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You measure on a bench ruler designed for golf clubs. You can buy one fron maltbys, golf smith, etc
hard stepping or soft stepping wouldn't change the length of a club you build. . You would just trim the butt to the desired playing length which is 36 3/4 or 37" depending on the companies standard or what the player wants.
Are you asking what would happen if you wanted to hard step a current build set? In that scenario , taking the 8 iron shaft and putting it in the 7 iron head would result in a club that was 1/2" short. You can use a shaft extender but the swing weight will change.
My experience is that even with a new build, players prefer soft stepping a stiffer shaft to make it softer, than hard stepping a softer shaft to make it stiffer. If you add the fact that you have to lengthen a shaft with a butt extender to get the length back in an already built set I'm not sure you would be happy. You could try hard stepping one club and play it 1/2" short. Swing weight will be lighter and it will play stiffer but you may like it. I have also found that shorter length is better than longer. If a shorter shaft makes you hit the sweet spot more often it may actually go longer.