Friday, 19 February 2016

4L Co-Mo

4L Co-Mo (4 layers Co-ordinate Motion Puzzle)

Johan Heyns, South Africa. This circular version is based on a hexagonal shaped version designed by Johan in 2011. Johan has also recently produced a hex-shaped version with a cutout in the middle.

Manufacturer & Availability
Handcrafted and sold by Johan himself. 

Type & Classification
Co-ordinate motion

Relatively large at about 9.1cm diameter and 4.5cm thick, but a good size that fits the hands pretty well.

Materials & Construction
The three pieces of this puzzle is made from Pau Marfim (a Brazilian "substitute" for Maple), Rhodesian Teak and Mansonia. Quality of construction, fit and finish is excellent with the entire puzzle built to tight tolerances. Hefty and yes the sliding is also very smooth. The stand that comes with the puzzle comprises of offcuts re-purposed from the same three woods. A nice little extra touch here!

This is my first puzzle from Johan and certainly would not be my last. My copy is the less expensive "non-stripey" version (US$38). The stripey version has each of the pieces made from a combination of three woods. It is also overall thicker to maintain the strength and integrity of the puzzle and correspondingly a little more expensive.

Generally I don't have much problems with co-ordinate motion puzzles (based on past experience) and I didn't think I would have much issue with the 4L Co-Mo. But I couldn't be more wrong. I took apart the puzzle in a jiffy (this was the easy part) but spent the better part of an afternoon trying to put the thing back together and still couldn't! 

I made a comment (to Otis Cheng's FaceBook picture post of his 4L Co-Mo) about my difficulty and within minutes, Johan (who must have seen my comment) shot me a PM to let me know that I needed to align certain match markings on the pieces to slide them back to the original state. He mentioned that the markings were a necessary guide to ensure that the pieces fit especially after sanding and turning. In my case, it was a small dot drilled into the joining ends of two pieces. Others could be two dots or a circle, depending.

With this new info, I was then able to position the pieces correctly and slide all three pieces back into the solved state. 

Difficulty Level
Easy to take apart but even with the match markings, this is still a relatively difficult puzzle to put back together; you need to align all three pieces "just nicely" in the correct position and orientation to slide them inwards. If not, one of the pieces would always be excluded. Not an easy task and I did take a bit of time on this as well. Perhaps the hardest co-ordinate motion puzzle I have come across so far. Thanks for Johan's help, otherwise I would still have been grappling with this one. A bit of practice here and there and I got the hang of it after a while.

The 4L Co-Mo is a great co-ordinate motion puzzle; very high quality and sturdily constructed with thick stock and can withstand abuse (but be more gentle with the stand tho'). Johan calls his works ICTA (Intellectual Coffee Table Art), not puzzles. How true; supported on its own stand, the 4L Co-Mo displays really very nicely on any desk or mantle. And did I mention that it is very good value for money too?


  1. Hi Jerry
    Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. Johan

  2. However much I want to produce "perfect" puzzles it is not as easy as it sounds. On this one I introduced the match marks so it will fit perfectly every time. On the end with the dots, there is also a shallow ring on the inside of the top layer. My thoughts were that puzzlers in general should pay attention to detail, since that is where sometimes clues are hidden. It should not be necessary with this puzzle, but small inaccuracies creep in during the process. Although the marks are there, unless everything is lined up perfectly, you would not be able to assemble the puzzle. Johan