoothing, grooving, rabbet, jack planes, etc.), spoke shaves and wood scrapers, gravers and draw-knives, of a kind used by carpenters, joiners, cabinet-makers, coopers, wood carvers, etc.

EN 82.03 indicates that the heading includes files, rasps and similar tools (including combined file-rasps) of all shapes (flat, round, half round, square, triangular, oval etc.) and of all sizes, for metal, wood or other materials.

The issue that must be decided in this case is whether the Surform tools that are the subject of this protest are classified as files or rasps in heading 8203, HTSUS, or as planes in 8205, HTSUS. We have reviewed a variety of different sources regarding tools and hardware for a better understanding of the distinctions between files, rasps and planes. First, we looked at general dictionary definitions of these tools. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, 1974, defines a plane as a carpenter’s tool for shaving a wood surface in order to smooth or level. The same dictionary defines a file as a steel tool with a rough, ridged surface for smoothing, grinding down or cutting through something.

We have looked at more specialized sources for further descriptions of these tools. The Complete Illustrated Guide to Everything Sold in Hardware Stores, by Steve Ettlinger, describes a file as a long, narrow metal bar of various shapes with shallow grooves or teeth. Most are slightly tapered; they are known as blunt if they are not. We note that this source puts the Surform tools under surface forming tools found in the same section of the guide as files and rasps.

Another authority on hardware and tools, The Reader’s Digest New Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual, 1991, indicates that files are used in metal working to trim and smooth as well as to shape and sharpen. They are classified by their shape, which often defines their uses; their cut, which is the arrangement of the teeth and the overall length of the file; and the coarseness of its teeth. The same manual indicates that rasps are actually files with quick-cutting individually shaped teeth; a rasp is a good choice for trimming end grain, for rounding corners and edges, and for waste removal on wood, nonferrous metal and plastic. In addition, it indicates that the Surform tools somewhat resemble cheese graters, and that they are variously shaped tools that have open, edge-sharpened teeth. Shavings pass through the teeth without clogging them. Surform tools can quickly shape or trim wood, soft metal and plastic.

With respect to planes, The Reader’s Digest New Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual indicates that planes are used primarily to trim and smooth wood, to straighten irregular edges, and to bevel, chamfer and round them.

Based on our research, we have determined that files and rasps are more typically used for shaping rather than cutting, although they may occasionally be used for some cutting. A file is a hardened steel tool with cutting ridges for forming, smoothing or reducing. In other words, a file has a blade that has grooves or teeth that are cut into it. A rasp is distinguished from a file in that it has coarser teeth and that it is usually used to smooth or shape wood, while a file will be used for metal products. Planes are used for removing thin layers of wood by trimming or for straightening edges or beveling them. A plane blade cuts with a sharp edge at an angle. The angle of the blade in a plane can be adjusted to change the size of the cuts. A plane typically produces debris that is in the form of strips that curl, while the debris produced from a file is usually finer dust particles.

In determining whether the Surform tools are classified as files/rasps in heading 8203, HTUS, or as planes in subheading 8205.30, HTSUS, we also reviewed the Stanley Tool Catalog that was submitted in this case. The Stanley Tool Catalog puts planes in the category of cutting tools, which include other tools such as saws, snips, and knives, while the Surform tools are put in the category of finishing tools, which includes scrappers, putty knives, files, and scrapers. The Stanley Tool Catalog describes the Surfom tools as being used to cut, shave, scrape, plane, form file, smooth, sand and finish.

In reviewing the submitted samples, we note that two of the products under consideration, the “Surform Plane” and the “Surform Pocket Plane,” have a handle that resembles the appearance of a handle of a plane. The Surform shaver does not have plane-like handle. Significantly, the blades for the Surform tools resemble a cheese grater in that they have a series of teeth or grooves on a flat surface. Although the blades for the Surform tools can be replaced, they cannot be adjusted.

Although some of the Surform tools may contain the word “plane” in their names and have handles that resemble plane handles, we conclude that they are more akin to files and rasps than planes. The literature submitted on the Surform tools indicates that they are designed for shaping, smoothing and finishing rather than cutting. Surform tools are marketed for use on laminated particleboard and automotive body filler, and the Stanley Tool Catalog states that the Surform tools are an “idea for end-grain work, automotive bodywork repair and sheetrocking.” The files, rasps and the Surform tools are put in same category as finishing tools in the Stanley Tool Catalog. In contrast, planes that would be classified in heading 8205, HTSUS, are generally used as tools for cutting. This is further demonstrated by the fact that the Stanley Tool Catalog puts planes in the category of cutting tools along with chisels and saws. Significantly, we note that blades for all the Surform tools resemble blades for files or rasps rather than blades for planes because the Surform blades have coarse teeth or projections on a flat surface to do the smoothing and shaping, and they cannot be adjusted. In contrast, as noted previously, the blade for a plane cuts with a single sharp edge at an angle and the blade can be adjusted to change the cut.

In addition, planes of heading 8205, HTSUS, are cutting tools for working wood. In contrast tools of heading 8203, HTSUS, are not restricted to working with any single material such as wood. As already noted, the product literature submitted indicates that the Surform tools are designed for use in smoothing, finishing and shaping materials besides wood, such as body filler and sheet rock. Therefore, we conclude that the Surform tools are described in heading 8203, HTSUS, and subheading 8203.10, HTSUS, as files, rasps and similar tools. Because the heading 8203, HTSUS, contains the language “base metal parts thereof” the Surform blades are also described in heading 8203, HTSUS.

Within subheading 8203.10, HTSUS, the length of the tool determines in which eight-digit subheading an article is classified. Surform shaver (Model # 21-115) is 6.35 centimeters in length and is classified in subheading 8203.10.30, HTSUS. The two 10” Replacement blades (Model # 21-291 and Model # 21-393) are both 25 centimeters in length and are classified in subheading 8203.10.90, HTSUS. Surform plane (Model # 21-296) is 25.4 centimeters in length and is classified in subheading 8203.10.90, HTSUS. Surform block plane/pocket plane (Model # 21-399) is 13.97 centimeters in length and is classified in subheading 8203.10.60, HTSUS.


The Surform tools under consideration are described in heading 8203 and subheading 8203.10, HTSUS, as files, rasps and similar tools. The individual Surform tools are specifically classified as follows: Surform shaver (Model # 21-115) is classified in subheading 8203.10.30, HTSUS. The two 10” Replacement blades (Model # 21-291 and Model # 21-393) are both classified in subheading 8203.10.90, HTSUS. Surform plane (Model # 21-296) is classified in subheading 8203.10.90, HTSUS. Surform block plane/pocket plane (Model # 21-399) is classified in subheading 8203.10.60, HTSUS.

You are instructed to GRANT the protest.

In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550 065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, you are to mail this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing the decision.

Sixty days from the date of the decision, the Office of Regulations and Rulings will make the decision available to Customs personnel, and to the public on the Customs Home Page on the World Wide Web at www.cbp.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


Myles B. Harmon,

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