NEW YORK -- Peter Chaconas is the kind of guy who likes to work on cars, hunt deer, dig holes with a backhoe and think up new designs for tools.

A regular guy, in other words. One who just might be making millions of dollars for his employer, Black & Decker Corp. of Towson, Md.

Chaconas invented one of the best-selling tool accessories in Black & Decker's history, the Piranha circular saw blade, which was introduced in 1985.

Now he has invented the Bullet, a bit for home power drills that Black & Decker says "represents the first major innovation in the industry-standard product in almost 100 years."

The Bullet drills clean holes, bites into wood or metal without skating, and doesn't "lock up" in a hole. Black & Decker says it drills four times faster, stays sharp seven times longer and produces six times as many holes per battery charge as other drill bits.

The company has delayed its introduction until February to give its factory time to build up enough inventory to meet the high expected demand.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Murray Harrow, chairman of U.S. General Supply Inc. of Plainview, N.Y., which owns 30 hardware stores in the Northeast.

Chaconas, 33, is a former auto mechanic who tries out his tool ideas on friends who are carpenters, electricians and plumbers.

"I take the prototypes, hand them out to my buddies and say, 'See what you think,' " Chaconas said in a recent interview. "It was a winner from the word 'go.' "

Chaconas was not even supposed to design a drill bit. He was told to select one from 30 or 40 designs submitted by outside suppliers. But he didn't like what he saw.

The drill bit he created has a split tip that bites into material with less thrust; more sharply angled cutting surfaces; a backward taper so it is thickest near the tip; and deep channels that give room for chewed-up material to be funneled out of the way.

Chaconas, who works in Hunt Valley, Md., says he loves his job. "I sit down, see what's wrong with products and redesign them. Most engineers, they have to putz around with the paperwork, all the miserable stuff.

"I don't have to worry about the day-to-day business of the company," Chaconas said. "I just do the neat stuff."

Chaconas is the only engineer in Black & Decker's accessories unit who devotes full-time to designing new products, says his boss, Randy Blevins.

"I consider Pete one of our stars," Blevins said.

In addition to freedom on the job, Chaconas gets time off when he wants it. He took a 1 1/2-month Christmas break to go deer hunting and work at his moonlighting job, excavating foundations and grading land.

Blevins won't comment on how much Chaconas earns except to say, "Pete has made out very well at Black & Decker."

All by itself, Chaconas' drill bit won't strike gold for a company with $2 billion a year in sales, but analysts call it a step in the right direction.

"It's very consistent with their strategy of introducing products that are innovative and value-added instead of just the starter models," said Franklin Morton, an analyst for Alex. Brown and Sons Inc. of Baltimore.

The Piranha "really revolutionized the {saw blade} market, and I look for this to do about the same thing for the drill bit market," said Bill Stauffer, the buyer of tools and hardware for Hechinger Co.'s 66 retail stores.

Chaconas graduated from high school in 1972, worked as an auto mechanic, and then went to the University of Dayton in Ohio, which graduated him in 1978 with a degree in mechanical engineering technology.

He went straight to Black & Decker. Along the way he was married and became the father of two children, with another on the way.

His job he describes laughingly as "euphoria." And his approach: "Once you identify a problem, it's easy to fix it."