Hello, I've just found this website due to a search that I've been doing after purchasing said tool. Although, that's not completely true as I've used the veg information and "Jobs to do in..." for some time now, but I guess I've only just discovered the forums!
Anyway, I'd just bought a sickle as I've gotten round to motivating myself to start work on converting a very overgrown half an acre of my girlfriend's parent's property into a vegetable garden and orchard. So in my search for any tips on it's use I discovered this post, had a little read and then plowed on, achieving some very good results!
Although it's not the quickest work, it is very natural and once you get into the swing of it I found that time passed very quickly, and I made more progress than I thought. Here's my tips on how to use a sickle, in case anyone was still wondering:
1. First off get a good pair of boots on. I've been using my Dunlop Wellington's bought for £7 pounds from Trago Mills in Cornwall (in case anyone is in need of a cheap pair!). They're very strong, and withstood a couple of pretty harsh blows when I lost concentration for a second.
2. Still on the safety theme, thick trousers or jeans are a must, not so much when you're actually using the blade, but on a number of occasions I felt the blade lightly brush against my leg when i was surveying my work and I was thankful for my jeans preventing any scratches or grazes.
3. Gloves and long sleeves were also a godsend, although I guess these may be dependent on the type of work you're doing.
4. Now then, onto the proper tips. Grab a handful of the stems of whatever you're wanting to cut about 10-12 inches off the ground. You may need to vary this, but the point is, you need to have the area of the stem that you're going to cut in sight.
5. Loop the blade around the stems with the tip towards you and the handle pointing out to your right (if you're left handed do this the other way round).
6. Whilst pushing onto the stems with the blade, rotate it around and repeat until they're all cut, you should end up with a nice bunch of cut stems in your other hand.
7. Voila! For more woody stems you may need to hack at them a little bit, but when doing this make sure you're aware of where the tip of the blade is at all times to avoid a nasty jab!
So. That's how I used my sickle, and it was brilliant. The action feels so natural and instinctive, and having a nice bunch of cut stems after wards is strangely rewarding. I'm sure I must have been a farm hand in a previous life!