Full disclosure, I am a bit of both.
And depending on who you asks, they will tell you I am one or the other, rarely both... Go figure :-)
This is one area that we did not touch much on our Why do we collect tool's discussion.
Both are in a bit of a competition for the same finite pool of antique tools.
Both blames each others for the raising prices
Both wants what is best for the tool, to preserve it
Both do not approach restoration the same way or to the same extant
So, who is better? Both is the simplest answer, you cannot really compares an apple to an orange...
In the end, regardless of what I do to my tools, I am but only the current custodian of it, for it will end up in someone else hands later on.
I do not do the shiny nickel & buff everything to blindness state and etc. Whenever I have to do repairs, I do not try to hide them, Id rather see them apparent, but functional.
Cut off damaged area
Typical repairs I do on plane's tote or saw handle's horn.
Not hiding it, but I take care that it blends in smoothly.
In this case I used a piece of Orchard Apple
I am not trying to up its value by making it new again, I am simply fixing it in order to have it work as it should. You would be surprised about how much better a full horn on a plane tote or a full unbroken horn on a saw handle makes a big difference in how it fit comfortably in your hands, resulting in less blisters etc.
One piece of advice, follow loosely the original outline, but in the end it should fit comfortably in your hands. So don't be afraid to alter slightly the horn's shape, let your hand guide you.
Regardless of which camp you profess, rust should never be allowed to continued unabated. If left to its own it will slowly destroy the artifact. Stop or slow it down and more generations will be able to enjoy it, before it disappears.
Besides, if you do not perform at least a cursory tear down and clean, process, then you would never be able to really examine its condition, too much remaining hidden.
How much cleaning?
Well, even if you buff your brass blingly's shiny, it will tarnish back. Just as long as you are careful not to erase anything of importance, no matter how insignificant it may appear: Such as the asking price written in pencil on the body of the plane, a faint saw etch, evidence of wear or earlier repair attempts.
Don't confuse patina with grunge. You don't want to bleach out the wooden parts but just want to remove the extra grime, goop, dirt, grease, etc
As long as the object will tarnish back to its former (would had been clean) self, then you know you did not erased the patina, you just enhanced it. Adding new patina, not dirt.
In the end how much to clean or not, remains a very personal choice, but to me, less is always more, when it comes to restorations.
My ultimate goal remains to preserve the tool well enough to put it back to work.
That implies sharp cutting edges, some polish surfaces, clean and oil as appropriate.
I just happen to have a growing pile of tools that somehow "Followed me home" (Tm). As I go thru them ill show you how I go about it and the relevant history of the tool I'm working on. I also plan on trying a few different things, I'm learning from Jonathan's blog
Bob, trying to re-conciliate his tool user mind with his tool collector mind... ouf always a complicated thing...Where is my beer...Squirrel...!